Film Room

Rockies Film Room: How Wade Davis dominates

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Credit: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports

As part of the new BSN Denver, we're going to try something new and that's a Rockies Film Room. Our other beats do this, most notably , who does a top-notch job when it comes to evaluating the pigskin.

The Colorado Rockies acquired Wade Davis on Friday to wrap-up a terrific 2017 all around for the franchise. Davis will be with the club for three—possibly four—years and is one of the most dominating relievers in the game. They don't just give $50 million-plus to Luke from Denver.

Davis is stone-cold terrific, imposing a rate of 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings over the past four years, he's been virtually unhittable since moving to the bullpen full time in 2014. His 1.45 ERA over those 244 games pitched is the best in baseball since 2014.

This is how Davis gets his outs and why he's one of the game's premier closers.


Davis is primarily a three-pitch pitcher, rarely straying from his fastball-cutter-curveball mix, at least since he's become a reliever.

Davis' four-seam fastball clocks at 95 mph, his cutter at 91 mph and his knuckle curve at 83.

[caption id="attachment_410043" align="alignnone" width="1139"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]

The right-hander's fastball generates an extremely high number of swings and misses compared to other pitchers' four-seamers at a rate of 14.05 percent last season. He has above-average velocity on his fastball with less movement than the typical pitcher but more backspin.

His cutter also generates an extremely high number of swings and misses at a rate of 18.28% last season. That pitch also has above-average velocity and has strong glove-side run.

Davis' curve is thrown very hard and generates a lot of swings and misses as well at 13.71 percent last season and 17.99 percent in 2016. He uses this pitch to generate a lot of ground balls applying 12-6 movement.

[caption id="attachment_410053" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]


Davis' most used pitch is his fastball which he utilized a career-low 48 percent of the time in 2017.

Using the sample size of the last two seasons, which gives us 884 instances of his fastball being thrown, it's both his most used pitch and the one he uses most to record strikeouts. It occurred 48 times, which is slightly ahead of his cutter in terms of a putaway pitch. This means he has to use his fastball two different ways.

Ahead in counts Davis elevates the pitch to both lefties and righties and works off his low breaking stuff. Furthermore, over the same time frame, he normally throws this pitch high and away from both lefties and righties.

When behind in counts Davis uses his fastball to attack the strike zone and get back ahead, mostly aiming for the lower portion of the zone.

In the top gif he was ahead in that at-bat and he used the fastball to record a strikeout high, the one below shows his fastball when behind in a count.


Since the 2014 season began Davis' cutter has been the third-most valuable cutter in the game among relievers according to Fangraphs' pitch values. It's no coincidence he's only behind new teammate Bryan Shaw and Colorado native Mark Melancon with how good that pitch has been.

It's pretty much his go-to pitch and there's no secret at all where Davis is going to throw this pitch. To both righties and lefties, he throws it disproportionately to his glove side and buries it low.

Against a righty:

Same spot, same devastation against a top-tier lefty in a much bigger moment:

On average, the pitch moves a pretty absurd amount—for how hard he throws it—2.1 inches. He ranks in both the top 15 for cutter velocity and horizontal movement among relievers over the last four years.


His curveball is his third pitch but by no means should it be forgotten. Not only does he use it to get out of jams he sometimes goes to the hammer for a strikeout. Although rarely he also uses the curve to work backward on hitters as well. Check out the interesting outcomes he generates by a slight adaptation on how low he aims Uncle Charlie.

To strike guys out he buries the pitch too low to make any contact on, essentially throwing it 59 feet.

[caption id="attachment_410061" align="alignnone" width="600"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]

Because he's hurling his curveball so low in strikeout counts, he can throw it slightly higher to generate a ludicrous amount of groundballs. His rates for grounders off of his curve when the ball was put into play in 2016 and 2017 respectively were 87.5 percent and 66.7 percent.

[caption id="attachment_410060" align="alignnone" width="600"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]

From the same day this past season, a curve for a groundout against one used for a strikeout.

How it comes together

Let's check out how Davis operates for an entire appearance in a run of the mill save situation against the middle of an order. This is his June, 24 one inning save against the Miami Marlins from 2017:

It's key to note that he's working backward here but he still displays all of the same tendencies that we reviewed. Let's take a look:

Here's what you just watched looks like on charts:

[caption id="attachment_410064" align="alignnone" width="600"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_410065" align="alignnone" width="600"] Credit: Brooks Baseball[/caption]

Davis made three hitters—all of them good—look foolish and did it in just 12 pitches. He played around a slight amount and varied from his usual one-two step but this was a good outing to showcase how he can make quick work of several different types of hitters.


As seen against Bryce Harper and Christian Yelich above, Davis' cutter goes from great to God-like against left-handed hitters, which explains the .155 average and .493 OPS against him from left-handed batters in 2017. Although that split has only reversed in the past two seasons, the film shows Davis is elite against batters from either side of the plate. His three-pitch repertoire of plus pitches makes him dominate. That and an inner belief to work out of countless tough situations he works himself into from time to time makes Davis one of the best closers in baseball.

Special credit to Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball and Fangraphs for information used in this post

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