Even More on Wade Davis | The Process Report

Even More on Wade Davis

Say this of Wade Davis: If nothing else, his velocity tinkering has inspired some good content across the web. Tommy and myself have already weighed in on Davis, and Steve Slowinski did today. The conversation has moved from “What is Davis doing differently” to “Can he keep doing this successfully” to “Are we sure we know what Davis is doing differently and does it make sense that it can be sustainable”. My hope here is to try to shed light on the last part.

Already established is that Davis is throwing harder and getting more strikeouts with runners on base. He also tends to throw harder as he gets more strikes. What was previously unmentioned is that Davis is throwing more fastballs as he gets more strikes too. Davis has thrown 54 percent fastballs with no strikes, 57 percent with one strike, and 59 percent with two strikes. In a sense, he is pitching backwards by using his fastball as the knockout pitch and not his curve or slider.

Since we know that Davis averages a higher velocity with two strikes, I wanted to know where he is locating these pitches, and whether they are more concentrated than last year’s two-strike fastballs. Before getting to that, I would like to note that Davis is actually using the same percentage of fastballs on two-strike counts as he did in 2010. The big difference is on the previous counts. Davis used 82 percent fastballs with no strikes and 73 percent fastballs with one-strike. In other words, he might be finishing at-bats in a similar fashion, but he is taking a more scenic route to the destination.

Offering the full 2010 season would give the impression of a Jackson Pollock painting. Instead, below are the two-strike fastballs through May. Obviously Davis isn’t quite at that point, but if this continues to be a topic, it can easily be revisited through the end of next month without more data work needed. Get a glimpse of the pictures before I ramble more:

The most noticeable change is with regards to Davis’ placement against left-handed batters. Last season, at least through this sample, he was not willing to throw up-and-in to lefties. This season, Davis is attacking up-and-in versus lefties, but avoiding down-and-in. It’s difficult to say how much credit the location should get, however Davis has seen his infield fly rate against lefties increase by roughly five percent. It does seem to make sense—anecdotally, at least—that a hitter could time Davis’ earlier fastballs (moving slower) and then fall behind when he pumps it up.

As for whether he can continue, well, who knows. I do think the strikeouts will increase since he isn’t just tossing fastballs. It’s not like suddenly became Nick Blackburn either. I’m not certain Davis will break the DIPS theory, but I do think he is going to provide plenty of fodder over the extension until he is traded elsewhere.

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