Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Edinson Volquez is the Luckiest Unlucky Pitcher in Baseball

As the saying goes, it is often better to be lucky than good. For most of the last five seasons Edinson Volquez has been neither. Plagued by a high walk rate and a high home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) has resulted in Volquez pitching to an inflated 4.73 ERA for his career. But things have changed somewhat for Volquez this season. His walks are down substantially. His 2.43 BB/9 is nearly half his career rate. Despite the improved control Volquez still sports an ERA well above 4.00 this season. So why is Volquez not seeing better results? Well luck has been a factor. Volquez has always had a worse than league average HR/FB rate. For his career his HR/FB stands at 12.4%. This year it has ballooned to 17.5%. That is the the third highest in baseball among qualified starting pitchers. League average is 10.1%. So the long ball has hurt him. Regressing his home run to fly ball ration down to his career average would cut his home runs allowed this season from 10 to 7. That is not an insignificant number. So it would be fair to call Edinson Volquez unlucky this season. Or is it?
 
While it is true Edinson Volquez has been unfortunate in terms of a disproportionately high percentage of fly balls leaving the yard, he has also been extremely lucky with the percentage of balls in play that have fallen for hits. Only six qualified starters have a lower BABIP than Volquez this season. His current BABIP of .225 is 76 points below his career average, and 70 points lower than the league average. If we regress his BABIP to the league average it would result in 13 more hits allowed this season. So has Volquez been lucky or unlucky, and what kind of performance can be expected of Edinson going forward? I don’t believe either the home run rate or the batting average on balls in play that he has allowed are sustainable. Both should normalize. Which means ultimately Volquez should settle in right about where he is now, a pitcher with a 4.50ish ERA.
 

4 Comments

  1. BABIP is overated. look at some of our Bucco’s who used to routinely weakly ground out to the SS. is that bad luck or just bad hitting?

    1. In some cases it can be over-rated for hitters. Pitchers, not so much. And this is extreme. 226 is nowhere near anything Volquez has ever put up. And even great pitchers rarely sustain those kinds of rates. Last season the best in baseball was Jose Fernandez with a .240 BABIP against.

  2. If you change a pitchers delivery, how can you hypothesize what his Statistical norm is. I don’t see how you can. you have to start over from zero to see if it works.

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