Can Volquez Find the Zone?

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To say that Edinson Volquez is an enigma is one of those statements that qualifies as an understatement. He was dubbed as the ill-fated starter in last year’s Game 1 of the NLDS and tabbed as this season’s Opening Day starter. Seems like that’s a role reserved for an ace.

We’ve heard that Volquez possesses “ace stuff”. Problem is, we have rarely seen it since his “breakout” season of 2008 when he was slected to the All-Star Game and went 17-6. I’m putting this out there. I do like Volquez. I do believe he has the pitches to make him a strong #2 starter. Ace stuff? I’m not so sure. And there are possibly a ton of Reds fans that would echo my last sentiment.

After the Reds victory last night, I hope you all heard what Cowboy had to say in regards to Volquez. He stated something along these lines: You can change whatever warmup method he goes through, but it all comes down to Volquez and how he performs on the hill. No one can control that but Volquez.

Sounds rather obvious, I know, but I think we get too wrapped up in all the facets of how Volquez prepares for a start. It comes down to the “want to” and the mental aspect, which is where I feel sometimes Volquez gets behind the curve so to speak. To be an ace, you must also have that mental makeup, a side that has not been present in the last couple of seasons.

Yes, make all the talk you want about the Tommy John surgery and its effects you want. VOlquez is not the only one to have the procedure and he will not be the last…by far. I can think of a pitcher who has recently returned from TJ and has performed pretty darn good in Tim Hudson.

We are continually frustrated with the inordinate amount of walks he surrenders. This leads to shorter outings. Truth be told, Volquez has always had an issue in that category. He almost always had difficulty with his pitch command. Look at his yearly production…

Through his first 8 games this season, Volquez has almost walked as many opposing batters than he did in 12 outings in 2010. And he leads the NL in walks. Yes, do wonder how he’s the owner of a winning record, but we know the offense has bailed him out a time or two.

But look a little deeper into this. He has never been a pitcher in complete control. Even in 2008, his BB/9 wasn’t exactly stellar at 4.3. For that 2008 season, he was still 4th in the NL in walks issued and he led the NL in HBP with 14. He also threw 10 wild pitches. During that same year, he was 2nd in the NL in strikeouts. So 203 SO paired with 93 walks and that alone is over 1,000 pitches. Granted, he did appear in 33 games that season, but the added pressure on the arm as well as the mind has made life more difficult for Volquez when he’s on the mound. Oh, and he does give up his fair share of hits, too.

This is a little more telling…

This shows us one point I’ve already mentioned. Volquez is lucky to have a winning record. The WPA column shows that likelihood for a Reds victory when Volquez is pitching. If it’s a positive number, things are looking good. And negative, well, it’s means it’s a negative chance. In only 2 of the 8 outings has Volquez posted a positive number! Add this. the aLI reflects the average leverage (or pressure) a pitcher sees in that particular game. Again, only twice has that number been below 1.00, the measuring of average pressure. And the final column, RE24, represents the average number of runs saved due to his performance with 0 being the average. We once again see that one those same two occasions where Volquez provides positive results.

Perhaps the most telling numbers are innings pitched, pitches thrown and strikes thrown. Going 6 innings twice is not a positive. And neither is his strike rate. If my math is correct, Volquez has thrown 781 pitches this season with 460 being strikes. That’s 59%. Only twice has his strike rate even been above 60%. And even that is a little misleading because any ball that is hit is judged as a strike. That reduces his strike rate even more.

I repeat, ace stuff? No. Need more innings, less walks and better command.

Not asking much, I know.