SAGNOF – Saves Ain’t Got NO Face. We all know the mantra. For those of you new to Razzball, the pursuit of saves is a fickle battle. There’s more turnover than at IHOP on free pancake day. Pitchers get hot, then not. Some need a break, while others just break. Many just plain suck. And then we have managers like The Sciosciapath. No further explanation needed. Although, even if I tried, I probably wouldn’t be able to explain his madness anyways. Whatever the case may be, saves appear out of thin air every season. Did you know that Phil Maton got a save last season? Exactly. In fact, a total of 162 pitchers got at least one save last year. Why am I driveling about saves? Because I want to write about Wade Davis today. I usually don’t write about closers because Smokey takes care of that, but I just got that itch after perusing Fangraphs. Yes, some scroll through Pornhub and Redtube. Pssst….I still do sometimes as well….But most of the time it’s scrolling and clicking on the various tabs on player pages at Fangraphs. SAGNOF. Son Ain’t Give NO F***s. So, what stood out about Wade Davis?
The 20 saves are good for 4th in all of baseball. Only Brad Hand (21), Craig Kimbrel (22), and Edwin Diaz (27) have more saves. But, out of the top 10, Davis is the only one with an ERA over 4 and is tied with Brad Boxberger with a 1.30 WHIP. For perspective, six of the pitchers have a WHIP below 1 and only three have an ERA above 2.50. Davis is also tied for the league lead in blown saves (4).
10.08 K/9. Not bad, but he was at 12.12 last year with the Cubs. The walk rate of 5.53 is bad. The BABIP of .254 seems a little low, but the 71% LOB% should probably go up, which would negate some of the BABIP increase. The ERA is at 4.55, but the xFIP is 4.62. Hmmmm, not good.
Then, I went to the pitch arsenal, as it’s been well documented that breaking stuff doesn’t break as much in Coors. What do you know? Davis is throwing the curveball at a career-high 21.4%. Hmmmm. When Davis entered the league in 2009, he threw the fastball 72.9% of the time. Here’s the progression: 71.6, 68.3, 65.9, 55.2, 61, 52.3, 50.6, 48, and 48.8. Correspondingly, in 2009, Davis threw the curveball 12.5%. Since then: 14.7, 16.3, 20.6, 21.6, 18.9, 18.9, 18.4, 20.8, and 21.4. It’s been a natural evolution for Davis as a pitcher. In addition, he’s scrapped the changeup (0.2%) and has utilized the cutter (29.6%) as the third pitch.
Back to the curveball, as that seems to be the likely culprit for Davis’s struggles. To my surprise, the curveball has been his best pitch. He’s thrown it 107 times and has a 43.5% strikeout rate. Batting average against is .095 and ISO is .048. The BABIP is only .182, so some regression could happen, but swings and misses can’t contribute to BABIP.
It’s been the fastball and cutter that have caused the most problems. The 19.6% walk rate for the four-seam and 14.3% walk rate for the cutter stand out. Davis has always exhibited really good control with those two pitches. Walk rate had never been over 15% for the four-seam and over 8% for the cutter. While the strikeout rate for the cutter is at 34.3%, it’s only 14.3% for the four-seam. The ISO for both? .159 for the four-seam and .233 for the cutter.
As for home/road splits, Davis has been better on the road. That’s to be expected, although most of his control problems have been on the road, as 13 of 17 walks issued have been away from Coors.
I think the plate discipline numbers show all that is wrong with Davis right now. First strike percentage is at 48.3%, the first time under 50% for his career. Batters are swinging at a career-low 63.7% in the strike zone and 41% in general. Contact rate in the strike zone is a robust 92.5%. That number had been in the 70% range three of the past four year. Swinging strike rate is 10.6%, after being 15.4% the prior year. My interpretation is that Davis is nibbling. Falling behind hitters, then getting crushed when he has to challenge. The velocity on his fastball was 96.7 mph four years ago. It has steadily declined to the current 94.6 mph. The decrease in velocity, coupled with pitching in Coors, has messed with his overall game. That’s the only way I can explain his road woes, outside of not staying at a Holiday Inn.
Davis is 32 years old and making $16 million this year, $18 million next year, and $17 million in 2020. In 2021, there’s an option for $15 million. There’s a chance a contender would be willing to eat that contract to bolster their bullpen, considering the cost to acquire should be decreased, but me thinks he stays in Colorado. If so, he would remain the closer, and be given every chance to “figure things out.” Davis is a veteran and the curveball has been downright filthy. I would think he’d figure out the fastball control sooner rather than later.