Wade Davis, 2015 WS champ with KC, retires

November 24th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- One of the best relievers in Royals history, the pitcher who recorded the final three outs that clinched Kansas City’s first World Series in 30 years, has decided to hang up his cleats.

announced his retirement on Wednesday through the Royals and his agency. The 36-year-old spent 13 years in the Majors, including five with the Royals -- four during their best years as a franchise and one this past season. From 2014-16, no reliever was more important to the club than Davis, and he recorded his final save on July 24 this year against Detroit, his 49th save as a Royal, tying Steve Farr for ninth-most in franchise history.

“Wade, first of all, is a first-class person and first-class competitor,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said. “Without him and his contributions to our pitching staff, I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have won a world championship.

“He’s going to go down in Royals history throwing that last pitch, his hands forever extended to the sky. That’s what everybody is going to forever remember, the pitcher who threw the final pitch of the 2015 World Series. He’s just an unbelievable competitor and great person.”

A three-time All-Star, Davis began his Major League career with Tampa Bay in 2009, five years after he was drafted in the third round out of Lake Wales (Fla.) High School. The Royals acquired him following the 2012 season, but Davis wasn’t the centerpiece of that trade. That was starter James Shields -- an All-Star who had logged six straight seasons of 200-plus innings. By comparison, Davis had a 4.22 ERA over 64 starts in parts of three seasons and had spent the ’12 season in the bullpen. Many saw Davis as an add-on to the trade, but the Royals felt he could make an impact for the club.

No one predicted his ensuing dominance.

After starting 24 games in 2013, Davis moved into the bullpen when Luke Hochevar required Tommy John surgery. Davis ended the ’14 season with a 1.00 ERA in 72 innings with 109 strikeouts, finishing eighth in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Davis was even better in 2015, posting a 0.94 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings, finishing sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting. During the ’14 and ’15 postseasons, Davis posted a 0.36 ERA (one earned run in 25 innings), along with three victories and four saves. In six postseasons, Davis went 4-0 with eight saves and a 1.80 ERA (eight earned runs in 40 innings) with 57 strikeouts.

Part of the “HDH” trifecta with Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera, Davis mowed down hitters with his four-seam fastball, cutter and curveball. Hitters often said they didn’t know what was coming from Davis -- his stuff resembled a starter, but his mentality was that of a closer. After becoming a full-time reliever, he went 27-22 with 141 saves in 161 opportunities and a 3.25 ERA. His save total in that span (2014-21) ranks 12th in the Majors.

His legacy was cemented in Game 6 of the 2015 American League Championship Series against the Blue Jays, when Davis was called on in the eighth inning with one out and the game tied. Davis not only got the last two outs of the eighth, but he also stayed warm through a 45-minute rain delay before returning for the ninth. Kansas City had taken a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth, and the Royals decided to let Davis take the ninth despite having not thrown a pitch in almost an hour.

Russell Martin singled and pinch-runner Dalton Pompey stole second and third base. Kevin Pillar walked and stole second. So with two runners on, no outs and the AL pennant on the line, Davis struck out Dioner Navarro and Ben Revere -- both swinging -- and forced Josh Donaldson into a ground out, sealing the Royals’ trip to the World Series.

“That’s one of my greatest memories in the game,” Moore said. “It was one of the most nerve-wracking half-innings that I’ve ever experienced in baseball. And he gets out of it. We’re sitting in the training room after the celebration, and it was just me and him and few other people, and I just remember Wade being just cool as a cucumber. So relaxed. Like it was a Spring Training game. And I’m a nervous wreck, wiping sweat, all kinds of emotions.

“The one thing about Wade Davis is he would never give in. That’s why he was able to get out of that inning.”

In the bottom of the 12th inning in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Davis struck out Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores to give the Royals a championship.

Davis was an All-Star again in 2016, and despite some injuries, he posted a 1.87 ERA in 43 1/3 innings with 47 strikeouts. On Dec. 7, 2016, the Royals traded Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler, and Davis continued putting up impressive numbers in Chicago, notching 32 saves.

He spent three years in Colorado -- posting an NL-leading 43 saves in ’18 -- before returning to Kansas City in 2021 on a Minor League contract and making the team out of Spring Training. His fastball certainly wasn’t what it used to be, and he was used sparingly in the bullpen before an injury ended his season in September, but Davis remained a legend among the Royals’ young relievers -- and they leaned on his experience for advice throughout the year.