Kansas City Royals Need Edinson Volquez to Repeat 2015 Success
Will Edinson Volquez continue to throw enough strikes to stay effective in 2016?
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, beginning with the starting rotation.
So far, we have looked at Yordano Ventura.
Today, we will be looking at Edinson Volquez
All statistics provided by Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Brooks Baseball
"2015 stats – 13-9, 3.55 ERA, 201.1 IP, 155 SO, 72 BB, 1.31 WHIP, 3.82 FIP2016 Steamer – 9-11, 4.27 ERA, 124 SO, 59 BB, 1.36 WHIP, 4.26 FIP"
Projected Role – Top of the Rotation Starting Pitcher
Volquez’s tenure in Kansas City began with immediate skepticism. Following a 2014 season that proved to be his best as a full-time major leaguer since his rookie year in 2007, critics questioned his ability to maintain his success into 2015.
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Most of this skepticism was surrounding his new-found ability to throw strikes, something Volquez had struggled with for the duration of his career.
Through 2013, Volquez had walked just over five hitters per nine innings pitched, before dropping that number to just over three in 2014.
Another cause for concern was a FIP that, of his four full major league seasons, ranked as his third highest mark.
Much of that could be attributed to his .263 BABIP, which was good for his lowest mark as a full-time starter.
Naturally, the Kansas City Royals were questioned for the signing.
Volquez, however, was able to throw strikes in 2015 and turned out, according to many metrics, a better season than his 2014 season.
2015 saw an uptick in innings pitched (notching 200+ innings for the first time in his career) and SO%, while his BB% and FIP remained stabilized.
In fact, Volquez surprised everybody by decreasing his BB% for the second consecutive season.
Volquez also posted a 3.82 FIP and 2.6 fWAR, each the second best of his career.
With Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jason Vargas either struggling with effectiveness or injuries throughout the season, Volquez was provided the Royals rotation it’s only real stable presence.
In the postseason, it only got better.
We saw a completely different level of velocity and stuff from Volquez in the playoffs, seeing almost a full two MPH bump from the regular season to the postseason (93.8-95.2).
That velocity was accompanied with movement that will make you feel faint, as seen by pitches like these:
And capped off with, probably, my favorite moment by any pitcher of the postseason:
That pitch might have been the nastiest pitch Eddy has ever thrown.
Volquez’s projections aren’t pretty, whether it be the Steamer or ZiPs, but as we have discussed before, that is just the nature of projections.
The biggest thing I take away from the projections is that they have bought into Volquez’s ability to control the strike zone, projecting a 3.23 BB% in 2016, which would tie his 2015 mark for the lowest of his career.
Going forward, the ability to keep the ball in the zone will continue to be a deal breaker for Volquez.
In the 14 starts that Volquez gave up three or more earned runs, he walked multiple batters in nine of those starts.
In the 19 starts that Volquez gave up fewer than three runs, only twice did he walk multiple hitters and also throw at least seven innings.
In fact, in his 32 total starts, only three times did he walk multiple batters and also throw at least seven innings.
His ability to throw strikes consistently will likely to be the primary factor in whether or not he regresses, or maintains his recent success.
The baseball world all got a chance to see just how good his stuff is last October. When he’s throwing strikes, he can be as good as any pitcher in baseball.
But when he’s not, it can get ugly fast.
If there is still a question mark surrounding the Royals, they are in the starting rotation.
With the re-signing of Chris Young, the signing of Ian Kennedy, and a healthy Kris Medlen, the rotation’s stability looks to be strong moving forward.
However, all three of those guys come with their own question marks.
The stability and effectiveness of the Kansas City Royals starting rotation will be anchored in Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez.
In a vacuum, that can scare people. We don’t know what we’re going to get with Ventura.
However, Volquez has earned the nickname “Steady Eddy” for his performance the last two seasons, much in part to his newfound reliability.
Next: The Enigmatic Yordano Ventura
When the crap hits the fan, which it will inevitably do in some way this season, the Royals will need Volquez’s hand to be steady.