by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Many had high hopes for the Brewers’ Zach Davies entering 2017 and, at least to an extent, there was nothing wrong with the production. Or was there? Over 33 starts (191.1 IP) he posted a sub-4.00 ERA and won 17 games, which is going to make some think that he’s an easy call as an option in 2018. That would be misguided, though, as a further look into the numbers shows:
124 Strikeouts (5.83 K/9)
55 Walks (2.59 BB/9)
50.2% Groundball Rate
The wins have the potential to skew your opinion, but he lacks strikeout upside and it’s hard to see anything changing. There’s nothing in the underlying numbers that indicate that he could get back even to the 7.44 K/9 he posted in ’16 let alone a number that’s reasonably usable.
Davies owned a 7.8 K/9 over his minor league career, which alone is a red flag. Couple that with a 7.2% SwStr% and 26.7% O-Swing%, as well as being a sinker dominant pitcher (55.11% of the time) who barely tops 90 mph, and where’s the upside?
The sinker usage led to a solid groundball rate, which is going to help him avoid home run troubles (1.10 HR/9 at home, 0.94 overall). That’s a positive, as we’ve seen numerous pitchers struggle with that in Milwaukee. Unfortunately that didn’t allow him to produce in Milwaukee, as there was a distinct split in his numbers:
- Home – 5.48 ERA
- Road – 2.50 ERA
If it wasn’t home runs, why the issues? The problem was more luck based, as he struggled with a .338 BABIP and 68.6% strand rate. At the same time, with marks of .268 and 81.0% on the road despite a 24.7% line drive rate (22.6% overall) the middle ground number is likely closer to the truth. Maybe he improves at home, given the luck, but he’s also going to regress on the road. That doesn’t help then, does it?
Throw in solid, though unspectacular, control (2.9 BB/9 in the minors) and there simply isn’t anything to get excited about. As a spot starter and plug in he could work, but at the end of the day he’s likely the same type of pitcher his final line showed (just with fewer wins). Move on for more upside, because you aren’t going to find it here.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections: