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Saturday, September 8, 2012
Davis lighting up the radar for Rays

By Mark Simon

The return of Evan Longoria and the dominance of the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitching have been two of the primary reasons why the Rays have made a big push in the AL East standings over the last month.

But a recent surge by a noteworthy Ray may be a bit under the radar.

Wade Davis
Davis
When Wade Davis was demoted to the bullpen early in the season, he was often relegated to long relief.

Of late, he’s pitched in some more noteworthy situations, and his velocity has been lights-out.

Davis struck out five in two innings of relief in the win, as part of a bullpen effort of five innings with no runs and just one hit allowed.

It’s part of a Rays run in which their bullpen ERA is 1.39 since the All-Star Break. Fernando Rodney has racked up the saves with an 0.35 ERA. Davis is right behind him at 0.44, with 29 strikeouts and only one run allowed in 20 2/3 innings.

What have the differences been for Davis?

For one, he’s getting swings-and-misses against his fastball rather than yielding home runs with it.

In the first half, Davis’ heater got a miss about once every six swings, and four home runs were hit against the pitch when it was thrown in the strike zone.

Since the break, Davis is getting misses at a rate of just better than once every three swings, and of the 125 fastballs he’s thrown in the zone, none have been hit out of the park.

There’s been more hop to Davis’ fastball, which in the first half averaged 92.7 miles-per-hour.

That’s jumped to 94.2 MPH since the break. The 1.5 mile per-hour average velocity increase ranks 10th-best among anyone who has thrown a fastball in both halves.

Davis’ secondary pitches have also bumped up a bit, with his slider repeatedly reaching 90 miles-per-hour on the radar gun, making a similar jump to his fastball.

The last word on proof that Davis is in pretty good company at this point in the season?

He’s allowed only 24 percent of swings against him to be put in play in the second half of the season. No American League pitcher has a better rate in that time. Only three pitchers in the majors do—two of them are Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman.