Milwaukee Brewers: The Enigma that is Zach Davies

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 06: Starting pitcher Zach Davies
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 06: Starting pitcher Zach Davies /

Coming into the season, Zach Davies was one of two pitchers that had their spot in the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation guaranteed.

After a great performance last season, Davies hasn’t lived up to the hype in 2017. Or has he? It’s really hard to tell.

Davies certainly got off to a slow start. In his first eight starts, Davies failed to go six innings and posted a 5.80 ERA.  In addition to accumulating  high pitch counts in each start. He only gave up two runs or less in three of those first eight starts. The starter wasn’t showing the control he was known for giving up 17 walks in that span.

Somehow, in those mediocre starts, Davies compiled a 4-2 record. Then, he began to pitch better starting against San Diego. He made it through six innings in three of his next four starts, including an excellent 3-hitter over six shutout innings against the Dodgers.

Davies looked to have righted the ship. He didn’t allow more than three runs in any of those four starts and his ERA dropped to 4.69. He still wasn’t throwing many strikes but he was effective. His record was 2-1 over those four outings. Putting Davies at a 6-3 record.

Until Davies went through another rough patch. Over Davies’ next three starts, he failed to make it past the fifth inning. All three times he allowed four plus runs. That included a seven earned run outing against the Pirates. His ERA had risen again to 5.40 and Davies seemed to have lost himself again. He went 1-1 in that stretch, bringing him to a 7-4 record.

But his latest set of outings has been his best of the season. In his last three starts before the All Star Break, Davies finally made it through seven innings. That game was against the Braves in a masterful shutout performance. Then he went six innings each against the Marlins and Cubs, earning victories in all three of these starts. So now his record stands at 10-4, somehow. Last year, he won 11 games and is already close to passing that milestone.

In those final three starts Davies received eight or more runs in support, respectively. That’s been the secret to his impressive W-L record, the offense continually shows up. On average, Davies gets 6.04 runs of support from this Milwaukee Brewers offense.

Of the pitchers that have made at least 18 starts, Davies has received the most run support.  In his 18 starts this season, Davies has received less than three runs of support only once.

His ERA of 4.90 still isn’t very good.  And his status coming into the season as the second best pitcher in the rotation is no longer true. He possesses a 1.46 WHIP which is bad.  In addition he has issued 30 walks, only eight shy of his total from all of last season.

His K/9 has decreased from 7.4 to 5.8 while his BB/9 has increased from 2.1 to 2.8. He has never had wipeout stuff, but he used to be able to strike out more hitters than what he’s doing now.

What Davies was in 2016 was a fluke. His ceiling always was a back-end rotation type arm. He was never meant to be a number two starter, that’s not who he is as a soft-tossing, crafty pitcher. He’s pitching like a number five starter, which is what he is and Milwaukee Brewers fans shouldn’t expect more than that from him. Trying to force him into being a front of the rotation arm and treating him like one is unfair.

We wrote a while back that a pitcher’s win-loss record does not matter, as it often doesn’t truly reflect a pitcher’s performance. That is exactly the case here. Davies is third in the NL in wins not because of how he’s pitched, but because his offense scores at a ridiculous pace when he’s on the mound.

Don’t let the record fool you, Davies is not the best pitcher on this Milwaukee Brewers team. Despite having the most wins. Davis is a fifth starter, a number four at best, and we should not expect more than that from him. His lack of consistent results and overpowering stuff limit his potential success.

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The constant back and forth between hot and cold stretches can make it hard to see what he really is as a pitcher. His high run support has salvaged some wins and mediocre starts that’ve run through the bullpen. Davies must find some middle ground and consistency if he wishes to contribute in the long-term.