Friday, December 28, 2012

I'm All In for 2013 - Wade Davis Edition

This is the first in a series of posts about why I'm excited for Royals baseball in 2013.

And it starts with Wade Davis.

James Shields has gotten the most attention this off-season after the Royals made their "Big Move" in early December, but I think the key to the deal, and really, the key for the next five seasons, will be Wade Davis and his return to the starting rotation.

A quick digression about former Royals pitcher, Zack Greinke.

A few people may recall that before he was getting 25 large a year from the Dodgers, this Greinke kid was just another prospect who was flaming out in the big leagues.

After a promising rookie season, Zack posted a 5.80 ERA in 2005, then quit baseball for a while before coming back to the minor leagues in 2006, with a few late-September garbage innings with the big club to finish the season.

Then, in 2007, Zack took the mound for seven starts to begin the season. Three were decent, but the other four were quite rotten, and after a six-run shellacking from the Tigers, he was moved to the bullpen.

A funny thing happened in the pen. Kid G got his groove back.

Greinke's ERA went from 5.71 as a starter to 3.54 as a reliever. His K/9 went from 5.26 to 9.32.

In late August, the Royals moved him back to the rotation, and the improvements held. He finished the year with seven starts with an ERA of 1.85 while striking out 8.21 hitters per nine innings. In 2008, he started 32 games, posted an ERA of 3.47 and a K/9 of 8/15.

In 2009, he won the American League Cy Young award.

Yes, I'm saying that Wade Davis will compete for the Cy Young in 2014.

Quickly: "Bad" starter for the Devil Rays in 2011 with a 4.45 ERA and 5.14 K/9. Bullpen in 2012. 2.43 ERA, 11.17 K/9.

Now, research shows that most starting pitchers will pitch better in relief. Tom Tango did some quick math and came up with the expectation that ERA will drop by 17% and K rate will rise by 17% for a converted starter.

But both Greinke and Davis far exceeded those benchmarks.

Greinke's K-rate improved by 77% and only dropped back 12% when he returned to the rotation.

Davis improved his K-rate by 117% last season. Even if he gives back 35% of his 2012 rate, he'll have a K/9 of 7.26, which will put him on par with Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy. You know, the two guys who were doing great last year until Dr. Andrews came calling.

Several scouts were quoted as saying that Davis figured something out in the bullpen last year for the Rays. I'm optimistic he can bring that performance boost back to the rotation, and by the end of the year, he may be the biggest piece of this very large trade.

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