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The Royals View Of Wade Davis

Here’s some useful information about the Cubs’ new closer.

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Cubs will have a new relief pitcher to close games in 2017, Wade Davis.

Davis pitched for the Kansas City Royals for the last four seasons, including the last two as a lockdown closer.

I asked Max Rieper, manager of our SB Nation Royals site Royals Review, to tell us about Davis from the Royals point of view. Here’s his detailed look at the Cubs’ new closer.

Wade Davis, when healthy, has been one of the most dominating relievers in all of baseball. Originally a failed starter with the Royals in 2013, the Royals sent him to the minor leagues late that year to work on converting back to a reliever, a role he had performed well in Tampa Bay in 2012. Davis began 2014 in the bullpen, and at first, he looked like any other mediocre reliever, giving up four runs in his first ten outings.

Over his next 54 outings, he gave run. ONE RUN. He faced 202 hitters over that time. Just two managed to get an extra-base hit. He ended the season with a ridiculous 1.00 ERA with just 38 hits allowed in 72 innings with a whopping 109 strikeouts. He became an integral part of the bullpen nicknamed "HDH" for the dominating trio of Kelvin Herrera, Davis, and Greg Holland. Davis continued his dominance in 2015, not giving up a run until June, and not giving up a home run until August. He finished with a 0.94 ERA, becoming the first pitcher ever with back-to-back seasons of a 1.00 ERA or lower and at least 50 innings pitched. When closer Greg Holland went down with a UCL sprain late in the year, Davis took over closing duties in the post-season, and the Royals did not miss a beat.

Davis became an elite reliever by ramping up his velocity. He was averaging 92 miles per hour as a starter, but was able to get that up to 95 miles per hour as a reliever. According to Fangraph's Pitch Value, only Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen had a more effective fastball among relievers from 2014-2016. Davis also throws one of the most effective cutters in the game with good movement, the second-best among relievers according to Fangraphs. But his most devastating pitch may be his "fall off the table" curveball, which makes hitters look absolutely silly. Davis also brings a no-nonsense attitude to the mound, a cold, unemotional stare that has earned him a nickname among fans - "The Cyborg."

Davis was having his typical dominant season in 2016 until early July when he landed on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He returned later in the month, but did not look quite the same. He was being hit a bit harder, and in an outing in late July he uncharacteristically walked three hitters and two hits in a game against the Angels. Statcast had been picking up on a reduced spin rate on Davis around that time, and he had also shown a drop in velocity. A few days later, Davis landed on the disabled list with another forearm injury.

Davis returned late in the year and looked reasonably effective, but the bloom was off the rose by then. Many began wondering if he was just a Tommy John surgery waiting to happen. The Royals had missed out on opportunities to trade elite closers like Joakim Soria and Greg Holland due to injuries, many did not want to miss out on trading Davis. Whether he can return to elite status remains to be seen. Davis is just 31, is a pretty dedicated workout warrior, and had a pretty good health history prior to 2016. If he has recovered from his forearm injuries, the Cubs should be getting one of the best relievers in baseball, a silent assassin who snuffs out any hope from opposing hitters. But the threat of Tommy John surgery will likely hang over his head all season.