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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.