Fly Balls and Edinson Volquez

One of the biggest surprises of the 2008 season was Edinson Volquez, a pitcher with a ton of potential but one who had gone 3-11 in three previous cups of coffee in the majors. Volquez finished second in the National League in strikeouts (206), third in wins (17) and eighth in ERA (3.21). But a second half fade calls into question his prospects for 2009 and beyond.

After the All-Star break, Volquez had a 4.60 ERA and he allowed nine home runs in 78.1 innings, compared to five homers in 117.2 innings in the season’s first half. For the season, his FB% was 34.1 percent but as we can see from the graph below he allowed many, many more fly balls (the blue line of the chart) after the break in 2008.

Volquez is simply going to give up more fly balls and more homers than he did a season ago. And given that he plays his home games in Great American Ball Park, that’s a bad thing. In the last three years, 56 percent of the home runs hit in games played by the Reds happened at GABP. Volquez gave up just five home runs there in 2008, a mark he’s certain to exceed this season.

With plus pitches with both his fastball and his changeup, Volquez will post excellent strikeout numbers in 2009, but it is unrealistic to expect him to duplicate either his win total or his ERA from a season ago. Last year he had 18 outings in which he gave up two runs or less. Volquez will be lucky to reach half that total in 2009. He is still a solid bet for double-digit wins but his ERA should be closer to 4.00 this year. So, instead of a top-15 starter, Volquez is more likely top 30 in 2009.

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5 Responses to “Fly Balls and Edinson Volquez”

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  1. Matt says:

    There is no doubt he will give up more HRs, his HR supression was extremely low – and unrealistic going forward. But, with his nasty hard moving fastball, he will still be picking up his fair share of groundballs, and prior to the break, his GB% was well over .500.

    But, with another year of maturity and learning his craft, I think its fair to say his BB/9 could come down as well, especially as he learns to trust his fastball. Plus with that changeup improving, and becoming a plus pitch, he could keep batters more off balance, like the 1st half. To dismiss the 1st half as a fluke seems a bit premature. That was the most innings he has thrown in his entire life, all in one season. His 9.5 K/9 dwarfs that of pitchers who try to pitch for groundballs also, and even easily topped another flame thrower Ervin Santana (8.8) pretty handily.

    People are high on Cueto, and maybe rightfully so, but he looked a lot less advanced than Volquez IMO.

    I am bullish on Volquez going foward. He could be a real nasty strikeout/sinkerball pitcher, a rarity.

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  2. Wow. It’s really strange to see a FB/GB flip like that mid-season. I wonder what he changed. Did he stop using a pitch or something?

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  3. Matt says:

    I wonder with Pitch F/X data we could see a slight straightening out of his fastball post AS break?

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  4. Derek Carty on THT did a Pitch F/X analysis during the season on Volquez and concluded that he was just pitching down in the zone more often than ever before. I don’t believe Volquez truly has a sinking fastball, it was more a location thing. It would seem reasonable to think that he wore down toward the end of the season and wasn’t able to locate it low as often. He threw 50 more innings than 2007, so it would make sense that being the case, rather than just the 1st half GB% being a complete fluke.

    It should be interesting to see what kind of GB rate he could get next year without a real sinking fastball. If the high 1st half rate is repeatable and he ever improves his control, he’s a future CY winner (and maybe the BBWAA will get confused again and vote him ROY as well).

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  5. Steve Shane says:

    Volquez IP in 2007 178.2, IP in 2008 192, thats not 50 IP my friend

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