The first step is admitting you have a problem. I admit it: I cannot rid myself of Edinson Volquez, let alone reserve him for even a week. Ever since picking him up post-draft, but still during spring training, before his breakout 2008 campaign, I have been guilty of suffering from Volquez Fandom Syndrome. Please, someone help me.
Watching Volquez pitch is the very definition of a roller coaster ride. The viewer experiences ultimate highs followed by ultimate lows and fantasy owners have to hope the highs outweigh the lows. If there was a good and accurate quantitative way to measure a pitcher’s stuff, I have to believe Volquez’ repertoire would rank near the top. His SwStk% has been at least 10.0% the last four seasons, while his opposition Contact% has been no higher than 74.8% in that time span.
Besides simply being able to highlight these impressive numbers, I do get my nose out of a spreadsheet every once in a while. When my mom lets me out of her basement, I have had the chance to actually watch Volquez pitch. The scout in me says that the numbers are completely supported by what my eyes are seeing, as his fastball is explosive (though his run values have been negative the past three seasons) and change-up devastating. He has even increased his curve ball usage, which looks pretty good to my non-expert scouting eye.
Okay, so it is clear that whether you are looking at the numbers or watching him pitch, Volquez’ pure stuff is pretty darn good. Moving back to the stat sheet again, fantasy owners (for those who have not dropped him yet!) have one more reason to be excited: a fantastic 61.4% GB% leading into yesterday’s game. Beginning in 2008, he displayed a ground ball tilt, but during his return from TJ Surgery in 2010, that GB% increased further to over 50%. So it is intriguing to see that rate rise again and help form a truly unique skill set.
Of course, we all know what the issue is: Volquez sometimes seems to be pitching as if the plate was the size of an amoeba. It is frustrating to watch when this frequent occurrence happens, to say the least. Amazingly, coming into yesterday’s game, Volquez had thrown first pitch strikes 64.4% of the time, well above the league average of 58.9% and easily a career best. His Zone% of 46.3% is not too far below the 47.8% league average, so one wonders how he manages to walk so many batters. I would guess that on an overall basis, he does not throw the number of balls that would suggest such poor control. However, the walks are coming because Volquez loses focus or whatever and throws balls in bunches. This is just me speculating here and throwing out a possible explanation.
So this is what we know about Volquez: his stuff is top notch and he generates gobs of ground balls, but his control comes and goes. This makes it tough for us fantasy owners to decide whether to start or reserve him each week (or each start for you daily transactioners). Many fantasy owners seem to love benching a starter like Volquez until he pitches a good game. But Volquez is inconsistent and one start typically has no bearing on his next. So I would throw that strategy out, though I would argue against that strategy for every pitcher. In additon, we cannot really play matchups because he has faced the Astros, Padres and the Pirates and still posted a 6.35 ERA in those games. The good news is that fixing a pitcher’s control is much easier than improving his stuff. So that means, much to the joy of my league mates, I will likely continue to start him week in and week out, and cross my fingers that his control will improve to acceptable territory given the rest of his excellent skills. So who wants to talk me out of doing so and who will be joining me as the inaugural members of the Edinson Volquez Support Group?