So You’re Starting Edinson Volquez in Coors Field

As you’ve most certainly heard, Edinson Volquez will start in Colorado tonight, setting up Hyun-jin Ryu (now on six days rest), Zack Greinke, & Clayton Kershaw to face Cincinnati this weekend. Chris Capuano will now likely start against Arizona next week.

If that sounds terrifying, it should. Volquez is awful pretty much everywhere, and especially so in Coors Field, where he’s given up a career line of .349/.441/.568 in seven appearances — including 21 earned runs and 35 baserunners in 21.1 innings over three starts there in 2013 alone. When you’ve got an insurmountable lead like the Dodgers do in the NL West, you can afford to experiment a little, but there’s really never a time when you want to simply give away a game.

Of course, that’s not how the Dodgers view this. It’s not like they’re just expecting Volquez to be magically better because he’s wearing a lighter shade of blue, and we’re hearing all sorts of things about “mechanical adjustments” and “tipping pitches” that the team thinks he can improve upon.

More specifically, Tony Jackson spoke to Volquez a few days ago, and came away with this:

Volquez, whom I had never met before tonight but who seems like a really jovial, happy-go-lucky guy, said after the game that the only adjustment he has made so far since signing with the Dodgers was to switch from the third-base side of the rubber to the first-base side, which was the side he pitched from for Cincinnati in 2008 when he was a National League All-Star. That, of course, begs the question of why he switched to the third-base side in the first place. So I asked him that question. And he said it was basically something he did unconsciously.

Jackson’s reporting is above reproach, so I believe he captured the conversation accurately, but it’s interesting that Volquez said he switched “unconsciously,” because as this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune back in June indicates…

Fresh off the worst start of his career, RHP Edinson Volquez struck out a season-high nine batters over seven innings. He allowed just one run on six hits and three walks and threw 68 of his 107 pitches for strikes. So, why was he so good after he was so bad last week in Colorado (2.1 IP, 9 ER)? He said he moved from the first base side of the rubber toward third base to create a better path toward the plate.

…he was specifically asked by the Padres to do so. Either way, this all sounds like a thing we can test, and perhaps even see if there’s a correlation to success, so let’s go right ahead and do that.

From the wonderful BrooksBaseball, we can look at his horizontal release points over the years, and… oh, my.

volquez_release_points

So right off the bat, it seems like we might be on to something here. Volquez looked to be relatively consistent until the latter part of 2011, then way off to the side with his horizontal release point in 2012 and for most of this year, though it’s been trending back down. It’s also not as simple as saying that’s the issue, because he wasn’t very good between 2009-11, either.

We can see this in practice, too. Since 2008 was referenced in the Jackson quote, let’s look there. It’s a little difficult to find video from that year because the MLB.tv archives don’t go back that far, and most of the video I could dig up from that year is pretty grainy, but we can at least look at September 8 in Milwaukee:

volquez_2008-sep

He’s not really all that far to the first base side, actually pitching from more of the middle of the rubber. In 2009, Volquez made only nine inconsistent starts before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery, then was suspended for 50 games during his recovery in 2010 after testing positive for PEDs. (Not that anyone cares about that because he isn’t Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun, but that’s another discussion entirely.)

I looked at video from each season following 2008, but I won’t bore you with the details because as the graph above shows, he never really changes his position, despite the results changing dramatically. Finally in 2012 with San Diego, we can see a change, one that carried over to this year with the Padres, where he’s hard to the first base side…

volquez_2013-sd

That echoes the chart, though, according to this Ken Gurnick story, it now appears it’s less about where he pitches from, but how:

Manager Don Mattingly, however, said mechanical adjustments Volquez has worked on with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt are more focused on keeping him on line to the plate, instead of spinning off toward first base.

…although from the same story, Volquez says it’s about his hands:

On the video we saw different mechanics. We worked a lot on hiding the ball. You can tell the difference with my hands. We’ll see if I can do what they want me to do.

So Volquez has struggled because he’s tipping his pitches. Or he’s too far to the third base side of the rubber. Or too far to the first base side of the rubber. Or because he’s not “on line to the plate”. Or because he’s not hiding the ball with his hands. Or because he’s a guy who has been in the big leagues since 2005 and has had a FIP below 4.00 exactly once, with never-ending control problems.

Frankly, this sounds like throwing everything you can think of at the wall with him and hoping it will stick, and I can’t say I’m all that optimistic about it, especially in Coors Field. But then again, this team does have a huge lead, and I have no problem with adding another arm to the rotation to give the primary foursome some additional rest. Better Volquez take the heat in the most nightmarish park in America than Hyun-jin Ryu, right, and Stephen Fife can’t really be counted on right now either. If, as I fear, Volquez goes out and gets knocked out in 1.2 innings, well, you have a million guys in the expanded September bullpen to pick up the slack and a day off tomorrow anyway. What the hell, might as well make this last month interesting, I suppose?

965 comments
Purple Drank
Purple Drank

Remember when Elmer Dessens started the clinching game in 2004?

The Monocle
The Monocle

So I'm stuck at this train crossing. I see the train and drive up slowly then stop and observe trying to decide wether I go around, which would take a few minutes extra, or keep heading forward where I'll be trapped by the median until the train passes. I see the engine So I'm like sweet this shits almost over and pull forward. Train stops just as engine gets to intersection then begins to slowly move in the opposite direction. Motherfuck. Now it's doing it again.

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

Tony Jackson reporting that Ryu feeling some back stiffness, so Capuano will now pitch on Friday in Cinci.

ALVX
ALVX

Got a ticket to see the series finale of Breaking Bad with the cast at the Hollywood Forever cemetary and It's Always Sunny returns tonight. Hopefully a fixed Edinson Volquez can complete my perfect Wednesday.

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

I hate to be a spoilsport, but none of the Dodger games really matter a whole lot until October 3, which is almost a month away.

Come to think of it, though, that's A GOOD THING.

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

So Tanaka- 45 million dollar posting fee 45 million dollar over 5-6 years?

I hope the Dodgers do it

JackedNate
JackedNate

Matt Kemp does what Matt Kemp does because Matt Kemp is Matt Kemp.

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@TheConmanThe report Don Mattingly got from Camelback Ranch was that Matt Kemp had 13 plate appearances today, going 5-for-9 with four walks.

efb
efb

@ALVX OH YOU ASSHOLE!!! you got those tickets!? they sold out in like a minute. So jealous 

efb
efb

@nsxtasy the baseball off season is a looooooong 6 months. Each and every Dodger game, no matter how insignificant, is important to me. 

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

@PagansOedipalComplex Reports say the Cubs and Yankees are serious about going after him.

I say both the Cubs and Yankees are worried about reducing payroll.  And we're not.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@PagansOedipalComplex I hope the scouts they have over there looking at guys give the best report possible so they don't get screwed or they get another bargain like Ryu

Hoze
Hoze

@PagansOedipalComplex Apparently there will be nearly $90 million coming off the books next year (?). If thats true, PITCHING and defense, should be the main priority in where the money will be allocated. Definitely Tanaka.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

@Purps McGurps but its fun anyways! They used to tell us this story they made up about shot back when there was no electricity or running water. Some clown named robby thompson It was just to scare us kids back in the old days

Tired Math Cat
Tired Math Cat

@Omer aw, let's not make fun of goat for having a legitimate fear. it's not like the Dodgers HAVEN'T blown it at the last minute before. 

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@TheConman lmao it almost sounds like a running Congressman claiming he's polling great in the swing state

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

@Capnsparrow @PagansOedipalComplex  I have faith in them. That's why when the heat started dying down about the Dodgers' interest, so did my interest (even though I'd really like someone from the Motherland on our team).

nsxtasy
nsxtasy

@Hoze @PagansOedipalComplex >> Apparently there will be nearly $90 million coming off the books next year (?).

I don't think it's quite that high - closer to $60 million or so.

Using Mike's PAYROLL link at the top of the page, here are the most significant amounts of money paid in 2013 but not in 2014:

Uribe $6 million

MEllis $4.25 million (if his option is not renewed)

Hairston $3.75 million

Puig $6 million (decrease in salary)

Capuano $5 million (if his option is not renewed)

Nolasco $5.34 million

Howell $2.85 million

Lilly $13.5 million

Hernandez $3.09 million

Guerrier $3.75 million

Harang $4.48 million

Manny Ramirez $4.04 million

Offset by these most significant increases:

Greinke $5 million

And whatever increases there are for guys eligible for arbitration.  You know, like that Kershaw guy.

I've omitted any changes less than $2.5 million...

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

@SpaceDodger (math cat) @Omer No, he's right that we haven't clinched yet. That's why I wrote what I wrote below about not celebrating. I'm not celebrating, but I'm pretty confident.

JackedNate
JackedNate

It feels like we are having a great time hanging out with new friends and keep thinking how much fun some old friends would be having too.

Omer (beercoozie)
Omer (beercoozie)

@JackedNate I was thinking about that earlier today, that there's a real chance that the Dodgers could go to the World Series and Kemp wouldn't be playing.


And I hated it.