Last year, Doug Davis was the most reliable starter we had: plenty of strikeouts, generally good for six or seven innings. That gave DD a reputation which, combined with Ned Yost's legendary slow hook, has been a near-disaster for the Brewers this year.
Last night was a case in point: with a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the 7th, Davis's pitch count wasn't too bad, but he promptly gave up singles and, after a double play, a 2-run home run that put the Pirates ahead. Would, say, Rick Helling have done better? I don't know. But the numbers suggest that Doug Davis oughn't go seven innings anymore.
Using David Pinto's Day-by-Day Database, I looked at Davis's inning-by-inning splits for 2006. (The database isn't updated for last night yet, so that game isn't included.) I had expected to find a sharp drop-off after the sixth inning, but I was surprised to find that the 7th is one of his stronger frames. (Perhaps if he makes it that far, he's rolling.)
However, the 6th inning has consistently been a problem. Take a look at the difference between innings 1-5 and 6-9:
- First five innings: .266 / .350 / .415
- Last four innings: .308 / .411 / .533
More support of this theory: check out Davis's pitch count splits. Apparently it all falls apart at #90. I don't know whether he's lost some stamina, or whether the league has figured him out a little better this year, but it's apparent that, if Doug has 92 pitches logged at the end of the 5th inning, it ought to be Rick Helling time.