Wade Davis could not have had a more inauspicious start to his Royals career last season. Acquired to be a piece of the Royals starting rotation, Davis completely crashed and burned in that role, flailing to a 5.67 ERA and a 1.76 WHiP as a starter. The promise that Davis had displayed in the bullpen for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012 had all but disappeared when Davis toed the rubber as a member of the rotation.
After being sent back to the bullpen last year, the Davis of 2012 began to reappear. In his seven outings to close out the year, Davis posted a 0.90 ERA and a 0.700 WHiP as a reliever. Even though Davis was nominally given a chance to start the 2014 season as a starter, it was obvious that he simply performed better in relief. When Luke Hochevar was lost for the season during Spring Training, it just confirmed that Davis would be in the bullpen.
Now, as the Kansas City Royals primary eighth inning option, Wade Davis has been nothing short of extraordinary. While his 2.08 ERA and 1.038 WHiP are certainly excellent, where Davis has truly stood out has been in his ability to generate strikeouts. Thus far, Davis has struck out an astronomical 32 batters in 17.1 innings of work, the equivalent of 16.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
To put that number into context, Davis, if he continues that pace for 50 innings, would surpass Craig Kimbrel as having the most strikeouts per nine innings of any pitcher in baseball history with the 50 inning minimum. Kimbrel, and most of the other relievers on the list, generated their strikeouts behind a high octane fastball. Davis, meanwhile, with his fastball that has averaged 95.9 MPH this season, is not even one of the hardest throwers in the Royals bullpen.
Where Wade Davis has been devastating is with his cutter. While Davis has only thrown the pitch 65 times thus far, it has generated a swing and a miss 21.54% of the time. Instead of going to the cutter constantly, Davis and Salvador Perez have been picking their spots with the pitch, using the cutter when most effective.
As the Royals primary setup man, Davis can still cause a bit of unease at times. There are games when he comes out and puts a couple of runners on, having a bad couple of hitters just like any other pitcher can have. However, more often than not, Davis has been able to extract himself from such predicaments with his newfound ability to mow down the opposition at such an impressively high rate.
Right now, Wade Davis is on pace for a potentially historic season. He has certainly reinvented himself in the bullpen, emerging as a strikeout machine for the Royals