Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Buddy and me

It would appear that Kyle Davies attributes much of his late season success to Buddy Biancalana. Honestly, it is not news that is particularly important to the Royals' future, but it is pretty damn sweet to be able to type the words Buddy Biancalana and have them be somewhat relevant to today.

As for Davies, he was a whipping boy for many Royals fans following his less than dominating performance in 2007. He was obtained in a deal that sent Octavio Dotel to the Braves, where Dotel racked up a whole 7 2/3 innings before going down with a predicable injury and bolting to the White Sox the following offseason.

Anyone who watched Davies pitch in 2007 saw a kid who was not at home on the mound. In eleven starts in his inaugural two months in a Royals uniform, he lasted a whopping 50 innings, while allowing a particularly Satanic 6.66 ERA and an even more offensive 1.78 WHIP. He showed little ability to strike batters out and walked a batter every other inning, which gave Royals fans all over the interweb cause to cry foul.

What the most vehement Davies haters were neglecting to allow for was that the kid turned 24 in September of 2007. While never really being unhittable at the Major League level, his BABIP was .338 in 2007, indicating a degree of bad luck that when combined with his high walk rates, low strikeout rates, and HR/9 sitting at a distasteful 1.8, a solid partial season with the Royals was simply not in the cards.

That being said, giving up on Kyle Davies who is only a four days older than Luke Hochevar and had luck working against him would have been reckless for a team like the Royals. Unlike a player like Tyler Lumsden, who kept getting worse at AAA-Omaha, Davies logged his first significant time in the bigs as a 21 year old. He also showed an ability--at least every once in a while--to locate his pitches and work through a lineup effectively. Those flashes were encouraging enough to at least hope that he could become a league average pitcher and a viable option for a back of the rotation starter.

2008 saw Davies start the season in Triple-A, while the Royals trotted out such dregs as John Bale (in their perceived need to force a left handed pitcher into the rotation) and Brett Tomko in the fifth starting slot. Davies got his bearings in Omaha over the course of 57 2/3 innings, keeping his ERA at an encouraging 2.03 and maintaining a low 1.18 WHIP. These numbers were not going to translate to any Major League pitching time, as his BABIP was an absolutely unsustainable .257 while not featuring any dominating ball with drastic downward movement. But mirage or not, Davies was promoted back to the Major League club and made his first start on May 31st.

In the initial four starts, he allowed an earned run per outing, leading everyone card-carrying Royals fan to wonder the inevitable question as to when the other shoe would drop. We all know the world did not stop spinning on its axis, and for a time the rail was being greased to send Davies out of town, but the rocky July and August subsided, and (apparently with the help of Buddy Biancalana) Davies rebounded with a September that saw his ERA drop from 4.76 to 4.06 and kept his WHIP on the month below 1.00 (0.96).

Clearly, Kyle Davies is not going to be the 2.27 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 3.43 K:BB ratio pitcher with an .800 winning percentage that he was in September. In fact, his ERA will more than likely regress to the other side of 4.50. But if we're looking at a fifth starter with a sub-5.00 ERA, things are looking up for we Royals fans.

Since 1998, the following seasons have been marred by a team leader in ERA residing above 4.00:
1998 - Tim Belcher, 4.27
2000 - Mac Suzuki, 4.34
2001 - Jeff Suppan, 4.37
2004 - Darrell May, 5.61
2005 - Zack Greinke, 5.80
2006 - Mark Redman, 5.71

That's six of the past eleven seasons with team leaders in ERA recording worse ERAs than Kyle Davies this past season. If we are lucky enough to go into next season with pitchers at the back end of the rotation performing at that level, things are looking up.

1 comment:

Ray W said...

Hey Josh can you email me please,
THX,
Ray W