• The Volquez Lesson

    Posted by on April 30th, 2008 · Comments (12)

    Edinson Volquez was once considered, by some, to be among the best pitching prospects in baseball. He had a cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers in 2005 – at the age of 21. And, in 2006, the Rangers called him up in August and gave him a regular turn in the rotation for the last two months of the season. That season, then 22, Volquez got banged around in 8 starts. Here’s more on that from a report in Baseball America that was published on October 6, 2006:

    Here’s what top prospect Edinson Volquez learned during his eight-week audition in the Rangers rotation: He may be a prospect, but he’s still not a big leaguer.

    If the numbers didn’t spell out the story (1-10, 9.20 in 14 appearances) then the Rangers did it letter-by-letter during a summit meeting with the 23-year-old righthander during the final week of the season.

    “I think he knows the way he has pitched here is not going to be good enough,” Buck Showalter said. “The world is full of guys who have failed up here some. At some point, the good ones will grasp it. I think he will grasp it.”

    The Rangers also laid out on offseason work plan they hope will accelerate Volquez’ comprehension of the problem and eventually his performance.

    The organization wants Volquez to stop by instructional league for a couple of weeks to continue working on fastball command. In addition, the Rangers want him to slide over on the rubber toward the first base side to create more of an angle for his pitches. Even his best stuff was getting fouled off by hitters because they had too much of a look at his delivery. And finally, they want him to hold runners better.

    The next season, in 2007, the Rangers had Volquez head back to the minors to work on his craft. He spent time in A-Ball (7 starts), Double-A (11 starts), and Triple-A (8 starts). In Triple-A, that season, he was awesome. In 8 starts he had an ERA of 1.41 and a WHIP of 0.90 – allowing just 25 hits in 51 innings pitched.

    Last December, the Rangers traded Volquez to the Reds. And, this season, pitching in the majors for the Cincinnati Reds, Edinson Volquez has been lights-out and the talk of baseball.

    Like Volquez, the Yankees Phil Hughes had his first taste of the big leagues at age 21 (last year). And, like Volquez in 2006, as a 22-year old (in baseball years), Hughes has been getting banged around this season. Here are the numbers to compare the two (with Hughes’ numbers being to date):

    Pitcher        GS     IP     H   BB   SO  ERA   ERA+
    Volquez '06     8     33.3   52  17   15  7.29    63
    Hughes '08      6     22.0   34  13   13  9.00    47
    

    What was said about Edinson Volquez after 2006 could also be said now about Phil Hughes.

    I think he knows the way he has pitched here is not going to be good enough. The world is full of guys who have failed up here some. At some point, the good ones will grasp it. I think he will grasp it.

    The Rangers wanted Volquez to work on command of his fastball. It’s the same issue now for Hughes.

    In the YES post-game last night, Joe Girardi, speaking of Hughes, said things along the lines of him “missing location again” and having “balls in the middle of the plate” being “hit hard.” Girardi said that Hughes was “rushing” and “trying to do too much.” But, Girardi added that “bottom line” (for Hughes) “it comes down to location.”

    Perhaps it’s time for the Yankees to learn from the Volquez lesson? Send Hughes back down to the minors and leave him there for the rest of the season.

    Do you know how many Triple-A starts Phil Hughes has made in his life? Five. Yes, just five starts.

    Edinson Volquez had 21 starts at Triple-A before he was called up at the end of 2006. (And, he tacked on another 11 in 2007.)

    Why not give Phil Hughes another 25 starts at Triple-A? Perhaps that will help him learn his craft the way that Edinson Volquez learned his (in 30+ starts at that level)? And, then, maybe next year, at the big league level, we’ll see Phil Hughes doing some of the things that we see Edinson Volquez doing this season.

    The Yankees truly need to consider making this move with Hughes now. Just like shooting an arrow, you need to pull back before you can launch forward. And, now is the time to pull back on Hughes. If you don’t believe this to be true, then you’re ignoring all the feedback (in terms of reports and stats) that we have on Hughes now. The need for this move is obvious. Let’s hope the Yankees realize it.

    Comments on The Volquez Lesson

    1. gphunt
      April 30th, 2008 | 11:09 am

      Is this Joba’s ticket to the rotation or are we looking at 25 starts of Rasner?

    2. April 30th, 2008 | 11:13 am

      If I had to guess, I would say Rasner or Igawa would get a crack at it.

    3. EdB
      April 30th, 2008 | 11:16 am

      No way Rasner gets 25 starts. But it would probably his job to lose for at least the next month (May has enough off days that he would only have to make 3 or 4 starts).

    4. baileywalk
      April 30th, 2008 | 12:35 pm

      I can tell there’s going to be a lot of “Phil needs to go back to the minors” posts around here. How many “Ian needs to go back to the minors” posts will we see?

      They didn’t just have Volquez gain better fastball command — it sounds like they redid his entire mechanics. They also sent him all the way back to A-ball, which would make you think they thought he was a mess. I don’t think the situations are the same, especially since Phil already had some success up here.

      It’s obvious that Phil has put up horrible numbers this year. Just terrible — tons of hits, not many strikeout, etc., etc. And while the results shouldn’t be THIS bad, it’s not totally unexpected that he would have his struggles. It seems like not only has he been pitching poorly, but his luck is horrendous. Just look at that game last night. Damon in center not getting to a catchable ball. A total jam shot falling in for a double. A crossup on what would have been a strikeout and then the next pitch being a home run. Getting stuck with a catcher he never met before who called a suck-ass game. The ump not calling a strike on a pitch down the middle in the inning he got knocked out of.

      Well, whatever. Either he puts up a couple of decent starts or he forces the team’s hand, I guess. I’d give him another month, myself. But they’ll do whatever the hell they want to do.

      I know Girardi needs to keep the team in mind and they were only down by four runs, but I would have loved Phil to stay in one of these games. Last night would have been a perfect game for him to try to get out of that inning and then maybe grind two more innings out. It would have meant a lot more to his development than another sub-4-inning outing.

    5. April 30th, 2008 | 12:42 pm

      ~~~How many “Ian needs to go back to the minors” posts will we see?~~~

      baileywalk – in 2 of his last 3 starts, Ian has given the Yankees 5 and 6 IP. On the season, he’s given the team 5+ IP in half his starts.

      In his last 4 non-rain starts, Hughes has gone 3, 2, 5.1 and 3.2 IP.

      When Kennedy is giving the Yankees as few IP as Hughes is now, then you’ll see the same recommendation from me.

    6. baileywalk
      April 30th, 2008 | 1:02 pm

      Ian Kennedy’s starts on the year (in order): 2.1, 3, 6, 2.2, 5.

      Phil Hughes’ starts on the year (in order): 6, 3, 2, 5.1, 3.2.

      Doesn’t seem to be much difference to me, Steve. Eerily similar, actually. Kennedy couldn’t get out of the second in two starts. Hughes couldn’t get out of the third twice. They both have a game where they went at least five. And they both have a game they went six.

      And in that last five-inning affair Kennedy had to throw over 100 pitches and walked four.

      Neither one is pitching well.

    7. baileywalk
      April 30th, 2008 | 1:09 pm

      Make that Kennedy couldn’t get out of the third and Hughes couldn’t get out of the fourth.

    8. April 30th, 2008 | 1:44 pm

      ~~~Ian Kennedy’s starts on the year (in order): 2.1, 3, 6, 2.2, 5.

      Phil Hughes’ starts on the year (in order): 6, 3, 2, 5.1, 3.2.~~~

      Throw out that 1st 3 for Ian because it was not a start. Just like you threw out the 2 IP game for Hughes – because of the rain.

      That makes it
      6, 3, 2, 5.1, 3.2 for Hughes
      and
      2.1, 6, 2.2, 5 for Kennedy.

      Note the trend in the last three starts:

      Hughes: 2, 5.1, 3.2
      Kennedy: 6, 2.2, 5

      Ian has 2 of 3 with 5+ IP.
      Phil has 1 of 3 with 5+ IP.

      “Eerily similar”? Not really.

    9. antone
      April 30th, 2008 | 2:52 pm

      I have been high on Volquez since the Rangers brought him up last year and I can’t believe they traded him away. I know they got Josh Hamilton for him but you would think a team who ALWAYS is looking for pitching wouldn’t trade away a guy with his talent.

      Also, I watched Volquez pitch the other night and his stuff has ALOT more life to it than Hughes’ stuff does. Everything Hughes throws to the plate just looks flat to me…there was only one start where his stuff looked electric to me and he didn’t pitch well that night either. I think it was the game against Boston.

    10. May 1st, 2008 | 2:48 am

      I really like this comparison Steve. I’m a big fan of Volquez (I picked him up in most of my fantasy drafts) and I definitely see the benefits of sending Hughes back to the minors (hell, it worked for him and others like Homer Bailey). Hughes has had mechanical issues and he’s overthrowing whenever he gets into a jam. IPK, on the other hand, appears to have some confidence issues, which are two inherently different situations. I think IPK should stay with the Yanks because he has proven himself in AAA and if he “trusts his stuff”, he seems like he’ll be fine.

    11. May 3rd, 2008 | 10:20 am

      [...] zone and you have a recipe for disaster for young pitchers.  The remedy?  It could very well be keeping these kids in the minors and letting them build their arm strength against weaker line-ups.  Then, once they hit the bigs, [...]

    12. May 7th, 2008 | 4:49 pm

      [...] Was Watching compares Volquez’s first big-league season to Phil Hughes in 2008. [...]

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