I Made a Thing About Wade Davis

Yep. The title says it all. It isn’t a new thing, persay, but this is the first time I have done this specific thing. At least as it pertains to baseball. Check it out.

davis2 (01)_cut_part1

Middle Relief Report, now with 100% more GIFs! Like I said, not a new thing for anyone to be doing. But after many, many trials and a similarly high number of errors I’ve been able to produce my first pitcher GIF.

Tuesday night’s game was interesting for many reasons. The Royals were losing 4-3 with just two outs left to them and their eighth and ninth batters due up. Mets closer and owner of his own filthy repertoire Jeurys Familia was on the mound and most people, myself included, had given Game 1 to the Mets. Familia hadn’t blown a save or even allowed a home run while the Mets were ahead since July 30 against the Padres. However, Alex Gordon took a 1-1 fastball from Familia far and deep out to centerfield to tie the Game at 4. Eventually the Royals would win on a sacrifice fly in the 14th inning from Eric Hosmer. Immediately following the Royals tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, Wade Davis came out to face the Mets 4-5-6 hitters. This is what many would call a “shutdown inning”, which basically means it’s important to set the opposition down quickly after your offense has a big inning. Wade Davis did exactly this, retiring the heart of the Mets’ lineup (Cespedes/Duda/d’Arnaud) in order, all by way of the K. Additionally, all three of these strikeouts were swinging. That is a good inning by any standard, even though it took Davis a bit longer than he’d probably hoped (17 pitches, 10 strikes). Cespedes and Duda were both dispatched via the cutter, Davis’ signature pitch. Both were inside, up and in to Cespedes (RHH) and down and in to Dude (LHH). I could’ve chosen to look at either of those pitches, but I didn’t. I chose an 2-0 straight fastball that might’ve seemed pretty inconsequential while watching the game.

Instead, I think this pitch showed us a lot. First, we look at the count of the at-bat when this pitch was thrown – 2-0. Undeniably, a hitter’s count. Hitters like to hit fastballs. Hitters like to hit fastballs over the plate. Wade Davis gave Travis d’Arnaud a fastball, over the plate, in a hitter’s count. d’Arnaud looked like he was expecting the pitch, and he still whiffed on it. Pretty hard, too. This speaks to how nasty Wade Davis is, even with pitches you don’t generally think of being “nasty”. This pitch was 95.5 MPH according to PitchF/X. This is fast, absolutely, but not blazing by today’s standards. d’Arnaud sees and catches pitches upwards of 97 MPH on a regular basis for the Mets. However, something you don’t see often is the amount of “rise” that Davis’ fastball generates. This pitch had 11.06 inches of “rise” according to PitchF/X, which measures movement due to spin by comparing actual location of the pitch based on where it would’ve ended up given no spin at all (“but, wouldn’t that be a knuckleball?!” well, no, not for these purposes). This year in the MLB, Toronto’s Marco Estrada threw the average four-seamer with the most vertical movement, at 11.87 inches. So we know that Davis’ fastball on this particular pitch was very rise-y. This, coupled with the good velocity, made it a hard pitch to hit despite the favorable count and location for the hitter. This impressed me. Also, it foreshadowed the at-bat a little bit.

davis2 (02)

This was Davis’ 3-2 pitch to d’Arnaud, ending the at-bat and the inning. This pitch was a little faster than the one we looked at before, at 96.6 MPH. It had pretty good “rise”, registering at 9.74 inches according to PitchF/X. Again, it was pretty close to the middle of the plate and again, d’Arnaud swung and missed. Davis had gotten away with throwing the fastball by d’Arnaud on 2-0, and went to it again on 3-2. Davis was confident he would be able to get an out in this spot without risking a walk by throwing a curve in the dirt or a cutter that might cut out of the zone. That confidence was borne of the 2-0 fastball, which is why I liked that pitch so much.

 

Thanks for checking out my little GIF experiment! Check back in today for part 2 of my examination of Johnny Cueto, on the heels of his excellent performance last night. Royals lead 2-0, and they’re on the move today with no game on schedule. Thanks again for reading!

 

Video credit to MLB.com and  PitchF/X data credit to Brooks Baseball.

 

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