First, the numbers from Hiram's first four starts with the Royals this season:
While Davies walked as many men as he struck out (12 each) over his first four starts, he found success thanks to a low BAA and a clean slate regarding home runs. He wasn't terribly efficient (Gil meet Hiram) with his pitch count until, roughly, his fourth start, when he went seven strong against the Cardinals, and needed only 106 pitches to do so. By way of comparison, he hit 100 pitches exactly in his first start of the season against the Indians. In five innings.
Now, the data from his last two starts:
You don't need to have Buzz Bissinger's impeccable integrity and wisdom to see that when your BAA rises from .256 to .371, your ERA is going to explode proportionally. In his last two starts Davies was more or less the same guy: not many walks or strikeouts. Only against the Giants and Cardinals (a second time) more balls found grass.
What's interesting is his performance this season, both good and bad, goes against what Davies has always been: a great stuff guy with control issues (you've probably heard that before). Last year with the Royals, Davies struck out forty batters in just fifty innings, but still allowed a devil's ERA (6.66) thanks to ten homers allowed and twenty six walks. Some of that high ERA was a bit of bad luck, but wholly in line with his career numbers at the Major League level. This season, he's gone from a JDLR-type to a Brian Bannister-type, and it seems likely that this is reflective of a change in approach.
Here are Hiram's career K/9 numbers:
To this point, although the data isn't without issues, according to one measure, Davies has essentially abandoned his slider, a pitch he threw 14.1% of the time in 2007, but only 1.2% of the time this season. Taking its place has been the Bannyrific change up, which Davies has thrown 21.2% of the time.
Despite the headline, it isn't really a critical start for Davies tonight. I don't think he can have much long term success on the Bannister model (don't think Banny can either, by the way) and I'll be interested to see how he does tonight.