Brewers bring Doug Davis back to town

With the signing of left-hander Doug Davis to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million, the Brewers have completed a makeover of a rotation that was in dire straits for all of 2009.

Diamondbacks vs. Mariners in Seattle.

In a process that began with cutting Braden Looper loose and snagging Randy Wolf, perhaps the best starting pitcher on the market, Milwaukee is now primed to contend for the NL Central.

Davis’ value to the Brewers is simple: durability.

Randy Wolf should turn in a fine season, but betting on him to crack 200 innings again like he did in 2009 with 214 frames is foolhardy. His last time over 200 innings pitched was in 2003, right before he embarked on a four-year, injury-plagued journey.

Likely sandwiched between Wolf and Davis, right-hander Yovani Gallardo, a rising star, pitched 185.2 innings over 30 starts for the Brew Crew. Of the pitchers set to battle for the final two spots in Manny Parra, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan, only Bush seems like he has a chance to reach 200 innings.

Davis, on the other hand, has reached over 200 innings in five of the last six seasons, starting no less than 33 games. Davis’ fastball may average 85 mph, but there’s something to be said for taking the ball every day. The Brewers needed this, and was familiar with Davis due to his previous stint with the club, from 2003-2006.

The 34-year old just finished up a 34-start campaign with the Diamondbacks, posting a 4.12 ERA. Davis isn’t as good as a 4.12 ERA, and xFIP recognizes this in assigning him a 4.68 value. For a No. 3 starter who eats up innings, that’s pretty good.

Davis is a flyball pitcher, getting 35.4 percent of all batted balls in the air, something that should play more to his advantage now that he’s out of Chase Field. (It should be mentioned here that Davis performed roughly a full run better via ERA at Chase Field in 2009.) Milwaukee replaced Mike Cameron with Carlos Gomez in center field, so at least the Brewers aren’t taking a step back in their outfield defense.

Davis is a one-pitch wonder, so the wheels may fall off eventually. Looking at Fangraphs’ pitch type values, it shows that Davis once had his curveball as his bread-and-butter pitch, but that’s gone the wayside as of late and with the exception of one pitch, is at negative run values along with the fastball, slider and changeup in 2009. Where Davis excelled at was his cut-fastball, a pitch that seems to have been developed following the 2003 season, when he started his first full season with the Brewers. The pitch saved his bacon in both 2007 and 2009, so he needs to hope he can keep it up in 2010. The Brewers certainly hope so, as a mutual option of $6.5 million for 2011 is attached to the deal, with a $1 million buyout.

All in all, it’s a good signing that addressed a major concern of the Brewers: durability. This guy can take the ball day in and day out, although I am concerned about what seems to be a fine line Davis is walking between being a good pitcher and losing all value entirely.

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12 years ago

I find it absurd that people keep pegging the Brewers as contenders.  This is a franchise that has won more than 83 games exactly once over the past 20 years.  I understand how large market teams can be consistently overrated due to exposure, but over the past half-dozen years or so, the Brewers have been the chic darkhorse pick to win the NL Central.  Every year in which they do not trade for C.C. Sabathia, they disappoint.

Specifically absurd about this article is the declaration that Randy Wolf was the best starting pitcher on the market.  Wolf has managed an ERA under 4.20 exactly once over the past seven years, and it happened pitching in Dodger Stadium.  There were a half dozen better starting pitchers available, and almost every starting pitcher on the market would have been a better deal, particularly since the Brewers had to surrender an second-round draft pick in order to sign him.

The A Team
12 years ago

Keith, you seem to forget how weak the NL Central is right now.  The Cardinals are depending on a 4 player roster again next year and the Cubs have nice talent but issues with aging (and seemingly team chemistry).  I’ll give the Reds a hat tip by mentioning them, but they’re non-factors.

The Brewers have a good bit of star talent and while that talent isn’t as good as the Card’s quadumvirant, they have far greater roster depth everywhere but SP.  I think the Central will come down to whatever team does the best at keeping its best assets on the field, which makes it very easy to imagine the Brewers contending.

I currently have the division as:

with about 0% confidence in the that ordering.  They all look like 85 win teams to me.

12 years ago

Granted, the NL Central is weak.  But if it really comes down to health issues, I don’t see the team with Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo heading their rotation as the ones that come out on top.  In fact, I would handicap the division as follows:


The Reds have a lot of talent in their late-20s and would be hard-pressed to suffer as many key injuries as they did last year.

12 years ago

I think people are overlooking the REDS.  Clearly the Cards should be the favorites for this division, but the Reds have Votto, Bruce, and Phillips—IF (big if) Cueto and Volquez come back strong and Arroyo and Bailey pitch as well as last year AND, oh yeah – Harang figures it out – this team has the potential to be the best rotation in this division.  I think Spring training will tell us alot about this division!

John L.
12 years ago

Keith is clearly either a Cubs or Cardinals fan.  How can you hate so much on a team that has two of the best younger hitters in baseball?  You can calculate it out; if the Brewers had had just a league average rotation last year they would have been an 89 win team.  That wouldn’t have won either the NL Central or the NL Wild Card in 2009, but that just shows how much their atrocious rotation capsized an otherwise very good team.

Also, why do people keep calling Gallardo a big health risk?  His injury in 2008 was from a freak accident covering first base, and can only be used to indicate propensity for injury by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

12 years ago

A) The Indians entered the 2009 season with two of the best younger hitters in baseball and won 65 games.  Two players do not make a team.

B) The Brewers still do not have a league average rotation, so they still will not be an 89-win team.

C) Gallardo is a health risk because when you tear a ligament in your knee at age 22 then have 24 outings of 100 or more pitches at age 23, you are likely either wearing the knee down or compensating with other muscles/ligaments that could get injured from the altered mechanics.  How he injured the knee in the first place is mostly irrelevant.

D) Are you sure that I’m not a Reds fan?  I did pick them to finish second…