You kids may not remember this, but it wasn't that long ago that Wade Davis was a name we cursed around these parts. In 2013, Davis struggled mightily as a starter, posting a 5.32 ERA in 135 innings, the third-worst ERA in the American League for pitchers with that many innings pitched. The supposed "key to the James Shields trade" was mocked. The Royals asked him to go to the bullpen and work on gassing it out for one inning of work. The result was nothing less than incredible.
Wade Davis gave up a run on two hits and a walk in his first outing of the year against Detroit, then gave up two runs in an outing against Chicago the next week. After that point, he gave up five runs.....the entire remainder of the season. That covers his last 67 2/3 innings pitched, where he struck out 105 hitters. He did not give up an extra base hit until Joe Mauer doubled off of him on August 15. In all, he gave up just 38 hits in 72 innings of work. Opposing hitters hit just .151/.229/.179 against him. Righties hit just .112! In other words, Wade Davis made all opposing hitters about as impotent as a National League pitcher swinging the bat. That's actually a disservice to pitchers - 37 of them hit better than .151.
|Career per 162 games||3.91||3.93||7.6||3.4||2.0|
The projections are pretty meaningless since they don't take into account Davis's dominance since moving to the bullpen. Wade did have a very low batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .264, suggesting some regression maybe in the works for 2014. But if you strike out 13.63 hitters per nine innings as Davis did, good for sixth in all of baseball last season, you're bound to be pretty successful regardless.
Kevin Ruprecht recently pointed out just how ridiculous Davis was last year thanks to his patented rising four-seam fastball. And the crazy thing is the four-seamer is probably Davis' second best pitch. His cutter that just falls of the table is simply unfair to opposing hitters.
The question isn't whether Wade Davis can replicate his amazing 2014 season, its whether any mortal human being can replicate that kind of season. Sure, Davis is almost certain to regress some from his phenomenal season, but he could decline quite a bit and still be one of the most dominant relievers in the game.
What do you expect out of Wade Davis in 2015?