“That was a lot to lay on him today,” Cubs Manager Joe Maddon told ESPN about his closer Wade Davis, who once again went multi-innings. “[But] to lose that game with him still in the bullpen would have been wrong on my part.”
I love Joe Maddon. And I really love Wade Davis.
In the past week alone, Cubs closer Wade Davis has been called upon to throw 6.0 total innings in five appearances. In those six innings, he’s allowed just two hits and a walk, while striking out 10 of the 23 batters he faced. Those numbers are good for a 0.00 ERA, a 1.32 FIP, and a big old metaphorical pat on the back from Michael Cerami.
But this recent stretch of dominance stretches back much further than a single week. After hitting a fairly serious rough patch in the middle of the season – 4.73 ERA (6.45 FIP) from June 26 – August 13 – Davis has turned the heat way up and is dominating as well as he ever has.
Consider that, since August 16th (15.2 IP), he’s earned a 0.57 ERA with a really strong 2.39 FIP. He’s still walking 10.2% of the batters he faces, but he’s also striking them out at a 30.5% clip. And even when batters aren’t striking out or walking during this stretch, they’re having a terrible time trying to elevate the ball and an even harder time trying to square Davis up:
Soft-hit Rate: 33.3%
Hard-hit Rate: 27.3%
Groundball Rate: 51.5%
The last out of the ninth – a 66 MPH grounder back to Davis – is a perfect example of this profile at work. Indeed, with that sort of batted ball data, it’s no wonder why opponents are managing just a .098 AVG off the Cubs’ cyborg closer since the middle of August.
Overall, Davis is back to having the best ERA (1.95) and FIP (3.14) in the Cubs’ bullpen.
His excellence isn’t lost on Cubs’ rookie Ian Happ. “Watching Wade Davis pitch was awesome,” Happ said after the game, per ESPN. “Watching Wade compete there. Man, that’s really impressive. He never panics. He has such an unbelievable presence on the mound.” It sounds like Happ’s happy to have Davis on his side, to say the least.
So what about that relatively heavy usage lately?
While it’s true that the Cubs have now twice asked Davis to throw more than an inning of relief in the last week for the first time since the beginning of the 2014 season (when Davis was first converted from a starter to a reliever), it doesn’t seem to be having much of a negative affect.
As we’ve already explored, his numbers are downright excellent during this stretch, and, according to Davis, the extra workload is totally fine. “I actually felt better when I went out for the second inning so that’s a good sign,” Davis said. “I feel great. I’ve always gotten a little bit stronger as the season’s gone on.”
It is worth pointing out that Davis has thrown only 55.1 innings this season, which is less than the amount he threw in each of his first two seasons as a reliever (2014 and 2015), and would’ve likely been less than the amount he threw last year had he not missed time with arm issues.
So, in terms of overall usage and the longer outings down the stretch, the Cubs (really, Joe Maddon) seem to have prepped Davis nicely for this critical divisional race and (hopeful) postseason run.
In the end, there’s no big revelation here or projection for the future – I just wanted to take a beat and point out how unbelievably dominant Wade Davis has been for the Cubs this season. And if they do their part and sneak into the postseason, the Cubs will have privilege of leaning on one of the best late-inning arms around.
That is, if he isn’t suspended for excessive celebrations first …
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) September 22, 2017