Coming in at number nine on our top-10 Most Valuable Brewers is right-handed starter Zach Davies. He is just the second Brewers starter to wind up on the list and deservedly so. His 2019 was a stellar rebound from a 2018 that made some question if he deserved a tender or rotation spot in the following season.
In 2019, Davies pitched to a 3.55 ERA in 159.2 innings with 102 strikeouts. His ERA was the best of the starters who were in the rotation since the season started and was only surpassed by Gio Gonzalez’s 3.50 and Jordan Lyles’ 2.45. He was also top on the team in innings, 20.2 frames better than Chase Anderson.
Davies was at his best in the first half, starting with an April where he only allowed five runs in 32.2 innings. In all, he had a 3.07 ERA during his first 96.2 innings of the season. His stats took a dive in the second half, mostly after a few bad starts before spending a short stint on the Injured List. He then cruised through a fantastic 23.1 September innings with a 2.31 ERA.
Almost all of Davies’ success came off of his changeup. His changeup runs above average came in at 19.1, his first-ever double digit runs above average for a pitch in his career. Meanwhile, his sinker — his most-thrown pitch — was almost as ineffective as it’s ever been with -0.5 runs above average.
While Davies was one of the most, if not the most reliable pitchers in the Brewers’ rotation, but he wasn’t higher on the list for a reason. The control pitcher still threw 2.9 BB/9 and a career-low 5.7 K/9. On the back end, he had a 4.56 FIP and 108.8 DRA-, both numbers which suggest he may regress in 2020.
Despite the bad, the important thing when looking back on 2019 is applauding the actual results. Davies has certainly pre-earned a spot in the rotation next year. If he can cut down the walks and make his sinker effective again, he could be even more productive than he was in 2019.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus