KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What Wade Davis does not do is gesture from the mound, wear his hair to his shoulders or dye his beard.
He doesn’t tilt his cap askew, accessorize with jewelry or stalk around the back of the mound in a menacing ritual before throwing the ball to the plate.
Wade Davis is boring ... right up until the moment he reaches back with his gifted right arm and follows through on his first pitch, probably a four-seam fastball, that the batter will track for about 50 feet, maybe more, before it suddenly starts to run. Late movement is the calling card of a pitcher who is good at not being moved whatsoever.
Davis’ identity is that he doesn’t have one, or at least not an overt personality trait to latch onto outside of his ability to be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. For the Kansas City Royals, that is plenty.
"Yeah, he’s a good clubhouse guy and a good teammate," said backup catcher Drew Butera. “He’s always there to pick you up if you need it. But he goes about his business. That’s what he’s all about. He doesn’t need the extra flair or flash or whatever you want to call it. He’s just there to do a job and gets it done.”
When the Royals needed a closer this season while Greg Holland dealt with an elbow injury that eventually ended his year, Davis made a seamless transition to the hot seat. If anybody thought the Royals’ bullpen would not be the same postseason weapon for them that it was last year, Davis has made that discussion moot.
Part of what makes the Royals' bullpen so good is that everybody seems to have adopted Davis’ way of thinking.
“I think we’ve really concentrated on the fact that every piece is the same, it's all equal,” Davis said, turning the conversation away from himself. “There is no tougher spot or greater spot, it’s all relatively the same.”
Davis collected 17 saves in Holland’s stead, including a number down the stretch after the closer job became his. For those tuning into those games late, the only giveaway that it was the ninth inning, instead of the eighth, would have been Royals fans in the background standing as they anticipated the last out.
The magnitude of the moment certainly wouldn’t have been present in Davis’ face.
“He's very intense on the mound, but he doesn't have the Al Hrabosky dance-around-the mound stuff,” manager Ned Yost said. “[Former teammate James] Shields had him pegged perfectly. When he was in Tampa, they called him 'The Silent Assassin.' And that's kind of what he is. He goes out with no emotion, comes at you with great stuff.”
It doesn’t take long to realize that Davis is not about self-promotion. One question will probably do it, especially if that first question is about why he is so good, how he got to be so good, or what it feels like to dominate hitters as he has done for the past two seasons.
What does domination look like? How about a 1.00 ERA over 71 appearances in 2014, and a 0.94 ERA over 69 appearances this past season? Yes, he actually lowered his ERA as his job responsibilities increased.
“I think [his success] is attributed to his even-keel temperament,” said fellow pitcher Chris Young, whose locker is next to Davis’ in the Kauffman Stadium clubhouse. “He’s just the same guy every day and prepares the same way.
“I’ve never seen him start, but I assume whether he’s starting or relieving or closing, it’s the same guy every day with the same focus, same approach and same routine. It’s just remarkable to watch. It’s just unbelievable.”
In an era of bat flips and fist-pumps, Davis is the antithesis of that modern-day player who punctuates his accomplishments with his own exclamation point.
“Yeah, that’s kind of how the game has gone, but I love just the do-your-job-and-go-home approach,” reliever Luke Hochevar said. “I love that type of mentality. Wade just does a great job of it. Holland is kind of the same way, just get your outs and go in the dugout and help your team win.”
Much like a surgeon with steady hands, the closer with a rock-solid disposition is the ideal trait.
“Yeah ... I mean it’s also nice when your ninth-inning guy is the best reliever in all of baseball, too,” Hochevar said. “But that’s what makes him good. He’s not fazed by anything, he’s not afraid of anything, he doesn’t back down from anything and that’s what makes him how he is.”
And maybe if Davis does close out the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend to send the Royals to a second consecutive World Series, he can show some emotion then. But probably just a little.