Wade Davis's Rough 2010: A Pitch F/X Look at What's Changed

To categorize Wade Davis's 2010 as anything but a disappointment thus far would be foolish. Wade Davis's 2010 has not been what anyone was hoping for or expecting. Thus far, in 134 IP, Wade has put together a 4.29 ERA, 5.10 FIP, and 4.96 xFIP. The projection systems all had pegged Wade for greater things in his rookie year, with FANS expecting a very optimistic 3.77 FIP, Bill James forecasting a 4.26 FIP, and even the pessimistic CHONE coming in at 4.71 FIP. Wade's 5.1 FIP is particularly disappointing after one considers the 2.90 FIP he put together in a short major-league stint of 36 innings at the end of last season.

When looking at the great triumvirate of pitching (strikeouts, walks, and ground balls), it's fairly clear where Wade's fallen off the track:

2009 (AAA)

2009 (Majors)

CHONE 2010

2010

K/9

7.94

8.92

6.91

5.69

BB/9

3.4

3.22

4.08

3.42

GB%

37.5%

39%

37%

40.2%

His Walks and Groundball rate are roughly comparable to what the past and projections would indicate. The strikeouts, however, vanished completely. He struck over a full batter less per 9 than even CHONE forecasted, and didn't even sniff his AAA strikeout rates. The obvious question is where the strikeouts vanished. Wade's swinging strike rate fell from an above-average 8.8% last year (albeit in a small sample) to a 9th worst in the majors 5.7% this year. Let's take a look at where the swinging strikes have gone.

Type

09 Selection

10 Selection

09 SwStr%

10 SwStr%

FA

66.2%

72.5%

8.6%

5.2%

CU

12.6%

14.1%

6.7%

4.5%

SL

8.7%

11.2%

15.4%

12.0%

CH

5.4%

2.1%

0.0%

2.2%

FC

7.1%

N/A

4.8%

N/A

The difference between the 09 and 10 Wades is fairly clear. Although the pitch selection looks roughly the same, the effectiveness is extremely different. Wade's swinging strike% has dropped drastically on his fastball, curveball, and putout slider. The reason isn't inherently obvious either. The movement's roughly the same, and Wade's actually gained velocity on all his pitches.

09 Zone%

10 Zone%

Fastball

46.3%

48.9%

Curveball

49.3%

48.7%

Slider

34.6%

36.4%

His pitch usage in terms of location is virtually the same. There isn't much of note here.

2009

2010

O-Swing

19.8%

26.1%

Z-Swing

69.8%

66.0%

O-Contact

60.3%

76.0%

Z-Contact

85.7%

91.7%

This produces some more surprising results. Wade's actually inducing more swings on pitches outside the zone, and is sneaking more pitches in the zone by for called strikes. The problem here is that when hitters do swing, they're making far better contact than in previous years. Last year Wade was effective with a well below-average O-Swing rate because when hitters did swing, they missed a whopping 40% of the time.

It's difficult to pinpoint why exactly Wade's not striking hitters out like he was last year. There's most likely several different reasons, but the biggest culprit is probably simply the league's adaptation to him, now that they have video and good scouting reports. We've seen Jeremy Hellickson put up a crazy FIP of 2.76 thus far, with him striking out hitters at a probably unsustainable rate of about 8.5 per 9 innings. New pitchers have a unique ability to dominate because of the lack of information that hitters are so accustomed to, and the impact of this is difficult to understate.

Wade's had a rough year as far as strikeouts not because he can't get hitters to chase, but because when they do he can't put them away. Hopefully he can make adjustments just like them and keep them on their toes going forward. One thing is certain though, he needs to be using his slider as his put away move in pitcher-friendly counts for now: his curveball and changeup certainly aren't getting things done.

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