Through his first two seasons with the Brewers, Zach Davies has proven to be remarkably consistent.
Many of his 2017 numbers were very similar to the ones he posted a year ago, including ERA (3.90 compared to 3.97), HR/FB (12% compared to 12.4%), LOB% (74.2 compared to 72%), BABIP (.302 both years), and fWAR (2.8 compared to 2.7).
The similarities even extend to how those seasons played out. Both years, Davies struggled immensely out of the gates, fighting his location and getting hit hard as a result. In his first start of 2017, Davies was shellacked by the team that eventually beat out the Brewers for the final Wild Card spot, the Colorado Rockies. Davies lasted just 4.1 innings in that start, with the Rockies banging out 9 hits and hanging 6 runs on Davies with the help of 4 walks.
The diminutive righty's second start didn't go much better. He gave up 5 runs on 7 hits over 5 innings against the Cubs, with all 5 runs being surrendered in the first two innings. If there was a positive -- and with the loss dropping the Brewers to 2-5 early, positives were tough to find -- it was that Davies only allowed one baserunner in the three innings after that. He continued to make progress in his third start of the season, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits over 5 innings in Cincinnati.
After that, Davies turned into the guy that got plenty of preseason hype. While he still had a handful of blowup starts along the way -- that kind of thing will happen when you throw in the 80s and don't strike anyone out -- outside of his first four starts, Davies put up a 3.41 ERA in 29 starts the rest of the way, with the Brewers going 19-10 in those games.
With the Brewers unexpectedly in the playoff race, Davies kicked it into another gear in the second half of the season. While his walk and strikeout rates were nearly the same in both halves, he found something that allowed him to allow fewer hits overall, and specifically, fewer home runs (he coughed up 15 home runs in the first half and just 5 after the All-Star break). When Chase Anderson went down and Jimmy Nelson faltered slightly in the second half, it was Davies who picked up the slack and carried the rotation through August and into September, keeping the team in the playoff race.
He'll likely never quite live up to the 'Next Kyle Hendricks' hype he garnered heading into the 2017 season, but through two seasons Zach Davies has shown himself to be a legitimate #3 big league starter that can get hot and help carry a win streak when he's right. He did get incredible run support in 2017, especially early in the year when he was still trying to piece things together, but he was also a legitimately solid middle-rotation starter on a team that made a playoff push.
The Brewers will miss Nelson for much (or most) of the 2018 season, but if Davies can avoid the early-season lulls that have plagued his stat lines the past two years, the Brewers should still be in good shape. Furthermore, he's still a cheap starter -- he won't be arbitration eligible until after next season and has a total of four years of team control remaining.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs