The Royals have a 27-year-old pitcher who just completed a season in which he made a career-high 32 starts, posting a 5.34 ERA and 4.93 xFIP in 183 2/3 innings.
That season actually lowered his career ERA down to 5.49 in 131 career starts (with seven relief appearances). For someone entering the final year of arbitration certain to receive a raise from $1.8 million, one would have to think Davies could be in danger of losing his job. After all, the Phillies may non-tender No. 5 starter Kyle Kendrick, who has a 4.69 ERA in 483 2/3 career innings. While Kendrick doesn't whiff nearly as much as Davies, the difference in age and control equalizes them.
Not so much, as GM Dayton Moore puts it.
"Kyle is arbitration eligible, but I think Kyle Davies’ best years are ahead of him as he continues to get a little bit better," Moore said about Davies' chances of being tendered arbitration to the Kansas City Star .
Davies has not reached the average in strikeouts per nine innings since joining the American League halfway through the 2007 season, and he also falls short in walks per nine innings. Put simply, he is a below-average pitcher with no indicators other than a low stranded-runners percentage and increased velocity to hint at an improvement. While natural regression to the mean in stranded runners could make a big difference, his increased reliance on groundball outs does hurt his stranded runner numbers.
His improved velocity may make all the difference needed, however. He averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball in 2010, with a previous high of 91.6 mph set in 2009. He did not crack the 91-mph barrier in either 2005 or 2006, so if he can tick up the speed of his fastball just a little bit more, it may be enough to prove Moore's assertions right that his best years are ahead of him.
But even Moore himself isn't sure.
"There’s still some upside there," Moore said, "I think."
-- Evan Brunell
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