Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

The Curious Case of Edinson Volquez.

The Pirates have had great success in recent seasons identifying talented yet underperforming starting pitchers, spending little to acquire them, then reaping the rewards of their rebound seasons. This was the formula with A.J. Burnett in 2012 and Francisco Liriano in 2013. The hope is that Edinson Volquez will provide the same returns in 2014.
Volquez certainly fits the profile. He has strike out stuff and he generates a lot of ground balls, but he struggles to keep an ERA below 5.00. He posted a 5.71 ERA last season. It was the second time in the last three years he posted an ERA over 5.00. He posted a K/9 rate of 7.5 and a GB% of 47.6% in 2013. Solid rates for sure, but well below his career averages. The main problem with Volquez has always been his command struggles, but he actually posted the best BB/9 rate of his career last season. So why was he so terrible in 2013? How much was luck a factor? His FIP was a much more respectable 4.24. Volquez’s advanced metrics do not take a huge tumble with men on base like Ricky Nolasco or Tim Lincecum, two pitchers proven to be FIP under performers. A high BABIP of .325 and a low strand rate of 64.5% do point to some poor luck dragging down Volquez’s ERA, but he doesn’t do the little things to help himself either. He led the league with 16 wild pitches. Base stealers swiped 24 bags against him, 5th highest total in the league. Volquez does not field his position very well. His 9.3% rate of allowing infield hits on ground balls is well above league average. The 24 infield hits surrendered by Volquez was the seventh highest total in baseball last year. He was credited with a -7 in Defensive Runs Saved in 2013, which was second lowest total behind only Tim Lincecum.
Given his struggles with wild pitches and holding runners, having Russell Martin and Chris Stewart behind the dish could have a big impact on Edinson Volquez. Having better battery mates will also help with fielding duties around the mound too. However, if Volquez is to have a big turnaround the biggest key may be how coachable he is. Pirate pitching coach Ray Searage and special instructor Jim Benedict have done wonders fixing pitchers like Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano. Those are guys that wanted to be fixed and bought in to what the Pirates wanted them to do. I question whether a guy that so struggles with the little things like Edinson Volquez will be so easily molded.

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