Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Brewers bring Doug Davis back to townPosted by Evan Brunell
With the signing of left-hander Doug Davis to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, the Brewers have completed a makeover of a rotation that was in dire straits for all of 2009.
cutting Braden Looper loose and snagging Randy Wolf, perhaps the best starting pitcher on the market, Milwaukee is now primed to contend for the NL Central.
Davis' value to the Brewers is simple: durability.
Randy Wolf should turn in a fine season, but betting on him to crack 200 innings again like he did in 2009 with 214 frames is foolhardy. His last time over 200 innings pitched was in 2003, right before he embarked on a four-year, injury-plagued journey.
Likely sandwiched between Wolf and Davis, right-hander Yovani Gallardo, a rising star, pitched 185.2 innings over 30 starts for the Brew Crew. Of the pitchers set to battle for the final two spots in Manny Parra, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan, only Bush seems like he has a chance to reach 200 innings.
Davis, on the other hand, has reached over 200 innings in five of the last six seasons, starting no less than 33 games. Davis' fastball may average 85 mph, but there's something to be said for taking the ball every day. The Brewers needed this, and was familiar with Davis due to his previous stint with the club, from 2003-2006.
The 34-year old just finished up a 34-start campaign with the Diamondbacks, posting a 4.12 ERA. Davis isn't as good as a 4.12 ERA, and xFIP recognizes this in assigning him a 4.68 value. For a No. 3 starter who eats up innings, that's pretty good.
Davis is a flyball pitcher, getting 35.4 percent of all batted balls in the air, something that should play more to his advantage now that he's out of Chase Field. (It should be mentioned here that Davis performed roughly a full run better via ERA at Chase Field in 2009.) Milwaukee replaced Mike Cameron with Carlos Gomez in center field, so at least the Brewers aren't taking a step back in their outfield defense.
Davis is a one-pitch wonder, so the wheels may fall off eventually. Looking at Fangraphs' pitch type values, it shows that Davis once had his curveball as his bread-and-butter pitch, but that's gone the wayside as of late and with the exception of one pitch, is at negative run values along with the fastball, slider and changeup in 2009. Where Davis excelled at was his cut-fastball, a pitch that seems to have been developed following the 2003 season, when he started his first full season with the Brewers. The pitch saved his bacon in both 2007 and 2009, so he needs to hope he can keep it up in 2010. The Brewers certainly hope so, as a mutual option of $6.5 million for 2011 is attached to the deal, with a $1 million buyout.
All in all, it's a good signing that addressed a major concern of the Brewers: durability. This guy can take the ball day in and day out, although I am concerned about what seems to be a fine line Davis is walking between being a good pitcher and losing all value entirely.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.