KC Royals: Edinson Volquez Taking Over As Staff Ace


With team leader James Shields signing with the Padres this off-season, most pundits anointed second-year starter Yordano Ventura as the new KC Royals ace. Instead, free-agent signee Edinson Volquez is steping into the void left by Shields.

The 31-year-old Volquez is tearing it up for the Kansas City Royals six weeks into the 2015 season. He has a 3-3 record and a 2.74 ERA. He’s also coming off his strongest performance of the season in Sunday’s 6-0 win over the Yankees, in which he shut down the Bronx Bombers allowing only 3 hits and 0 earned runs in 7.0 innings pitched.

Few predicted such a strong performance from Edinson Volquez after he signed a 2-year, $20 million deal with the KC Royals last winter. Steamer projected only a 4.38 ERA season from Volquez, worth a mere 0.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

That projection did not seem to jibe with Volquez’s 2014 season. Edinson Volquez enjoyed a terrific year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Volquez posted a 13-7 record to go with an outstanding 3.04 ERA in 31 starts and 192.2 innings pitched.

However, Edinson Volquez’s fine 2014 season was viewed as something of an abberration. Volquez has been a below-average starter for most of his 11-years in the major-leagues, with a 4.39 career ERA for an ERA+ of 89 (11% below league average).

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Aside from his one all-star season in 2008, Volquez’s 2014 season looked like an outlier in what has been a pretty mediocre career. His Achilles Heel has been his lack of command, with a 4.5 BB/9 (walks per nine innings) through 11 seasons.

Edinson Volquez’s BB/9 dropped to 3.3 last season, but was also paired with a drop in his strikeouts per nine inning (K/9) to 6.5 from a career mark of 8.0. In short, Volquez learned to throw strikes and rely on his defense last season in Pittsburgh.

Volquez has shown that he’s absorbed the lessons he learned in Pittsburgh with his 2015 performance for the KC Royals. His BB/9 is 3.6, while his strikeouts have nudged up to 7.0 per nine innings. Right now, he’s the clear ace of a staff that sorely needs a leader after slow starts from expected headliners Yordano Ventura ( 2-3, 5.36 ERA) and Danny Duffy (2-3, 5.87 ERA).

Indeed, Kansas City Royals starting pitches have struggled most of the season. Ventura not only has had trouble performing on the field, he’s been notorious for inciting fights with the A’s and White Sox. Jason Vargas is on the disabled list and hasn’t performed that well while healthy (3-1, 5.24 ERA).

Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie has been so erratic that many called for his benching before solid performances in his last two games. Still, Guthrie’s overall numbers are a discouraging 3-2, with 5.44 ERA.

The only starting pitcher other than Volquez putting up good numbers this season has been Chris Young (3-0, 0.94 ERA), who stepped into the rotation after Vargas went on the DL.

Even so, Chris Young has pitched into the 6th inning in only one of his three starts this season. While effective, he hardly seems ready to be an innings-eater. Hitters have appeared to catch onto Young the third time through the order, which isn’t surprising for a guy that throws in the high 80’s and depends on deception to get hitters out.

That leaves Edinson Volquez as the staff leader.

Let’s just hope he has a lot more days like Sunday’s shutout against the Yankees in him this season.

Next: Kansas City Royals Rotation Needs Patience