Daily Process: Wade Davis, Rays Beat Marlins

Whenever Jeff Niemann threw a game where his earned run average looked better than he pitched, either Tommy or I would label it a typical Niemann start. Tonight, Wade Davis had a typical Niemann start. The peripherals are unimpressive, as Davis went six, struck out two, walked two, and allowed a home run; however, that home run is the only blemish on his earned run average, so tonight will otherwise look like a solid start.

Davis started the game off with two quick outs and worked a two-strike count on Logan Morrison. Morrison battled and eventually took an outside fastball into left field. It became a common occurrence on the night, with the Marlins left-handed batter seemingly resorting to this strategy whenever they entered a strikeout situation. I counted at least three at-bats that ended with a single the other way by lefties after Davis reached a two-strike count.

Another common occurrence was foul balls. Davis threw 19 pitches to Gaby Sanchez and Greg Dobbs in the first-inning, running his pitch count over 30. To Davis’ credit, he recovered and did manage five more innings without topping the century mark, but the lack of an outpitch was clear and echoed with every fastball fought off into the crowd. Davis threw a few 85 miles per hour pitches that I could not identify as either a fastball or a changeup, and let me tell you, that isn’t a good thing. Either he is throwing fastballs well below the average velocity threshold for a right-handed starter or his changeup has little vertical movement and is essentially a slow fastball.

Davis did use his slider against an overaggressive Mike Stanton and had him swing-and-miss, a welcomed sight. The pitch had slurve movement all night, and when Davis attempted to use it against a left-handed hitter, it wound up in play, as the sweeping motion isn’t going to deceive too many hitters. Therein brings up his changeup again. I empathize with those who want the pitch to improve, but let’s remember, even at the apex of Davis’ prospect status, his changeup was never described as more than average.

Learning a changeup or any new pitch isn’t as easy as watching film or having a veteran pitcher show you their grip. With the changeup, the pitcher has to have the arm location and action to mimic a fastball delivery. Hopefully there is some movement on the change too, but the goal is to make the hitter think a fastball is coming, where the movement and reduced speed causes a whiff or an adjustment resulting in weak contact.

On the night, Davis threw 98 pitches and only generated three whiffs. The Marlins lineup features some stiff competition in the bodies of Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, and the aforementioned Stanton, but there are some stinkers in there too—and seeing Davis nibble against a guy like Dewayne Wise is disheartening. Davis does get credit for a quality start here, even if it the quality itself was missing at times.

I swooned over Adrian Gonzalez last series, and expect a lot of kind words from me to Stanton. Some guys are just a pleasure to watch hit and he is one of them. Stanton has grade-80 power and it shows up in games, making him a 40-plus home run threat during any given season. Loose hands, raw strength, and the whole shebang. Stanton even hit the center field scoreboard during early batting practice, which is quite the feat. If the Marlins ever decide to move this guy, I just hope it’s out of the division.

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