Scouting Wade Davis' debut with PITCHf/x

September 7, 2009

Unlike Carlos Carrasco, who made his Major League debut just about a week ago, Wade Davis had no problems in dismantling the same Detroit Tigers team that tattooed Carrasco in Comerica Park. Davis, a third round pick in the 2004 draft, struck out six of the first seven hitters he faced on route to a great 7 inning, 3 hit, 1 run outing in which he tallied 9 strikeouts against just one walk.

This year in the minor leagues, Davis has seen solid success as he was sporting a nice 3.79 FIP. That doesn't come without some concerns however; Davis' ground-ball rate was just a meager 31% in Durham which is easily a career worst for him. Given that he's not particularly over-powering, more ground balls would be ideal, but not a necessity. Let's take a look at how Davis' debut looked in front of the PITCHf/x cameras at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay on Sunday.

First up, his average release points:

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Davis' average fastball and slider seemed to come from the same release point, while his curveball and change-up were coupled together. Here's how his release points look with all of his pitches rather than the averages:


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The sliders are right in there behind the fastballs and the curve's and change-up's were a couple inches to the left (from the catcher's view). Don't read too much into these, considering he went with a ton of fastballs against the Tigers to the tune of 73%. League average is around 60%.

Next up, the strike zone plot:


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He was pounding the zone all night long. One possibility to explain his lowest ground-ball rate of his minor league career is maybe a penchant for throwing up in the zone more often than not. He certainly was up in the zone against the Tigers on Sunday, at the least.

Here's how he worked right-handed and left-handed hitters:


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And finally, the pitch flight paths:


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Wade Davis might just have the straightest fastball (green line; 92.2 MPH) of anyone I've looked at in my writings here at Project Prospect, or just in private research.  The 6-foot-5 right-hander does come from a higher-3/4 look, which typically doesn't lead to a lot of movement, but his heater was very straight on Sunday. That makes pitch sequencing and location paramount for Davis.

His curveball (white line; 81.6 MPH) was reportedly his go-to pitch in the minors. He struggled with it on Sunday. Clearly missing the zone with 6 of them, the rest were on the outer-half to left-handed hitters, and sporadic. It did show great downward dive and sweeping action and worked in the upper-70's like advertised.

His slider was thrown very little (blue line; 85.1 MPH) had good sweeping action and had a flatter plane than his big curveball. Ideally it would dive some more, but it's a nice change-of-pace from his other breaking ball in both speed and pitch flight.

His change-up (red line; 81.6 MPH) is the pitch flight we can put the least amount of stock into. He couldn't throw it for strikes, and since he only threw 5 of them, the flight path is skewed. In watching the game live, it did show more tailing action than his fastball did, which if he can keep a consistent arm slot, would be a nice pitch to have in his back pocket.

Overall, Wade Davis has been a divisive prospect in our forums. Some think his arsenal likens itself to being a middle-of-the-rotation starter or worse. Others see success as a 22-year-old in Triple-A for an extended period of time (and a great MLB debut, to boot) and think No. 2 starter potential. Based on scouting reports and this PITCHf/x data, I peg him more as a No. 3 starter ceiling-wise.

All of the usual caveats apply here:

1. I'm not a PITCHf/x guru, I just play one on the internet.

2. This data is from one start.

3. The PITCHf/x system isn't infallible.

4. Pitch classifications are at my discretion, and may be wrong.

5. This data should always be accompanied with multiple first-hand scouting reports when looking at someone so young in their major league career.


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Mike Rogers runs his own blog, Fire Jim Leyland (no, he doesn't want him fired anymore). He also contributes to a San Diego Padres blog, Friar Forecast, and at the great sabermetric blog Beyond the Boxscore. He can be reached at