Craig Brown got a nice shout-out in the Kansas City Star for coming up with the nickname Yunigma for Yuniesky Betancourt, but while the nickname works, he isn’t the biggest mystery on the team. That award belongs to Kyle Davies. Just when I am about to write him off, he comes out and does something like last night and throw an absolute gem against a very good offensive team like the Texas Rangers.*

*Speaking of performances last night.  Mike Moustakas went 4 for 6 with a double,3 homeruns and 11 RBI last night for the Omaha Royals.  All this came in AAA after he was named the Texas League Player of the year in AA.

I spent a few hours in a car with some fellow Royals fans this weekend and inevitably the topic turned to baseball, and specifically which players on the team were any good. One argument that got discussed was whether Kyle Davies should be a starter for the Royals next year.  Honestly, I have that debate with myself, so I can’t really argue strenuously that he should be part of the 2011 Royals rotation. However, I believe that he is better than he gets credit for.

The main argument I hear against Kyle Davies is that he has a high ERA, which is true. He currently has a 5.29 ERA which is certainly nothing to write home about. If that were all the information you had at hand, it would be pretty simple to just dismiss Kyle Davies, luckily that isn’t all we have. ERA can be a nice guide to tell you how well a pitcher has pitched, but it can easily be skewed.

One way to judge a metric is to take some extreme examples. Let’s say a pitcher had two 9 inning games and gave up 0 runs in game 1, but gave up 100 runs in game two. His ERA would then be 50. If another pitcher gave up 50 runs in game 1 and 50 runs in game 2, then he would also have an ERA of 50. If I had to pick one of those pitchers and live with his two games, I’d take the first pitcher every time. There is no way a team could win with a 50 run deficit, but give me 9 innings of 0 runs and my team would have a chance. Clearly its an extreme example, but it should illustrate the point. Since ERA is by definition a stat based around an average, a few outliers can really skew the results.

Looking back at Kyle Davies starts this season he has had a few big blowup starts, or as Rob Neyer would call them “disaster starts”.  I wondered what would happen if we started removing his disaster starts.  How much effect do a few starts have on the ERA of someone like Kyle Davies?

His worst start came on May 6th against the Texas Rangers, when he gave up 7 earned runs in 3 innings pitched. If we take that game out of his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.82. Removing just one extremely bad start and almost a half run drops off of his ERA. The Royals ended up losing that game 13-12, so even though Davies had a terrible start the team was still given an opportunity to win.

Davies’ second worst start game on August 24th against the Detroit Tigers.  He once again gave up 7 earned runs, but lasted 4.2 innings. If we were to drop that start and the previous one from his numbers, his ERA drops to 4.53.  The Royals ended up losing this game as well by a score of 9-1.  The Royals offense never came alive in this game, so unless Davies pitched a complete game shutout, they were still likely going to lose this game.

Getting rid of just one more start; June 15th against the Houston Astros which was 3 innings 6 earned runs, then his ERA would be 4.24.  The Royals actually ended up winning this game 15-7.  So, not only did Davies have a complete disaster start, it actually didn’t even hurt the team.  The offense showed up and carried the day.

I know that the numbers are what they are and you can’t just magically drop numbers, but I think this is pretty instructive. If Kyle Davies were a pitcher with a 4.23 ERA, he would be considered a very valuable asset, particularly at only 26 years old. So in an odd way, I think that we may be judging Kyle Davies on three particularly terrible starts. What is crazy about those three starts is that the Royals won one, lost by only 1 run in another and didn’t have a chance in a third.

ERA is a funny stat.  It’s actually one of the better “traditional” stats, so it doesn’t get torn down as hard and often as RBI or Wins.  That in turn, means more emphasis is probably put on it than it should.  With any average stat, particularly one where its possible for the player to have an outing of infinity, things can get skewed.  One bad inning or one bad game can really change peoples perception of a player.  One of the big knocks on Kyle Davies is he needs to be more consistent and I would agree with that.  However, I think we just might be judging Davies a tad too harshly based on three games out of the twenty six in which he has started.

Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook .  If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it.