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The improbably probable Wade Davis home run

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He's only human after all. Or is he?

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Sigh. It had to happen some time. On Sunday, Wade Davis gave up the first home run since August 24th of 2013 (coincidentally Davis' final appearance as a starter). That's a streak of 125 and 2/3rd innings without a home run, the longest such in baseball at the time. Unfortunately Wade Davis went back to 0 afterwards, but it might be safe to say that as a reliever he's got the longest active streak of allowing just one home run over a span?

Either way unless Doc Brown and Marty pull up to Wade's house and say "get in" we can't take that home run back. It happened. And the Royals won. Sometimes baseball sucks, but mostly not.

What's somewhat discouraging though is that that wasn't necessarily a bad pitch by Wade. High fastballs can get hit for sure, but it's not like Davis has been pummeled there prior.

Here are all the four seam fastballs that Davis has thrown in the top 3 zones (1, 2, 3) since moving to the bullpen.

That's 75 pitches. The results of those pitches?

3 of those (or 4%) have gone for hits.

  • Jose Bautista home run (above)
  • Kevin Pillar triple (7-12-2015)
  • Marcus Semien double (6-28-2015)
Here's the Pillar double:

Nothing else has been put in play on fastballs in those locations. Meanwhile batters have whiffed on 30.7% of them and struck out on 29%.

Now of note, all of those batters are right handed and two of them are Blue Jays (which is just coincidental).

Let's look at how left handed hitters have done in those zones against Davis fastballs.

So yeah... A left hander isn't going to hit a home run off a Davis fastball probably in those zones, or at least they haven't done so yet. And they haven't just not hit home runs, they haven't got a single hit yet off that pitch in that location(s).

Now just right handers:

A hit (a very palpable hit)! So we know that if a home run (a hit) is going to happen off a fastball in those zones, it's probably going to be to a right handed hitter.

Now by each individual zone vs right handers?

Zone 1:

Nope

Zone 2:

A little better since a ball was in play, but still...Naw

Zone 3:

There we go. So, all three hits have been in zone 3, and two of them by Blue Jays.

Now we can also look at how hitters have hit Wade's pitches overall since turning in a reliever by pitch type:

Pitch Count Whiff% FB% ISO
Four Seam 1332 30.84% 27.67% .071
Curve 442 36.05% 8.47% .069
Cutter 542 32.63% 16.85% .028

Davis throws a ton of fastballs (more than double the next pitch and the others combined) but that fastball has the lowest whiff%, highest fly ball percentage, and the highest ISO (barely though).

What were the counts to those three lucky batters?

  • Jose Bautista: 0-2
  • Kevin Pillar: 2-2
  • Marcus Semien: 3-2
All two strike counts so theoretically the batters were protecting the plate and swinging at anything close, and for a right handed hitter fastballs up and away in the zone seem like they are easier to see than one for instance barreling towards you high and inside.

Let's add just one more data point: the velocity of each pitch that was hit.

  • Jose Bautista: 96.7 MPH
  • Kevin Pillar: 97.1 MPH
  • Marcus Semien: 95.8 MPH
I'm rounding here, but basically those are all 96+ MPH, or at least closer to 96 MPH than not. Wade Davis' average four seam velocity this year is 95.6 MPH. His average four seam velocity last year was also 95.6 MPH.
The results of pitches above and below 96 MPH:

MPH AVG SLG ISO
above 96 .130 .261 .131
below 96 .093 .140 .047

So batters have hit his four seam considerably better when it's above 96 MPH.

There's a lot of generalities here, and eventually Davis was going to give up a homer given enough pitches thrown. However it just so happened that it had to be a right hander, had to be zone 3, had to be a fastball, had to be 96+ MPH and it it just so happened to be a Blue Jay that hit it. Well... it didn't have to be, but it was and similar balls have been hit before for non-outs.