Edinson Volquez has been up and down this year. Before he was shelled by the Dodgers in his last start, he had pitched four great games in a row. Over those four starts he pitched 30 innings and only gave up 3 runs.
This once again raised the question: What can we expect from Volquez? Who is the real Edison Volquez?
Volquez started the season with three good starts in a row. He was throwing more strikes and less balls. This caused guys like me to grab him, thinking that Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage had “fixed” him, like he did with Francisco Liriano last year. This was not the case. Volquez’s stats quickly came back down to earth. He currently has a 3.86 ERA on that year, and based on his peripheral numbers, that looks a little low. He has a 4.36 FIP on the year and has benefited from some batted ball luck.
His strikeout rate is way down this year. He has a very low 5.86 strikeouts per 9 innings. That’s down over a point and a half from last year and is almost two and a half points lower than his career numbers. This decrease doesn’t look to be velocity related. His velocity is actually up a bit from last year. Per Fangraphs, his swinging strike rate is down to 7.5%. That’s a point lower than last year. In fact, it’s been decreasing since 2010 when it was 13%.
Striking out 5.86 per 9 and walking 3.09 per 9 (as Volquez is this year) is not typically a recipe for success. I’m surprised he has been able to maintain the ERA and FIP he has.
So what changed in those four great starts that got us thinking about him again?
- Strikeout rates? He has 18 strikeouts and 9 walks in those 4 starts, which is right in line with his season rates.
- Luck on balls in play? His batting average on balls in play in those games is right about average.
The big difference: Strand rate. Over those 4 games, he stranded over 90% of his base runners. In two of those games, he stranded all of them. His season strand rate is 74.2%. His career rate is 71%. 90% is not a sustainable strand rate. It’s a result of hit sequencing luck. The four big starts look more like luck than any changes in his skills.
At the end of the day Volquez is a 4-ish ERA pitcher with a below average strikeout rate. He’s a league average pitcher, at best. Three or four good starts won’t change that. We need to forget his monster season in 2008.
He’s not that pitcher anymore and shows no signs that he will be. Yet every time he pieces together a few good starts, we remember 2008 and start to get excited. When Kevin Correia has a few good starts, we don’t rush to waivers to grab him. Volquez is much, much closer to 2014 Kevin Correia than he is to 2008 Edinson Volquez.