There are currently two starting pitchers in the major leagues that have pitched more than twenty innings and have struck out less than four batters per nine innings. Wade Davis is one of them and Dustin Moseley is the other. We've already discussed Moseley in this space. He certainly is a fun story thus far. But what of Wade Davis? Isn't Davis supposed to be a young stud pitcher? Why is he striking out so few batters? Why are only eight percent of his pitches swings and misses?
The first thought was velocity. Has Wade Davis lost velocity? In his last outing against the Twins on April 27, Davis had two swinging strikes all night. His four-seam fastball averaged 90.77 and he topped out at 93.1 MPH (thanks to Brooks Baseball). After looking at Fangraphs' Pitch/FX data, Davis is averaging 90.7 MPH on his fastball. So his last outing was right about his season average. This averages is about 1.7 MPH slower than last year. Please keep in mind that Pitch/FX is not perfect. But these numbers seem to indicate that Davis has lost a little something on his fastball.
Even more of a concern is the movement on his fastball. According to Fangraphs' data, Davis' fastball averaged -3.0 of horizontal movement last year. This year, that figure stands at -1.8. That means that there is 1.2 inches less of break per pitch or translated, a straighter fastball. Doesn't this sound a lot like Phil Hughes?
But Wade Davis is faring a lot better than Phil Hughes did. Davis has won three of his five decisions and is currently sporting a nice 2.77 ERA. Fangraphs is not impressed though and his FIP and xFIP are a lot higher than his actual ERA (3.58 and 5.12 respectively). Davis is certainly benefiting from a low BABIP of .267, but that is not that much lower than his 2010 figure of .272 and isn't far off from his career number. Putting the ball in play with Tampa's slick fielding isn't a bad idea.
Many Wade Davis statistics are in line with his career averages. His ground ball and fly ball percentages are little changed. His walk percentage is little changed. His infield fly ball percentage is up slightly. The real anomalies are the strikeout percentage and his homer to fly ball ratio. The strikeouts we've already talked about except that the number has slipped now in the last two years. In certainly a small sample size, Davis has only given up one homer this year. That's good for a 1.6 percent homer to fly ball percentage. His career average is 8.2 percent. If all other things remain the same, you would expect this percentage to go up over time.
So far, like Dustin Moseley, his cohort in the low strikeout per nine category, Davis is succeeding and having success. This Fan would be concerned for both though as that low a strikeout percentage doesn't seem viable for the quality of pitching that is occurring. Will Davis continue to be this successful? It's possible. But the Bay Rays should be concerned because it doesn't seem likely. And the loss of velocity and movement on his fastball would be a deep concern.