Davies was a 26th-round pick of the Orioles in the 2011 draft. Selected out of high school, Davies spent three-plus seasons in Baltimore’s farm system before being traded to the Brewers for Gerardo Parra. Compared to his colleagues (major-league starting pitchers), Davies is on the small side—measuring in at 6 feet, 155 pounds. As far as his stuff, I’ll turn it over to the last four sentences of his 2015 Annual Comment,
“Everything he throws has movement, which is good because he lacks good downhill plane. He's never going to get by on stuff alone, so his ability to locate is paramount. As is, his command, plus change up and willingness to pitch backward have bought him time in the rotation. Now somebody buy him a burger.”
In other words, Davies is not the type of pitcher that causes fantasy baseball participants to take notice. This year, though, his performance has been worthy of note; noteworthy, even. That said, a lot of pitchers can look great for a couple starts.
2016 Thus Far
Davies has thrown 69 2/3 innings across 12 games started this season. His first five starts were terrible—he walked 13 and struck out just 14, which resulted in a 6.66 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP. Davies’s next seven starts have been phenomenal—he has walked just seven and struck out 42, resulting in 2.18 ERA and a 0.75 (!) WHIP. Also impressive is that five of those seven games have been pitched in the hitter friendly confines of Miller Park. In sum, Davies has been a lifesaver for many of the fantasy baseball participants that picked him up or stuck with him this season.
What to Expect for the Rest of 2016
This, as always, is the most interesting part. Davies—a pitcher that uses control, pitchability, movement, sequencing, or any other descriptor for a way of getting outs without great stuff—is a pitcher we would expect to be very bad when he’s off, but also with a chance to be good if he puts it all together. Okay, fine, that’s true for all pitchers. But either way, nobody expected him to be this good. In order to find out whether he can sustain this or come close to it, we should probably figure out what changed.
At this point in the article I pull up the Brooks Baseball player card for the player being analyzed and find what changed. Sometimes it is pitch mix, sometimes it is velocity, sometimes it is release point, sometimes it is how a pitcher fairs against a certain handed batter, and sometimes it is some combination of these factors. Sometimes, though, nothing pops, and this is pretty much the case for Davies. Starting with his magical sixth start of the season, his pitches, especially his changeup, became unhittable.
Given the noted change in his walk and strike out rates it appears that Davies’s improvement is a result of improve command, control, and pitch-making. It’s not an exciting takeaway, but it is something we have seen work with control type pitcher. While everyone knows player comparisons are the worst, there is one small-ish, right handed pitcher with a great changeup, an unremarkable cutter, and a lack of an overpowering fastball that comes to mind when analyzing Davies (and it does not hurt that he too broke in with the Brewers), that pitcher being Marco Estrada.
PECOTA likes both Estrada and Davies to regress for the rest of the season, projecting ERAs of 4.39 and 4.08 and WHIPs of 1.21 and 1.33 respectively. This projection expects Estrada, who has been great in 2015 and 2016, to perform below his career averages (3.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP), which I mention in order to say that I think PECOTA might be too bearish on these types of pitchers. It is also to say that, as we saw in Davies’s first five starts this season, that when it goes bad, it goes really bad. Moreover, this all to say that while I think Davies is likely to hit a rough patch or two throughout the remainder of the season, I am willing to bet on him while he has it figured out.
Ultimately, for 2016, I like Davies to be the type of pitcher he has been the past seven starts more often than the pitcher he was the first five. This is not to say he will continuously be a world beater, but that I like him to beat his PECOTA projection while disappointing those who expect him to continue to be a mixed league number two or three. To put it maybe more helpfully, I like him as a number five in shallow mixed leagues.
The Great Beyond
This is such a dangerous section with pitchers. Just look at all those bad long-term contracts out there, and those are for the best pitchers. I would say that I like Davies to be useful the majority of major league seasons that he maintains his health and velocity. Moreover, when it gets ugly, when it looks like he will be terrible forever, we should keep in mind that he might only be an adjustment away from being quite good again. I would be happy to grab him if a league-mate were looking to sell high and I would be happy to hold him if I had him, which is more than I thought I would be saying about him as a fantasy baseball player when I began this analysis.
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