Kyle Davies' tenure with the Royals has come to an end (at least for now. Who knows? He may be the Suppan of 2020), and it ended on a rather inauspicious note. Putting that aside, it would only be fitting to remind ourselves one more time of all that Kyle has given (and not given) to us over his four and a half years under the Kauffman Lights in the blue and white, and how he managed to get here in the first place.
Hiram Kyle Davies was born in Decatur, Georgia, on September 9th, 1983. He played for Stockbridge High School in Stockbridge, GA, and was drafted as a 17 year-old in the 4th round (135th overall) of the 2001 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves (notable selections closely behind Davies: Ryan Howard (140th), C.J. Wilson (141st), and Ryan Raburn (147th). In 2001, he pitched in Rookie Ball and Low A, tossing 61.2 innings with 60 strikeouts to just 9 walks. He regressed slightly in 2002, as he saw his WHIP jump from .941 to 1.47 as his BB/9 went from 1.3 to 3.2 (his K/9 rate also fell from 8.8 to 7.9):
After two seasons split between Rookie Ball and A Ball, he would spend all of 2003 in the South Atlantic League, going 8-8 with a 2.89 ERA. His K/9 jumped up to 9.1 but he maintained his walk rate, giving out 3.3 free passes per 9 throughout the season. He would lead the Rome Braves that year to the South Atlantic League Championship.
And with it, came the push.
After spending the better part of three years in the low minors, Davies would find himself getting pushed through the Braves organization in 2004. He started the year in High A, posting an exceptional 11.3 K/9 rate but equalized with a 3.8 BB ratio. After 14 starts in High A, he was shipped up to AA Greenville, where he continued to dominate (10.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9). He would make one start for AAA Richmond that year, posting a very familiar line (5.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K). In 2005, he started the year in AAA Richmond, but owing mostly to injuries he would make his Major League debut on May 21st at Fenway Park. He pitched well, going five innings and striking out six (while walking three and giving up four hits) while not allowing a run. Four days later he made his home debut, pitching 5.1 innings against the Mets, striking out six and walking one, his second consecutive scoreless appearance to start his career. In his first four starts in the majors, he pitched 23.1 innings and only gave up two earned runs, but he had given up 22 hits and walked 11 along with 21 strikeouts, and it only seemed like a matter of time.
Shuttling back and forth between AAA and the majors, Davies would make nine starts for the Braves between June 10th and August 4th of 2005, and his numbers in those games were succinctly Davies-esque:
|Jun 10, 2005 to Aug 4, 2005||ATL||9||9||46.2||53||32||32||27||32||6||0||6.17|
He made one more appearance before being sent back to AAA and was then brought back up to the majors as a September call-up where he pitched out of the bullpen (he would also make one more start in September). He didn't pitch well out of the bullpen either (14.2 innings, 18 H 9 BB, 7 K, 11 ER).
In 2006, Davies went in to spring training as some sort of 'tweener; he was either going to start in AAA or break camp with the big league club, and presumably he pitched well enough in spring training to make the 25-man. He made 8 starts for Atlanta, and pretty much did what you would expect Kyle Davies to do. On May 15th, though, he started against the Florida Marlins, and he would leave the game in the 3rd inning after giving up a HR, a single, a ground rule double, a walk, and a bases-clearing double. He would later be diagnosed with a torn (not pulled. torn) groin muscle and underwent surgery to repair it. He would rejoin the major league club in September and continue to get shelled:
Naturally enough, the Braves decided that it would be the Braves Way to have Davies start 2007 in AAA. But then Lance Cormier decided to fall to injury, and the Braves found the Bravest Way to Bravely promote Kyle back into their rotation. In Kyle's defense, this was his best stretch of starting pitching since his first four starts in the major leagues. Which is to say he didn't get shelled, so much as he was knocked around:
|ATL||17||17||4 – 8||86||92||61||55||44||59|
His ERA was 5.76. It's sad to say that this was his lowest ERA in the majors since his rookie season, but it is even sadder to say what happened next:
(Quick side note: Congratulation to FlintHillsRoyal for having the skills of a psychic)
but what if davies sucks?
August 10th, 2007 10:10 AM PDT
(Less Quick side note: Congratulations to BlueEyesAustin for also having the skills of a psychic. You were only off by a year and a week)
...Moore decided on a higher-ceiling player with a higher level of risk than the Gagne group by selecting Kyle Davies, who projects as high as a #2 or #3 starter in 2008 or 2009...but could easily be a bust and out of baseball in three years as well.
--August 1st, 2007
Yes, in 2007, the Royals traded reclamation project Octavio Dotel and his two months of time left for the somewhat-reclamation project that was Kyle Davies. All in all, you had to consider it a success for the Royals. They got a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher with multiple years of team control left in exchange for two months of what had been a gamble on a relief pitcher recovering from injury. In that sense, the trade went just fine. Many people speculated that over the course of Davies' stint with the Royals, he would be more valuable to the franchise than a reliever would be. And they were right, but probably not by as much as they would have hoped:
|Kyle Davies||4.5 Seasons w/ Royals||5.3|
|Octavio Dotel||4.5 Seasons after Royals||1.7|
So, in 2007, Kyle Davies was plugged right in to the Royals rotation, and the new team and new scenery gave him a brand new start, where he started pitching lights out. Or so you would have hoped. In fact, he pitched worse for the Royals in 2007 than he did for the Braves:
|Aug 4, 2007 to Sep 28, 2007||KCR||11||11||3 – 7||50||63||41||37||26||40||6.66|
So what? You can't grade a player based on 11 starts. And besides, up to this point, Davies was still just 23 years old. He had seen parts of major league seasons since he was 21. And sure, he had posted an ERA+ of 70 in 287.0 innings over parts of three seasons, and his BB/9 rate was 4.8, and he had a career WHIP of 1.725. 2008 was the year he was going to put it all together.
And in a wholly unfulfilling and empty way, it was:
Davies joined the Royals in May after starting the year in AAA Omaha, and out of the gate he looked like the kind of pitcher that would be a solid contributor, a piece of the lauded MGD trio (Meche/Greinke/Davies). Through his first four starts he was 3-1 with a 1.46 ERA. Three starts later his ERA was 4.71, after giving up 5 ER in an 1.1 innings against the Giants and 7 ER in 4 innings against the Orioles. He would hover around there for the rest of the season. His ERA would get as low as 4.34 and no higher than 4.81 over his next 11 starts. But then came possibly the best pitching performance of Davies' career. On September 15th, six days after his 25th birthday, Davies would put on a display against the Seattle Mariners that fans would come to expect out of Zack Greinke the following year. In the first inning, Davies induced three flyball outs. In the second, he got a soft line out to short and a pair of strikeouts. In the third, he punched out two more Mariners hitters. In the 4th, he induced three groundouts to the right side of the infield, two of them were unassisted to the first basemen. In the fifth, he gave up a leadoff single, but would escape without giving up anything else, and he recorded his fifth strikeout of the game. In the sixth, he gave up another leadoff single, but after a strikeout, he induced a double play ball off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt. In the 7th, he struck out Raul Ibanez, gave up a single to Jose Lopez but got out of the inning with another double play. In the 8th, he recorded another strikeout, a groundout, and a flyout to left field. Davies line from the game:
|Kyle Davies, W (7-7)||8||4||0||0||0||8||0|
Davies would go on to make two more starts before the end of the season, giving up only 3 ER in 13 IP while striking out eleven and walking only three.
Going into the 2009 season, there was a lot of optimism that Kyle would continue his performance from the end of the 2008 season. And much to the delight of Royals fans, his first three starts were pretty good. He walked 5 against Texas, but hey, he also struck out eight. He only gave up three runs in six. He's going to get better, keep improving. He's working it out; things are looking up.
And then he imploded:
|Apr 25, 2009 to Aug 22, 2009||KCR||15||15||3 – 9||81.1||94||66||62||41||50||15||3||6.86|
His 2009 season is not much different from his 2008 season. He started strong; He even finished strong in '09 with a 1.57 ERA in his last four starts, despite walking 17 and striking out only 15 in 23.0 innings. The biggest difference was that in between the bookends of acceptable pitching performance, there was a higher level of awful in 2009 than there was in 2008.
In 2010 he managed his first full season with the Royals, pitching 183.2 innings, and managing a meager 2.0 fWAR for his efforts (by contrast, he earned 1.9 fWAR in 113 innings in 2008). There was hardly a flash, or even a glimmer of brilliance left in 2010, though. Only once did Kyle manage to pitch a game without giving up an earned run. In six out of his 32 starts would he give up one earned run or less. 14 times he gave up four or more earned runs.
By now, Kyle Davies had 706.2 innings under his belt. In his last two and a half seasons, he had managed to raise his ERA+ all the way from 70 to 79. In 2009 and 2010, his walk rate continued to escalate (4.3) while his strikeout rate continued to fall (6.2). There was no improvement left to be found. If anything, he was regressing over the last two years at an unsightly rate. So naturally, the Royals decided to tender him a $3.2m contract for 2011. Only this time, there was no pretty. It was ugly, almost wire to wire. He gave up four earned to the Angels. Five earned to the Tigers. Five earned to the Twins. After a good performance against Cleveland and a mediocre one against Texas, he imploded against Cleveland. In May he got injured and missed almost two months. And then, he did it again.
In his last two starts in a Royal uniform, he reminded Dayton Moore why he traded for him. He reminded Dayton of all the promise he showed as a 23 year-old. In 5.1 innings against the White Sox he struck out nine. And as a parting gift, he went six strong against Boston, scattering five hits and striking out six in six innings.
Two weeks later, he was given his outright release.
Kyle Davies probably deserves better than he received from fans. He was never really the worst starting pitcher we had during any one season that he pitched for us (with the possible exception of this year). But it always stings a little bit more when you can see the promise, when you can perceive the potential, and time and time again you are turned away with negative results. Davies in a lot of ways is a microcosm for the Royals organization over the past few years; seemingly filled with potential somewhere deep and hidden while maintaining a lusterless and disappointing performance in the light.
In some other ways, Davies is perhaps a cautionary tale; a young man who was rushed and brought up before he was really ready, who never really learned to make the necessary adjustments along the way. But one thing you can not say was that he was ever short-changed on opportunity. The Royals alone put almost four full seasons into him, and gave him every opportunity for success they could afford. In the end, it didn't work out. For the Royals' sake, it's for the better. And for Kyle, he had 151 games under the sun. And who knows? He may see more in the future.
Just not with us.