KC Royals: Wade Davis Has Almost Become Co-Closer in KC


KC Royals relief pitcher Wade Davis saved his 11th game on Sunday, when he finished off the Royals 8-6 comeback victory over the Red Sox. At this point, Davis has been called on to finish enough games that you almost have to consider him the Kansas City Royals co-closer along with Greg Holland.

Davis’ 11 saves are still considerably short of Greg Holland’s total of 28, but if you add effectiveness to the equation, Wade Davis is the most valuable reliever in the KC Royals pen.

The catch-all metric Wins Above Replacement certainly agrees with my assessment. Fangraphs rates Wade Davis as a 1.5 WAR player, while putting Greg Holland at 0.5. Meanwhile, Baseball-reference sees them as a 1.7 WAR and 0.3 WAR pairing. In fact, Fangraphs considers Davis the 10th best reliever in baseball ranked by WAR.

If we look at results, Wade Davis’ two-year ERA of 1.02 leads all of baseball (minimum 30 innings pitched).

Even fantasy baseball players could value Wade Davis over his KC Royals teammate Greg Holland due to Davis’ 1.05 ERA and 51.1 innings pitched (versus a 3.55 ERA and 38.0 innings pitched). Since fantasy baseball usually uses counting stats rather than rate stats, Davis  also has the edge in strikeouts in most leagues, despite Holland having a slightly higher K/9 (10.42 for Holland, 10.10 for Davis). Davis also holds a big edge in the wins category, with a 7-1 record as compared to 3-1 for Holland.

Again, fantasy value will depend on league rules. Some leagues REQUIRE you to have a “bullpen”. Other leagues have an overall innings limit, while still others value relievers for little more than saves (thus only closers have real value). Wade Davis is probably more valuable KC Royals reliever than Holland right now in leagues where relievers have significant value for things besides the save category.

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Even in leagues that prize pitcher wins, saves, and ERA, Wade Davis has a nice mix of all three.

For whatever reason, KC Royals manager Ned Yost has deviated from last season’s “HDH” formula in recent games. Former Phillies closer Ryan Madson, and the recovering Luke Hochevar, have pitched in Kelvin Herrera‘s place in a number of games where the Kansas City Royals held a close 7th inning lead. Even Franklin Morales has gotten into the mix. Yost has also used Herrera in the 8th inning a number of times.

In many cases, this divergence has been due to Wade Davis’ back problems, and unavailability for Holland, who has seemed to been suffering from fatigue more than last season after going on the disabled list early in 2015 with a strained pectoral.

Whether by necessity, or design, I think some of the “role mixing” of the KC Royals relievers is a good thing going into the playoffs. Teams never know what is going to happen in a short series. The varied use of the Kansas City Royals pitching staff makes it less likely that a guy will be asked to do something in the playoffs that he hasn’t done before during the season. As many fans will recall, then-rookie Yordano Ventura gave up a damaging home run to Brandon Moss in the 2014 AL Wild Card game when relieving James Shields. It was the second relief appearance of his career.

Versatility is King in October.

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