[UPDATE] Wade Davis’s Rotation Days May Be Numbered


Aug 2, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Wade Davis (22) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals may be close to going a different route with the starting rotation the rest of the season. Here are the clues.

[UPDATE] – The Royals told Bob Dutton that they would recall Danny Duffy to make tomorrow’s start, move Bruce Chen back to Thursday, and move Davis to the bullpen. A corresponding move for Duffy’s recall hasn’t been announced and likely won’t until tomorrow. Below is the connecting of the dots from some comments and reports on Monday, August 26.

First, Jeffrey Flanagan tweeted that he had asked Ned Yost about Wade Davis‘s spot in the rotation today. Davis hasn’t been sharp all year. He’s had some stretches where he’s looked good, but he’s mostly been bad. The Royals traded for him on the belief that he could be a starter this year and he’s rewarded that faith with – oh – with a 5.67 ERA.

But Flanagan’s tweet indicated that Yost hadn’t decided and that there were a couple days yet to make that call. Fair enough.

I threw out the idea that perhaps the Royals will line up Davis for one more start in August and then move Duffy into his spot in September. Flanagan made a good point. If Davis was a lock for the start, why would he offer up the idea of a potential shake up? Why not just say “he’s got his next start”?

The plot thickens.

The Omaha World Herald’s Storm Chasers reporter Rob White reported that Danny Duffy wasn’t with the team and added that officials say he’s getting a passport. White also noted that the Royals will be traveling to Toronto over the weekend.

Would the Royals officials even mention that if there wasn’t something to it? Perhaps it’s precautionary, perhaps not. But Davis’s next start would be Thursday in Minnesota if he stays in the rotation after which the team travels to the Great White North. Perhaps Duffy’s getting his passport merely for the sake of having the option available for the Royals. Perhaps the plan is already in place and the Royals simply haven’t announced it yet.

I don’t want to speculate too much. Duffy could just as easily be brought up to be a long relief option, though his last start was encouraging. Duffy pitched the front end of a double header and held the Detroit Tigers hitless through 5.2 innings en route to a win on six innings pitched. Duffy’s younger and offers more upside than Davis, and you couldn’t blame the Royals for making that change at this point in the season.

Long-term, that may not mean that Davis is out of the running for next year’s rotation. Some of his numbers suggest he could be better if some metrics normalized. His BABIP is up to .376 this year (the accepted standard is about .300, and most tend to regress towards that norm). He’s allowed more runners who reach base to score than normal (67% vs. the “typical” 70%), and he’s given up more homers on fly balls than most pitchers will (11.4% vs. 10%). Davis has struck out 18.4% of the batters he’s faced this year, more than his first two full years as a starter with Tampa. His ground ball percentage is higher, too.

Those are the good things.

But he’s also walking 9.3% of batters he’s faced, another career high as a starter. And while his BABIP is high, there’s a reason – his line drive percentage allowed is higher than every other pitcher in baseball who’s thrown more than 120 innings. Line drives are more likely to become hits than any other batted ball in play, hence, a high BABIP. Add the walks to that, and that’s a problem.

Davis has made 24 starts this year. Half of those have ended with a game score higher than 50; half have been below 50. That’s a better ratio than most of Luke Hochevar‘s seasons as a starter, at least. As a whole, he’s been rough, but he’s also been inconsistent.

Wade Davis’s 2013 Game Scores in order.

Up and down. Up and down. He had a four start stretch of above average starts, but otherwise, it’s difficult to rely on him each time out.

You couldn’t blame the Royals for making a change to see what someone else might have to offer, at least for the rest of 2013. Davis was effective as a reliever last year for Tampa, and another live arm in the bullpen can’t hurt if someone else can pick up the slack in the rotation.

The obvious fit for that rotation spot is Duffy – and the White tweet reinforces that. But White later tweeted that all Omaha players are required to bring their passport on the current road trip with the Toronto series in mind.

We’ll see how this turns out. It could be much ado about nothing and a complete coincidence, or it could be smoke with some fire. Davis’s performance in 2013 has left the door open for it to be a plausible course of action for the team.

My guess is they insert Duffy into Davis’s spot in Minnesota, move someone off the active roster, and Duffy, new passport in hand, is with the team in Toronto.

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