Can Wade Davis transition back to the rotation? Or is he doomed to remain in the bullpen?
As we cruise through the January doldrums and the endless countdowns to equipment trucks leaving stadia across the country, Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the first game of spring and Opening Day, let's turn our focus back to Dayton's Bounty.
I wrote about Wade Davis at the time of the trade and went so far as to call him the "key" to the deal. It takes a bit of a leap of faith to think he can return to the rotation. His performance as a starter has been underwhelming. While the party line in Tampa held that with a deep rotation, Davis was better served in the bullpen, although he would be starting for just about any other team in the majors. Lucky us... We are the test case for that hypothesis.
We know that things happen when a pitcher moves from the rotation to the bullpen: A bump in fastball velocity, a potential change in arsenal, etc. And we know that Davis was no different from other pitchers in his situation. He added a couple mph to his fastball and enjoyed his best season as a major leaguer working in relief for the Rays.
From Brooks Baseball, here are his pitch types as a starter in 2011 for the Rays:
Contrast that to his pitch types as a reliever in 2012:
A few things to glean from this data.
- Davis utilized his fastball in a more consistent manner in 2012. As a starter, a left-handed batter was more likely to see a fastball from Davis. Last summer, he featured it almost equally to both lefties and right-handed hitters.
- He was more likely to start a hitter off with a curve ball than he was as a starter.
- His curve became his go-to secondary pitch when seeking to finish off left-handed batters.
- There seems to be some confusion as to whether he abandoned his slider in 2012. Fangraphs data has him continuing to throw his slider and rated it as his most effective pitch at 3.68 wSL/c. They don't have him throwing a cutter. Meanwhile, Brooks Baseball has him favoring the cutter. Either way, it was a helluva pitch. I'm a fan of Brooks Baseball, so I will adhere to their data and refer to him as throwing a cutter. (At least until I hear from the man himself and gain some clarity.)