If anybody on the Royals could have used a hug last year, it was Wade Davis.
After coming over to the Kansas City Royals as part of the James Shield/Wil Myers trade, Davis was given a spot in the rotation based on a stellar performance out of the bullpen for Tampa Bay in 2012. It could have gone better.
Using the Game Score stat, here is what 2013 looked like for Davis as a starter.
If heartbeat charts aren’t your thing, here’s a color-coded breakdown of good (green), average (yellow) and bad (red) starts.
You can still see the inconsistency this way, but a run of not-awful outings in June shows you why the Royals probably stuck with Wade longer than they should have.
I decided to look at his Game Scores as a rolling average of the last 3 starts to see if a more recognizable pattern appears, and you can see how he really was recovering after some poor outings in the early part of the year. I have called out two points in the later half of the season that I believe may have also affected his performance.
I won’t get into armchair psychology here, but I think it is fair to expect a players performance to be affected by off-field issues. Davis had to take paternity leave and bereavement leave within a month of each other. I know I’d have a hard time hacking out these lame charts with so much going on.
Now, can Davis recover in 2014 and bolster a rotation that is suddenly thing without Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen around? I think there are a few baseball reasons to believe so. Here is one more chart from Fangraphs.
If nothing else, regression to the mean should help Davis out in 2014. After sticking close to the median for batting average on balls in play during his career, hitters were suddenly finding a lot of spots in 2013. Both his ground ball/fly ball ration and line drive percentage shot way up, so Davis wasn’t taking advantage of the best defense in baseball, but last year is clearly the outlier for those stats in his career.
The Royals have already stated that Davis will get a shot at the rotation in spring training, and I think that’s the right move. Unlike fellow starter-turned-reliever Luke Hochevar, Davis has been moderately successful as a starter in the past, and there were several factors working against him in 2013 that may not be an issue in 2014.