The Kansas City Royals could sure use Kyle Davies back in their starting rotation.
Yes, I understand how crazy that sounds.
After all, Davies has a 7.46 earned-run average, which is second-worst in the majors among pitchers with seven or more starts this year.
And, yes, the blog Royals Authority did some research earlier in the year that showed, going back to 1901, Davies had the worst career ERA of a starter who has pitched at least 700 innings (5.54).
Still, I don’t think Royals fans should be wanting to send the 27-year-old Davies — who went on the disabled list May 18 due to anterior shoulder soreness — on the next bus out of town.
The reason? He’s one of the only starters on the Royals staff who can get swings and misses.
Among the five Royals pitchers that have made more than one start this season, Davies has the highest strikeout rate per nine innings (6.37 K/9), well ahead of second-place Bruce Chen (5.06). Jeff Francis (4.82), Luke Hochevar (4.64) and Sean O’Sullivan (3.29) lag well behind.
O’Sullivan has been especially hittable; in his last four games, he has faced 104 batters and struck out only two (1.9 percent) — a remarkable feat considering MLB hitters strike out, on average, about 20 percent of the time.
The Royals’ starters as a whole have combined to strike out just 4.92 batters per nine innings this season. That’s worst in the majors by a huge margin; the Pittsburgh Pirates are second-to-last, and they’ve struck out 5.74 batters per nine innings.
If the current pace keeps up, K.C.’s starters will have the lowest K/9 rate since 2006, when (you guessed it) the Royals’ starters struck out just 4.91 batters per nine innings.
No team other than K.C. has had a starting rotation K/9 rate below 4.92 since 2003.
So why are strikeouts so important? It sounds simple, but they’re the easiest way to get an out in baseball.
If the ball is put in play, even weakly, there’s always the chance for the hitter to get lucky. Last year, the MLB average for fly balls was about .140, ground balls was about .240 and line drives was about .720.
With a strikeout, the batter’s only hope is to advance to first on a wild pitch — something that just doesn’t happen that often.
The Royals have some help coming. Rookie Danny Duffy struck out four batters in four innings during his MLB debut last week against Texas. Mike Montgomery will be promoted soon, and he has struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings in AAA this year.
Davies isn’t a fan favorite, but his ability to get strikeouts makes him a better option in the rotation than O’Sullivan. Though Davies still walks too many guys (3.73 per nine innings), he’s been unlucky in that 36 percent of the balls put in play against him this year have gone for hits, whereas 29-31 percent is about the league average. When that number comes down, Davies’ numbers will look a lot better.
Davies’ ERA might be ugly, but Royals fans shouldn’t cringe when he comes off the DL.
Strikeouts are valuable, and Davies can provide them on a staff that desperately needs them.