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Davies Time Is Up

It used to be that people talked about Kyle Davies as an enigma. He was a pitcher that couldn’t quite be figured out. He had tantalizing stuff, but the results just weren’t quite there. Except for sometimes they were there, and those were the times when the scouts who touted his ability were quick to say that they knew this was going to come. He’d have a run of three or four nice starts and because he had such great stuff, people would think he had turned the corner. We did it in September of 2008 when he had that great run in September. And then to validate our thoughts, he did it again in April of the next season. We thought that the real Kyle Davies had finally arrived. Of course, as you all know he regressed. He ended up being pretty bad in 2009 season and then a 2010 season that was good in the sense that he ate innings, but bad in just about every other way.

When Kyle Davies was 14 years old, he was the top pitching prospect in America. It seems pretty silly to be ranking people at that age, and it seems even sillier when you realize that the top pitching prospect in America at any point was Kyle Davies. We all know the story. He was drafted by his hometown team and elevated to the big leagues pretty early on in his professional career. He was okay in his first season, but still not good. Then the roof caved in during the 2006 campaign, he fell out of favor and was ultimately jettisoned to the Royals the next season for something like four innings of Octavio Dotel. Davies muddled along with the Royals and now we’re at the point where he’s just not a good enough pitcher to pitch for a contender, which the Royals will be in the near future. Well, they’re a contender right now, but I’m still taking the wait and see approach.

Davies never has had good control. His best strikeout to walk ratio in his career is 1.65 which he had in his magical 2008 campaign. He’s never been much of a strikeout artist. His best strikeout rate of his career is 7.2. He’s never been especially adept at limiting hits. His career WHIP with all those walks and hits is 1.615. Think about that for a second. He gives up over 14 base runners per nine innings. That’s just terrible. Even if he limits base runners from scoring at an above average rate, he cannot succeed with those numbers. The fact is that it’s time to end the Kyle Davies experiment and end it soon.

Here’s the problem with that, though. Where do you turn? The unfortunate thing for the Royals is that they need to run a pitcher out there every night. Many are clamoring for Aaron Crow to get the opportunity to start, and I hate to give up on a guy as a starter without giving him much of a chance, but Aaron Crow is not ready to start in the big leagues. It’s an interesting discrepancy in that he’s ready right now to be an impact reliever at the Major League level, but he has not ready to be an average starter. He just doesn’t have enough pitches to make it through a lineup three or four times, and that’s what is necessary to be a Major League starter. The two pitches he has now are excellent, and that’s enough in the bullpen, but for now he needs to stay there to work on his changeup or some sort of off-speed pitch.

In the minors, you’ve got a guy like Jeff Suppan who might actually be worse than Kyle Davies. Many will point to his statistics once he got to St. Louis, but I’ll point to Dave Duncan for that improvement. I’m not sure what he does with pitchers, but somehow they end up having amazing seasons under him.  Jeff Suppan would sadly be my choice to replace Davies if he was going to get replaced. I like him because he’ll go out there, eat innings and won’t walk the entire world. The fact of the matter is that this rotation spot, like most of the other four are just keeping the spot warm for the future of the Royals. One quick fact about Suppan that may shock you is that when he was with the Royals from 1998-2002, he was actually an above average pitcher in terms of ERA+ which stood at 105 for him. When I think back to Suppan’s time here, above average is not the term I’d use to describe it, but yet he was.

When I say that I would choose Suppan, if he was the answer for the remainder of the season, I would say to find a different answer, but my choice would be to bring him up until mid-June or so. At that point, the Royals can evaluate which of their starters is ready. It could be Duffy, it could be Montgomery, and it could even be Lamb. Whichever one is the most ready should come up and hopefully be a fixture in the rotation for years to come. My choice would be Mike Montgomery for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is the top pitching prospect in the system and is already toiling at AAA. The second is that bringing him up provides a pretty nice opportunity for the Royals to utilize two of their prospects. In an effort to keep his innings a little lower, the Royals could actually call up Montgomery in June and shut him down in mid-August or so. That gives him two months in the big leagues to get acclimated, but wouldn’t push his innings too high. At that point, Duffy or Lamb could step into that rotation spot for the rest of the season.

No matter what they do, it’s pretty clear that Davies has to go. He went from promising to innings eater to just a bad pitcher. I wouldn’t be terribly opposed to trying him in the bullpen before completely giving up on him, but I don’t think that experiment would be a success. I’d trade him to a desperate team for a low minors flyer that probably would never pan out. Trading Octavio Dotel for Kyle Davies was a good trade, but it just hasn’t panned out for the Royals. You can’t blame them for sticking with him, but the time to cut bait is now.

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