September’s Surging Starters: Volquez

Edinson Volquez has had many ups and downs this season, including a steroid suspension that was ignored, a return to the bigs, a trip back to the minors, and then back into the big league rotation. Like Scherzer, Volquez’s brief minor league “tune up” did wonders for him as far as we can tell.

The last time someone talked about Volquez at this great site of baseball worship Volquez, the G-Unit said this about the Reds’ starter:

“To this point, Volquez has exhibited a power arsenal, if little idea of how to spot his wicked pitches.”

That is classic Volquez. Very good pitches, but problems putting it all together. But, he’s done a great job putting it all together recently, albeit in a very small sampling.

In three starts this month, Volquez has an xFIP of 2.95 thanks to more than a strikeout an inning, and a BB/9 under 3. While his strikeout rate is about right, it’s a surprise to see his BB/9 be so low, because even during his great 2008, Volquez’s control wasn’t great.

All of Volquez’s pitches have been thrown for strikes at least 60% of the time during September, with all of them getting whiffs at least 10% of the time. For good measure, he’s thrown his changeup 26% of the time, and has gotten a whiff on over 31% of occasions. That, my friends, is amazing, and probably unprecedented. Overall, he has lead the league in whiff% this month, coming in at over 16%.

Has Edinson Volquez returned to the form that made his 2008 so special? Could be, but we really don’t know. Of course, with any small sample comes the warnings (small samples may be dangerous to your health, consult a doctor if a sample lasts less than fours hours, etc.), but this has been a really good sign of things to come. He’s never going to be a pitcher with superb control, but he could be able to keep his BB/9 around 3.50 and be a very successful starter.

Volquez will likely be a key cog for in the Reds’ playoff machine, and having the opportunity to watch him pitch against good competition will be a big part in helping to determine his ADP next year. My guess is that Volquez will end up going under the radar, and could be a nice value pick in drafts as long as he doesn’t explode during the playoffs.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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It’s no surprise that Volquez has amazing stuff; anyone who has watched him can tell you that his changeup is one of the best pitches in all of baseball. However, if you’re wanting to write a story about Volquez’ limited success this season, you might be better off starting with his breaking pitches. Before his surgery, he was throwing an effective slider–which he still brings out every once in a while–but now he’s throwing a pitch in its place that’s closer to a curveball (or at least a slurve). The idea is that it would be easier on his elbow, but I think we might find out that it’s also made his already-nasty pitching arsenal more versatile and effective.