An Edinson Volquez Update

Considering that Cincy sits a game up on the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central and has a three-in-four-shot of making the playoffs according to CoolStandings, chances are we’re going to experience a Red October for the first time since 1995. While the Big Red Machine doesn’t have a stealth submarine on hand, the club does hope that the mended Edinson Volquez can be a secret weapon down the stretch. Six starts into his comeback, Volquez is displaying his typical bat-missing ability while understandably showing some rust as well.

The former DVD member scuffled in big cameos with the Texas Rangers from 2005-2007, striking out 6.2 batters per nine innings, walking 4.7 per nine and serving up 1.6 HR/9. His xFIP was 5.34. But he broke out upon being dealt to the Reds (along with Danny Herrera) for Josh Hamilton in December of 2007. Volquez posted a 3.88 xFIP in 196 innings during his first foray in the NL, with 9.46 K/9 and 4.27 BB/9. He got swinging strikes 11% of the time (8.4-8.6% MLB average recently), with a 73.8% contact rate (80-81% MLB average). Edinson’s brilliant work was worth 4.3 wins.

Unfortunately, Volquez would make just nine starts the following year. He wasn’t near the same dominant arm, putting up rates of 8.52 K/9, 5.8 BB/9 and a 4.62 xFIP in 49.2 frames. His swinging strike (10%) and contact (74.8%) figures remained stellar, but he just couldn’t locate. Volquez placed only 41.5% of his pitches within the strike zone (49.3% MLB average that year), compared to 49.6% in 2008 (51.1% MLB average). As a percentage of the big league average, his zone rate went from 97.1 in ’08 to a paltry 84.2 in ’09. Volquez was placed on the DL with lower back spasms in mid-May, but the big blow came after an aborted one-inning start against the Cards on June 1st. He needed Tommy John Surgery, as well as a repair of his flexor mass tendon.

Volquez’s rehab drew national headlines in April, as he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for Clomid, an estrogen-blocking drug banned by Major League Baseball. Since he was out of action, the suspension cost Volquez cash (a little more than $130,000) but not actual game time. In 31 innings pitched between High-A Lynchburg and Triple-A Louisville, Volquez compiled a 28/8 K/BB ratio and surrendered just five runs.

The 27-year-old got the big league call in mid-July and has tossed 29.2 innings so far. Volquez has struck out over a batter per inning (9.1 K/9), with a 12.3% swinging strike rate and a 69.6% contact rate. But he’s also walking the yard (6.37 BB/9), the result of putting just 36% of his pitches in the zone (46.9% MLB average). That’s 76.8% of the big league average. Overall, his xFIP is 4.69.

While the sample size is small, Volquez has gotten grounders 56% of the time (44.5% prior to this season). Changes in ground ball rate gain some significance at 150 batters faced, so that’s worth watching for a guy making his home starts in a park that inflates HR production by 22 percent for lefty batters and 35 percent for right-handers.

In terms of stuff, Volquez is sitting at a typical 93-94 MPH with his fastball and getting whiffs 9% of the time with the pitch (6% MLB average). It appears as though he has nearly scrapped his slider in favor of a 77 MPH curveball, which is garnering whiffs 15% (11.6% MLB average). Volquez’s low-80’s changeup has a 20.5% whiff rate (12.6% MLB average). Of course, finding home plate has been an issue — the fastball has a 58.7% strike rate (60-62% MLB average), the curve sits at 50.4% (58%) and the change 55.6% (60.7%).

Given that we’re dealing with a month’s worth of starts, it’s best not to put a whole lot of stock in these numbers. But to this point, Volquez has exhibited a power arsenal, if little idea of how to spot his wicked pitches.

Injury info from the Baseball Injury Tool. Pitch F/X whiff and strike numbers from TexasLeaguers.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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he figures never to be an ‘ace’ with his history of walks, but if he can reign them in he’ll be a solid strikeout pitcher on a team ready to contend yearly.