Who saw this coming? It’s only been three appearances (two starts), but Edinson Volquez actually looks like a capable MLB pitcher. I hated the $5 million signing of Volquez in December and I’m still not sold on him, but needless to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far – hopefully he keeps proving us wrong. Things seem to be going his way in 2014; here’s a look…
1.29 ERA, 3 runs (2 earned), 8 hits, 10 K, 3 BB, .160 opponent batting average, 0.79 WHIP
Game Score, a stat developed by Bill James, is a simple way to evaluate a pitcher’s performance in a given game. Here’s how it’s calculated:
Start with 50 points.
Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
Add one point for each strikeout.
Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract one point for each walk.
Last Sunday vs. St. Louis, Volquez’s Game Score was 62; on Saturday night in Milwaukee it was 61 (h/t David Manel). To put those in perspective, a GS of 65 is considered a gem. Also consider that Volquez had a GS over 60 just four times in 33 outings last season. Already halfway there.
The Pirates seemed to have focused on a few mechanical changes with Volquez, and so far, they’re looking evident. His motion as a whole isn’t really clean (not that I’m a pitching coach), but he’s definitely doing a better job of keeping his front side closed. Note where his front foot lands in the following pictures (top with San Diego in 2012, bottom last Sunday)
Consistency will be the key… Searage & Co. have quite a task on their hands, but it’s working.
click to enlarge
His fastball/sinker has been used the most; it looks good sitting around 93-94 mph and hitting as high as 96. His curve has been impressive as well, featuring nice break and inducing whiffs – 4 swing-and-misses last Sunday, 6 on Saturday night.
Control of the strike zone has been a huge issue for Volquez in his career. Between 2009 and 2013, he walked 4.9 batters per nine innings, the second most among MLB pitchers (guess who was first? Yep, Jonathan Sanchez). In his three outings so far, he’s awarded only three free passes (1.9 BB/9). Obviously I don’t expect that to keep up, but it’s good to see him surprisingly not walking people. It was impressive to see just one walk against a strong, disciplined Cardinals lineup. The Brewers are different - they swing more than any team in baseball, and also whiff more than any team in baseball. A free-swinging bunch, it seemed like they hacked at some balls out of the zone on Saturday. Still, he only walked two against the Crew. If/when his control isn’t on point, it’ll be interesting to see how a disciplined lineup performs against Volquez – presumably, the walks will climb and the runs will follow.
Obviously, it’s been a small sample size – let’s give him more than two starts before drawing too many conclusions. But can we believe what we’ve seen so far? He’s been pretty darned good, and while I don’t think he’s on track for Cy Young or anything, maybe he won’t be as horrid as we all expected.
As Rum Bunter likes to say… #VolquezPower