Stats & Info: Wade Davis

Royals, Indians lead red-hot AL Central

August, 2, 2013

Jason Miller/Getty ImagesRoyals pitching has fueled a nine-game win streak.
Three of the four teams with the longest active win streaks in baseball call the American League Central home, making it the hottest division around.

The Kansas City Royals lead the way with a nine-game streak, followed by the Cleveland Indians at eight straight and the Detroit Tigers with five in a row of their own. The Elias Sports Bureau notes this is the first time the AL Central has ever had two teams with concurrent win streaks of at least eight games.

Thursday night’s 7-2 win over the Twins capped a three-game sweep and marked the first time the Royals reeled off nine consecutive wins since beginning the 2003 season 9-0.

Excellent pitching has fueled this run, as Kansas City pitchers have posted a 1.50 ERA over the streak, allowing just 1.8 runs per game.

In fact, Kansas City has allowed three or fewer runs in each game. Over the past 20 years, the only team to reach double digits with a streak like that was the 2002 Angels, who won 10 in a row (per Elias).

Tonight, the Royals send Wade Davis to the mound to take on the Mets (NL-best 8-2 in interleague play this season) as they try to make it 10 straight wins for the first time since a 1994 14-game streak. It would also match the third-longest win streak in club history.

Davis will look to build off a solid start last time out -- 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the White Sox, which came on the heels of a 10.91 ERA over his previous four starts (all losses).

After capping a four-game sweep of the White Sox, the Indians have won eight straight games for the first time since April 2011. Over this stretch, they’ve been powered by walk-off homers from Jason Giambi and Carlos Santana. The offense has combined to bat .307 with a .372 OBP averaging 6.3 runs per game, and the pitching has been excellent with a 2.28 ERA.

Keeping it going will be a challenge tonight as the Indians head to Miami to face Cuban rookie Jose Fernandez, who turned 21 earlier this week. The defector is coming off a career-high 13 strikeouts in eight innings against the Pirates his last start out and has posted a 1.87 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 in his last 10 starts since June 1.

Looking Ahead
For all the streaking the Royals and Indians have done, they haven’t been able to gain much ground in the standings with the Tigers winning nine of 10 and 18 of their last 25.

The Royals face the toughest remaining schedule of the group by remaining opponents’ combined win percentage (.494), but they will play the most games at home. The Indians have the fewest remaining games against teams currently at or above .500 (22 of 54 games) of the bunch.

If all three teams win tonight, Elias tells us it would be only the second time in history three teams in a single division held concurrent win streaks of at least six games. The only time it happened was in June 1978 in the AL East (Orioles, Red Sox, Brewers).

Kernels: Friday fun

June, 30, 2013

Steve Mitchell/Getty Images
Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey is one player who had a good day on Friday.

This week's theme is "Friday."

In the 16-game slate from June 28, all of this happened (and more).

The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox played a rainout-induced doubleheader starting at 4:10 CT.

• The White Sox opened with five runs off Trevor Bauer, who threw 49 pitches and didn't get out of the inning. It was one shy of the season high (Ian Kennedy threw 50 in an inning on June 6). Bauer was the first pitcher to leave a doubleheader in the first inning of the first game since Rolando Arrojo of Boston on Sept. 21, 2000.

• Seven Indians had at least 2 RBIs, the first time they'd done that in exactly 63 years. Larry Doby, Al Rosen and Ray Boone contributed to an 18-2 blowout of the St. Louis Browns on June 28, 1950.

• Brian Omogrosso surrendered nine runs in 2.1 innings and took the loss. No White Sox reliever had allowed nine in a game since Scott Eyre against the Red Sox on June 26, 1999. They hadn't had a reliever do it in less than three innings since George Payne allowed nine to the Yankees on July 17, 1920.

• Final score of Game 1: 19-10. The 29 combined runs were the most in a game this season. The Indians have scored 19 twice this season, the second such time in their history they've scored 19 or more runs twice in a season (1923).

• Turnabout is fair play. On Sept. 2, 2001, also at Comiskey Park, the White Sox beat the Indians 19-10. Catcher Tim Laker played the role of Casper Wells, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

• Only one other Cleveland team has played a 19-10 game in MLB history. That also was in Chicago, but it was not the Indians. It was the Cleveland Spiders, who lost by that score to the NL's White Stockings (who later became the Cubs) on Sept. 19, 1889.

• With a brief rain delay between games, the second game, which the Indians won 9-8, didn't end until 1:06 a.m. According to Elias, the combined game times of 7 hours, 53 minutes set a record for the longest 18-inning doubleheader in major-league history.

• The Indians hadn't scored 28 runs in a day since June 18, 1950, when they swept a pair from the Philadelphia Athletics, 7-0 and 21-2.

Elsewhere around the Majors on Friday

The Philadelphia Phillies beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 16-1, their most runs ever at Dodger Stadium. They did win 19-10 – there’s that score again! — in the L.A. Coliseum in 1961.It was their second-largest margin of victory against the Dodgers franchise. The Phillies beat the then-Brooklyn Bridegrooms 22-5 at Eastern Park on April 24, 1894.

Phillies right fielder Delmon Young drove in six runs on two singles, a double and a groundout. Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, only one other Phillies hitter has driven in six runs in a game without a homer: shortstop Granny Hamner, who had two doubles and a single with seven RBI against the Cardinals on July 17, 1948.

A few hours after Bauer’s 49-pitch inning for Cleveland, St. Louis Cardinals starter Trevor Miller threw 51 pitches in the second inning against Oakland -- also only getting two outs before being relieved. Miller’s high-water mark would stand for only one day before Wade Davis of the Royals threw 53 pitches in a five-run first inning against Minnesota on Saturday.

The New York Mets' Matt Harvey struck out 11 Nationals and walked zero. It was his third game this season going seven innings with no walks and double-digit strikeouts. That leads the majors. Harvey hasn’t won any of them. He was in line on Friday until the bullpen gave up five runs. The last pitcher to have three such games in a season without a win was Vida Blue, who had two 11-inning no-decisions and a 1-0 complete-game loss for Oakland in 1971.

Shields, Davis bring nasty stuff to KC

December, 10, 2012
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJames Shields has been one of the AL's top pitchers the last two seasons.
The Kansas City Royals continued their “win-now” approach to the 2012-13 offseason making a blockbuster trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in which they received two MLB veteran pitchers -- James Shields and Wade Davis -- for a haul of prospects that included one of the top minor leaguers in baseball, outfielder Wil Myers.

Let’s take a stat-based look at the trade in terms of what the Royals received in return.

James Shields
Shields leaves the Rays as their all-time leader in just about every pitching stat, most notably wins, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched.

Over the past two seasons, Shields ranks first in the majors with 14 complete games and tied for first with six shutouts. He also ranks second in innings pitched (477) and third in strikeouts (448).

Shields may not have the best memories of Kauffman Stadium due to his 6.35 ERA and .353 opponents’ batting average in four starts there against the Royals. That’s his worst ERA and opponents’ batting average in any AL ballpark.

He’ll be going to a ballpark that is not as pitcher-friendly as Tropicana Field, which ranked second-friendliest to pitchers in the majors in terms of runs scored over the past three seasons by Bill James Ballpark Factors.

Kauffman ranked seventh-friendliest among the 14 AL parks (not counting Minute Maid Park, which becomes an AL park in 2013). The one benefit for Shields: Kauffman has bigger power alleys. Its fence is 29 feet deeper than Tropicana Field in right center, 15 feet deeper in left-center.

How does Shields win?

His past success has come with a very effective changeup, which he throws 29 percent of the time, the most often of any starting pitcher in the majors last season.

Shields throws four pitches regularly, pairing the changeup with a fastball, curve and slider. It is the changeup that fools hitters, netting a 48 percent "chase rate" (how often a hitter swung at a pitch out of the strike zone). That was just shy of Tom Milone and Felix Hernandez’s AL-leading 50 percent rate.

Shields had the second-most strikeouts with his changeup in the majors last season, his 109 trailing only the 112 by Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels.

Wade Davis
Converted from starter to reliever last season, Davis thrived in his new role, striking out better than 11 hitters per 9 innings, the ninth-best rate in the AL.

Davis cranked up his fastball for shorter outings. It averaged 93.4 mph, up 1.6 from its average when he started from 2009 to 2011.

Davis’ strikeout-per-9 rate nearly doubled what it was in that three-season span (5.9 per 9) and his ERA nearly dropped by half (from 4.22 to 2.43).

Finishing what they started
Shields and Davis share a common thread.

They both finished 2012 on very high notes.

Shields had a 1.99 ERA in his last 12 starts. He struck out 15 and pitched a two-hitter in a complete game 1-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in his final start with the Rays.

His Bill James Game Score (a stat that rates pitcher's starts, usually on a scale of 0 to 100) of 94 was the highest in a nine-inning loss by any pitcher since 1920.

Davis closed 2012 strong as well, holding opponents scoreless in 13 of his last 15 appearances. He struck out 29 and allowed only six hits in his last 17 2/3 innings pitched.

The Royals could use the help. The chart above shows their starting pitching struggles in 2012.

Stat of the Trade
The stat that sums up why the Royals made this trade is a pretty simple one.

The last time the Royals made the playoffs was in 1985 when they won the World Series. Since then, every team in the majors, except the Royals, has made the postseason at least once.

Davis lighting up the radar for Rays

September, 8, 2012
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
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.
ESPN's Home Run Tracker analyzes video of each home run hit this season. Each month, the tracker will detail the best and worst home runs, as well as some other interesting statistics pertaining to the long ball. Below are the notable home runs in the months of March and April.

Wall-Scraper: Shortest True Distance
March/April Winner: Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays
Fuld’s 323-foot home run off of Daisuke Matsuzaka on April 11 took just 3.32 seconds to leave the yard. Fortunately for Fuld, his blast came while playing at Fenway Park, the only park that particular batted ball would have been a home run in. Believe it or not, Shane Victorino’s inside-the-park home run April 24 hit of Wade LeBlanc traveled 346 feet.

Moonshot: Highest Apex (Apex: maximum vertical height ball reaches)
March/April Winner: Luke Scott, Baltimore Orioles
Although they drop jaws for their height, “moonshot” home runs tend to produce true distances that are far from astonishing. Such is the case for Scott’s fifth-inning home run off Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin on April 16. It traveled just 339 feet, but was hit 148 feet in the air. Scott’s home run took 6.39 seconds to clear the fence, nearly 1.5 seconds longer than the league average (4.85 seconds).

Line Drive: Lowest Apex
March/April Winner: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Bautista’s home run off Tampa Bay’s David Price on April 23 had an apex of just 46 feet. In 3.56 seconds, Bautista’s shot traveled 383 feet.

Fast-ball: Fastest Speed Off Bat
March/April Winner: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
There are many things that can’t travel 116.7 mph, including a large number of automobiles. But that was the speed that ball traveled off Upton’s second-inning homer on April 12 off the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter.

Player Power Surge: Most Combined Distance by One Player
March/April Winner: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Braun tallied 4,089 feet of total home run distance for the months of March and April, squeaking past Alfonso Soriano by 70 feet. Both Braun and Soriano hit 10 home runs in March and April. Five of Braun’s 10 home runs traveled more than 420 feet, including a pair that went 444 and 445 feet.

Server of the Month: Most Combined Distance Allowed by One Pitcher
March/April Winner: Armando Galarraga, Arizona Diamondbacks
The “Imperfect Game” winner has been far from perfect this season. In 28 innings in the month of April, Galarraga allowed 11 home runs (currently on pace to allow 71) that have traveled 4,400 feet.

Wackiest: Most Improbable
March/April Winner: Miguel Olivo, Seattle Mariners
Give an assist to Detroit Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn on this one. Olivo’s second-inning shot off Phil Coke was about 10 feet short of being a home run, but Raburn’s glove deflected the ball over the fence at spacious Comerica Park. With an apex of just 45 feet, Olivo’s “home run” should win the award for Line Drive of the Month. But, because it required some assistance from Raburn, wackiest is more apropos.

1st Pitch: Pitches are piling up

June, 24, 2010
Quick Hits: With the epic Nicolas Mahut-John Isner tennis match shattering all sorts of records at Wimbledon, let’s take a look at which MLB players are working hard this season (numbers via STATS LLC).
  • Mahut and Isner combined for 1,894 strokes in Wednesday’s portion of the fifth set. That’s more than the total number of pitches thrown by a pitcher this season. Dan Haren leads the majors with 1,761 pitches thrown this season, 81 more than the next pitcher (Chris Carpenter).
  • Ubaldo Jimenez leads the majors with 110.5 pitches per outing. Since 2006, the only pitcher that has topped that number is Justin Verlander, who averaged 112.5 last season.
  • Wade Davis is averaging 18.2 pitches per inning, which would be the highest for a qualifying pitcher since Ian Snell’s 18.3 in 2008.
  • Jered Weaver is averaging 4.3 pitches per batter faced, which is just shy of Clayton Kershaw’s average from last season and the third highest rate over the last 10 years for a qualifying starter.
  • No one has seen more pitches than Dustin Pedroia, in part because only Martin Prado and Rickie Weeks have more plate appearances. Pedroia has faced 1,449 pitches. That puts him on pace to see 3,215 pitches this season. Since 1988, no batter has faced more than Bobby Abreu’s 3,159 in 2005.
  • Even though he swings less often than the average player, Pedroia also leads the majors in swings with 616. He’s on pace for 1,367 swings, just shy of Ryan Howard’s 2009 league-leading total of 1,385.
  • Brett Gardner leads the majors with 4.53 pitches per plate appearance. That would be the highest average since Rickey Henderson’s 4.55 in 1997.
Today’s Trivia: When was the last time two starting pitchers threw at least 13 innings in the same game? Who were the pitchers?

Today’s Leaderboard: Having issued more walks than any other team, it’s no surprise that the Brewers are throwing a lot of pitches. They average more pitches per game (158.0) and per inning (17.7) than any other team. The Rangers throw more pitches per plate appearance (4.0) than any other team. Contrast that with the Twins, who throw the fewest in all three categories.

Key Matchups: Manny Ramirez has traditionally fared better against lefty pitchers, but that has not been the case against Scott Kazmir. Ramirez is just 7-for-44 (.159) with 14 strikeouts against the Angels’ southpaw. That’s Manny’s lowest batting average against any of the 54 pitchers that he’s faced at least 30 times.

Alex Rios is 0-for-10 in his career against Derek Lowe. The only pitcher he has faced more without a hit is Mariano Rivera (0-for-13). Meanwhile, Lowe has actually faced three hitters more times without allowing a hit. It’s a pretty impressive group: Barry Bonds (0-for-11), Mark Teixeira (0-for-12) and Jason Bay (0-for-15).

Trivia Answer: On August 27, 1976, both Catfish Hunter and Frank Tanana tossed 13 scoreless innings before finally giving way to the bullpens. The Yankees wound up scoring five runs in the 15th to beat the Angels. No one has had an outing of 12 innings or more since Charlie Hough in 1986.

BP: Rays' pitching talent runs deep

May, 25, 2010
One can use a traditional method to make the point that the Tampa Bay Rays have the best starting rotation in the major leagues. The Rays' starters lead the majors in earned run average by a healthy margin, despite Wade Davis getting tagged for five runs in 3 2/3 innings by the Red Sox on Monday night.

Another way to state the Rays' case is to look at SNLVAR (support neutral league value above replacement), a Baseball Prospectus metric that measures how many more wins a starting pitcher has provided over the course of the season than would a replacement-level player who could be claimed off waivers or purchased from a Triple-A roster.

A total of 57 major league pitchers have accumulated at least a 1.2 SNLVAR with just a little more than a quarter of the season gone. A pitcher who finishes with a 5.0 mark or better is considered to have had a very good season. The Rays have the only rotation in which each member has at least a 1.2 SNLVAR.

The Rays are one of only two teams with three starters ranking in the top 25, along with the San Francisco Giants, who have Tim Lincecum (fifth), Jonathan Sanchez (17th) and Barry Zito (24th).

The teams that come closest to matching the Rays' rotation depth are the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs. Each has four starters with at least a 1.2 SNLVAR.

Here is how those teams' rotations break down:

Giants: Lincecum, 2.5; Sanchez, 1.9; Zito, 1.8; Cain, 1.5; Todd Wellemeyer, 0.2
Cardinals: Jaime Garcia, 2.4; Adam Wainwright, 2.1; Chris Carpenter, 1.6; Brad Penny, 1.2; Kyle Lohse, minus-0.4
Padres: Clayton Richard, 1.9; Mat Latos, 1.9; Wade LeBlanc, 1.4; Jon Garland, 1.4; Kevin Correia, 0.4
Yankees: Andy Pettitte, 1.9; Phil Hughes, 1.8; CC Sabathia, 1.2; A.J. Burnett, 1.2; Javier Vazquez, minus-0.1
Cubs: Tom Gorzelanny, 1.3; Randy Wells, 1.3; Ryan Dempster, 1.3; Carlos Silva, 1.2; Ted Lilly, 0.5

All good rotations, to be sure, but none quite as deep as the one the Rays spin through every five games.

However, there is reason to believe the Rays' rotation can't keep up quite the torrid pace it has been on through the first 45 games of the season. Tampa Bay's starters rank seventh in the majors in SIERA (skill-interactive earned run average), which estimates ERA through walk rate, strikeout rate and ground ball rate while eliminating the effects of park, defense and luck. Thus, we can expect some regression to the mean by the Rays as the season plays out.

John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus.