Last night, while the Royals’ hitters were busy chewing up Francisco Liriano and spitting him out like they have so many left-handed pitchers this year*, Kyle Davies was brilliant for his third straight start.
*: Perhaps the least discussed aspect of the Royals this year has been their platoon splits. Against left-handed pitchers this year, the team is hitting .288/.343/.435. Against right-handed hitters, they’re hitting just .260/.310/.381. Against LHP, they have the 5th-best OPS in the league; against RHP, they’re 13th, just a rounding error ahead of the Mariners for last place.
That’s not a fluke. While Gordon’s struggles against southpaws are well-documented, he’s the only left-handed hitter with a pronounced platoon split – DeJesus and Teahen have hit almost equally well against either side. Meanwhile, Jose Guillen, Billy Butler, and Mike Aviles have all crushed left-handed pitching, while the first two at least have struggled badly against RHP. Miguel Olivo is a famed lefty-masher. Even Grudzielanek hit .395 against LHP in limited playing time.
As a team, the Royals are 35-24 when a left-hander** starts against them. Against right-handers, they’re 39-62. Bring back C.C. Sabathia!
**: Against left-handers not named “Cliff Lee”, they’re 35-19. Lee’s five wins against the Royals have been discounted by some people, but maybe they shouldn’t be.
Here are Davies’ last three lines, each of them resulting in a win:
9/15: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K
9/20: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K
9/26: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K
How unusual has this stretch been? A lot more unusual than it should be, certainly. Let’s start with a simple search: find the last time a Royal made three straight starts where he threw at least 6 innings, and allowed no more than 4 hits. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Davies is the first Royal to do so this century. The last Royals with 3 starts of 6 or more IP, and 4 or fewer hits, was Blake Stein in August, 1999.
Stein didn’t win any of his three starts, in part because he walked 12 batters in 21 innings. (Also, that was the year the Royals had arguably the worst bullpen of any team in major league history.) Those were the first three starts Stein made for the Royals after he was acquired from Oakland in the Kevin Appier trade – he wouldn’t have another such start for almost a year.
Davies, on the other hand, hasn’t walked more than two batters in any of his starts. Who was the last Royal with three straight starts with 6 IP, 4 or fewer hits, and 2 or fewer walks?
Appier, who actually had a stretch of four straight starts. In June, 1993. Appier won just two of those four starts, as back then the Royals had the kind of offense you’d expect from a team that thought David Howard was a solid everyday shortstop.
So how about this: when was the last time a Royals pitcher won three consecutive starts (in any number of innings) and allowed no more than 4 hits and 2 walks in each start?
Seriously. Never. Kyle Davies is the first pitcher in the 40-year history of the Royals to accomplish what would seem to be a fairly commonplace feat.
I’m not sure how meaningful this is. I mean, the Royals had a pretty fair run of success from 1976 to 1985 without ever having a pitcher accomplish this. (Davies is helped by the fact that starters throw fewer innings today; it’s a lot easier to allow 4 hits in 6 innings than 4 hits in 9 innings.) But I do think that Davies has earned the right to go for four in a row, as a member of the rotation next April.
crystal ball says that Davies is next years Cliff Lee. Supposed mediocre pitcher, always in doubt of seeing big league innings, turns it all around for '09 Cy Young. Get used to hearing "Davies is Dealing"
This is Lee's third year with 200 innings, fourth with 175 or more. Fourth with 30+ starts. Third year with 100 ERA+ or higher. He had some K/BB issues, but things are looking really good this year. He's also four years older than Davies.
It might be a bit of a stretch. I think Davies will do pretty darn well for himself--just not Lee's '08.
As you discussed Davies control, it prompted me thinking about our offensive tendencies to (not) draw walks. I have a question that you can probably more answer more quickly than I can research. Our offense has been dramatically better over the past 3 weeks - pounding out 10+ hits rather frequently. But Saturday's game notwithstanding, it seems like we are drawing 3 or more walks in most of these victories. I am curious what our record is based on the number of walks we earn in a game.
Great blog...keep 'em coming.
The best part about this September is how Greinke views his future with the club. Much better chance of a long term contract being signed with the taste of this September in your mouth.
I have not had much confidence in Davies pretty much from the day the deal was made with Atlanta. He seems to have changed his approach on the mound this last month though by throwing at a quicker pace.
I'll need to see more of this to make me a believer and I don't see him being the next Cliff Lee even at night when I'm sleeping, but I think he has earned a spot on the rotation for next year. If he can duplicate this kind of work then we have one hell of a 1-2-3 for our rotation.
Nice post, Rany. As discussed over at Royals Review, Davies hot second half (did he take over Mahay's deal with Satan?) has made his fielding independent stats almost exactly league average. Outstanding for a back-of-the-rotation guy. Let's see if he can repeat.
I love DDJ. He and Gordon are the only guys on the team who have actually hit RHP well. (Aviles is sufficient [BABIP luck, for sure]. Guillen, Butler, and the rest have been awful.
While DDJ's platoon splits aren't as pronounced as, well, everyone else on the team, let's not say he's equally as good against both LHP and RHP.
DDJ 2008 (before Saturday's game):
vs. RHP: .310/.384/.491/.875
vs. LHP: .302/.336/.391/.728
Can't wait for Dayton to trade him for a bunch of toolsy outfielders and slick-fielding shortstops!
A Rany day is a better day.
I posted this stat over on Sam Mellinger's blog as well, but it's worth noting again. Over half of Davies' starts came against top-5 offenses, plus he had two starts against the Cardinals, a top-5 NL offense. Throw in a couple of starts against Cleveland and Baltimore and Davies has had to face a team in the top half of their league in offense in 15 of his 21 starts. Makes his upswing this year look much more like a breakout year than an accident.
That's an interesting statistical find!
Paul White, you really should put on a Royals cap and discard that disgraceful hat from the evil empire!
Rany, thank you SO MUCH for this awesome, awesome post. I honestly didn't know just how significant Davies has been this season. And it's clear that you aren't just blowing smoke....well-researched stuff (obviously).
So as Rany is doing these end-of-season assessments I think we, his devoted disciples (acolytes?), need to chime in and give him a "top 10" or something to that degree for Rany's incredible, gracious bloggings.....we truly are blessed.
Let's do so in this blog (I'm unprepared, but I'd nominate this one for at least the top 15, which is a testament to just how stellar this blog has been.....WAY, WAY more badass than robandrany was, which I can't believe I'm typing).
We owe Rany some much-deserved rose-tossing at this the end of one of the more memorable Royals seasons ever.
I concur with Shelby and Anonymous. A Rany day is a better day. We Royals fans are blessed to have you.
For a top 15 post, how about the one that said something like, "This Isn't What I Had in Mind When I Said Hillman is Number 2"
"one of the more memorable Royals seasons ever." Yikes, 75 wins was all it took?
Anybody else rooting for the sox today?
I guess I would not be afraid to unload this guy if someone offered me something of value that we need. I am not a big believer in pitchers really changing their spots.
I guess I would want to sell higher than I would have before September. At that time a bag of batting practice baseballs would have been good enough. Now I may want game balls.
GMDM should keep his ear to the ground on this guy. If no one comes sniffing around you would have to suspect that the rest of baseball thinks Davies September is a mirage.
So, the Royals finish in 4th with a payroll of $58 million, and the Tigers finish in fifth with a payroll of $139 million.
It's the little victories. High fives.
Pitchers change their spots all the time! Hudson, Zito, Smoltz, Eckersley, Ryan, Koufax!
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