Wade Davis had a horrible April.
He gave up seven hits and four runs in 12 appearances, covering 12.1 innings. His ERA was 2.92 and he walked nine while striking out 23.
Horrible, just horrible.
Horrible, you ask?
Well, yes, relatively speaking.
In the six months since April, including the postseason, the Kansas City Royals’ eighth-inning specialist has made 67 appearances covering 67.2 innings. In those games, he has allowed 34 hits and five runs, striking out 86 and walking 14.
So, yes, April was horrible when you compare it to the past months.
As for Davis, he has been incomparable, finding a perfect home in the eighth in which he can use his blazing fastball more than he ever could as a starter.
Davis stands tall on the mound at 6-feet-5. He has a nasty glare and even nastier stuff.
It was time, Davis said, to get nasty after a forgettable 2013 season when he started 24 games for Kansas City after coming to the Royals in a trade with Tampa Bay.
Davis was awful last season, with an 8-11 record and 5.32 ERA. He allowed 169 hits and 58 walks in 135 innings. The base paths looked like Grand Central Station at rush hour when Davis was pitching.
Most of the time, at least.
He did have some solid starts. But when Davis was bad as a starter in 2013, he was really bad. It forced the Royals to move him to the bullpen in September with an undefined role and sporadic work.
We saw a new Davis this season, though.
“I worked harder last winter – I don’t want to say harder than anybody – but I pushed myself more than I ever have in my entire life,” Davis said. “I wanted to become more physical than I’ve ever been and stronger than I’ve ever been. And I showed up at spring training this season with that mentality.
“I think it showed from the moment I first stepped on the mound in the spring. I felt different. I was ready to do anything I could for this team this year I don’t think it matters whether I was relieving or starting; I would have been successful regardless.”
Davis is the middle piece of dynamite in a three-stick bullpen that includes Kelvin Hererra in the seventh and Greg Holland in the ninth. They’ve been almost impossible to hit – let alone score on – all season.
Davis has to be in the discussion as the Royals’ MVP. And those discussions rarely involve pitchers who are almost exclusively limited to the eighth inning.
But get this: Davis hasn’t even allowed a hit in 47 of his 79 appearances. He’s given up two hits in an inning only 10 times and has not allowed three or more hits in an inning.
The key has been finding the strike zone more often.
Last season, Davis struggled with command and control. And he fought those issues a bit in April of this season. Since May, though, Davis has walked only 14 in 67 appearances. He’s been lights out.
“I got a trainer during the winter and did a lot more things in terms of strength,” Davis said. “A lot more power and more explosives. And I worked with weights more often than I ever have, five times a week. And even in those off days I was doing something.”
He was determined to be a different pitcher. Mission definitely accomplished.