KC Royals Wade Davis: New Beast of the Bullpen


Darren O’Day, before he left the All Star Game, told his fellow Oriole relief pitchers that he needed to do some spy work on KC Royals All Star Wade Davis:  “I’m going to sniff around Wade Davis when he’s warming up because we want to see what he’s doing.”

What Davis is doing, according to New York Times baseball writer Tyler Kepner, “almost defies explanation.” From Sept. 13, 2013, through the All Star game, Davis pitched in 117 regular season and post-season games, posting a microscopic 0.80 ERA. It seemed obvious why other pitchers and batters wanted a clue at the mid-summer classic as to how Davis was pulling this off.

This year through 63 games, Davis is 7-1, with a 0.88 ERA, striking out 70 batters. With Greg Holland out with a sore elbow (and perhaps for the rest of the year),  Ned Yost has said that Davis will close. It won’t be a new experience, as thus far in 2015, Davis has 13 saves. Even when he was the set up man for Holland, he exhibited the fearless approach that is characteristic of dominant closers.

Through his last 14 appearances, he has not allowed an earned run. Prior to that, Davis had two games with 1 and 2 earned runs. Besides those two games, he has given up 1 run on  August 1, July 12, and June 2, and that is all. You don’t get a sub 1.00 ERA without dominating.  With back pain issues, Davis is not Superman. But he’s close.

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This dominance has carried over from last year. In 2014, in 71 games, he gave up one run six times and once he gave up two, with three of those games in April.  His posted an ERA of exactly 1.00, striking out 109 batters in 72 innings. His post-season ERA with Tampa and Kansas City, over 21.2 innings of work, is an equally impressive1.25.

At the All Star game, White Sox ace, Chris Sale, marveled at Davis’ ability:  “I’ve been in awe of him since he picked up a ball. He went into that bullpen and he has been lights out.  I’m pretty sure that nobody likes facing him. What, has he not given up a home in two years or something?  I can’t even go two starts without giving up a home run.” Sale had gone the opposite direction as Davis. Sale went from the pen to a starter. Davis has moved from starter to relief pitcher. Up until now, he was usually the set-up guy for Greg Holland.

In his 88 starts, mostly at Tampa, Davis had an ERA of 4.57. Traded with James Shields to the Royals, he turned out to be the real “sleeper” in the trade.

Oakland catcher, Stephen Vogt, a former teammate at Tampa, said, “His stuff just explodes out of his hand  He’s got such such a good mix, you don’t know what’s coming.  With a lot of relievers, their stuff is so good, but it’s fastball or wipeout slider. With him, he can throw you a cutter; he can throw you a 2-0 curveball for a strike; he can throw you a four-seam fast ball. You just never know. You can’t sit on anything because he’s got 98.”

According to Fangraphs, Davis typically throws a 95+ mph fastball and a 92+ mph cutter.

According to Mike Moustakas, “I faced him before, and I knew he was a good pitcher and had good stuff.  But that transition to the bullpen made him that much better, to where he can go out there and dominate with the stuff he has.  He can actually rear back and throw 98, 99 instead of having to pitch at 89 to 91 for six, seven innings.

Greg Holland may have been the beast of the KC Royals bullpen before, but the torch has been passed for this season. Wade Davis is that new beast.

Next: Royals Should Not Offer Greg Holland Arbitration