All through Spring Training there was a lot of belly aching about the fifth slot in the rotation. It wasn’t unique to the Royals, nearly every team had some sort of issue surrounding the final starting pitcher. I heard multiple people in the media act outraged that Kyle Davies was going to be a starting pitcher for the Royals. We kept hearing how he didn’t deserve it, and he hadn’t earned it and that he frankly wasn’t any good. My opinion from the beginning was that Davies was a perfectly fine fifth starter (I also thought Tejada was a fine option too, oops). Especially considering there weren’t many other viable options.
Fast forward to last night when Davies threw an absolutely brilliant game. He threw five and a third no-hit innings until an Ichiro Suzuki infield single. He ended up completing the sixth inning and the few fans in attendance on a cold and rainy night gave him the best ovation they could.
After the game (when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to write an article about no-hitters), I began to ponder the fifth starter. So I gathered up the statistics from the AL fifth starters to see where Davies ranked.* I put the numbers into a heat chart to get a better visual representation of where each starter ranked in each particular category.*For this excercise, a fifth starter is the guy who got the very first fifth start of his team this season.
The first thing that jumps out at me is that the fifth starters have been pretty good. Only five of them have an ERA above 4.00 and I am pretty sure Bonderman will end up with better than a 6.79. Davies lies pretty much right in the middle in terms of ERA, however is just 0.05 points behind the only other guy with 4 starts. Three of his four starts have been Quality Starts, which tie him for the lead.
However, it is Kyle Davies walk rate which really seems to be the impetus for his success. It is obvious to anyone watching Davies pitch that he has some really excellent pitches, but it is command which makes the difference. In 2008 when he put up a very respectable 4.06 ERA in 22 starts, he had a BB/9 rate of 3.4. In 2009 he started losing his command and his BB/9 rose to 4.8 and with it rose his ERA to 5.27. If Davies can continue to limit the walks he hands out, his success should continue.
Looking at that list, how many of those guys would you trade Davies straight up for? I see two maybe three guys that I would rather have. The fifth spot in the rotation is merely a matter of perspective. Compared to the rest of the AL, Davies is a respectable if not elite 5th starter. It’s always interesting to discuss and break down the final rotation spot during Spring Training, but as usual the chatter was a little overblown.