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Entries in San Diego Padres (7)

Wednesday
Dec182013

Believing in Edinson Volquez

Poorly as Edinson Volquez pitches, teams just keep coming back for more. It has been half a decade since Volquez vanquished hitters with premium heat and a tumbling changeup, making the All-Star team and finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting with the Reds in 2008. Since then, he has arguably been the lousiest pitcher in baseball not booted out of the rotation. Once you account for park factors and league run-scoring levels, Volquez had the worst ERA (25 percent below average) among starters tossing at least 500 innings from 2009-13.

Despite all of that aggravation -- Tommy John surgery, LaLoosh-like control, quick hooks aplenty -- Volquez continues to get opportunities. The Pirates are the latest club hoping to channel Volquez's '08 form, signing him to a one-year, $5 million free agent deal for rotation depth in case A.J. Burnett retires or refuses to take a below-market deal to remain in Pittsburgh. Let's be honest: Expecting Burnett and ending up with Volquez is kind of like asking Santa for an XBox One and instead unwrapping a Cosby sweater on Christmas morning.

Those who still believe in Volquez point out that he bears some resemblance to the Bucs' 2012 reclamation project, Francisco Liriano -- lots of strikeouts, ground ball tendencies and a fielding-independent ERA (4.24) far lower than his actual ERA (5.71), suggesting better days are ahead. Of course, Volquez could just climb the ranks of starters who continue to get the ball despite getting their heads handed to them on a regular basis (during the Expansion Era, only Jimmy Haynes and Randy Lerch have made more starts while posting a worse adjusted ERA).

If Volquez is ever going to succeed again in the majors, Pittsburgh may be the place. Pitching coach Ray Searage has helped resuscitate the careers of Liriano, Burnett and Charlie Morton. The 30-year-old righty will also benefit from working with two of the best pitch-framing catchers in the business, and a collection of rangy fielders who gobble up grounders and fly balls.

Martin, Stewart steal strikes

Volquez deserves plenty of blame for issuing 4.8 free passes per nine frames during his career, ninth-highest among Expansion Era starters throwing at least 850 innings. But it doesn't help that he also gets squeezed by umps on pitches located on the edges of the zone, and he rarely gets calls on pitches thrown a bit off the plate. Over the past three years, Volquez has a slightly lower called strike rate on pitches thrown within the strike zone (80 percent) than the MLB average (81 percent). On pitches thrown outside of the zone, Volquez has gotten called strikes just 7.7 percent of the time, well below the 9.7 percent average.

Luckily for Volquez, his new battery mates excel at getting strikes on close calls. Russell Martin has an 82.5 percent called strike rate on in-zone pitches since 2011, while backup Chris Stewart (84.3 percent) has fared even better. Both steal strikes on out-of-zone pitches, too (10.9 percent called strike rate for Martin, and 11.1 percent for Stewart). Searage and Volquez have countless video screenings and bullpen sessions ahead of them to address the pitcher's control woes, but the Bucs' catchers give them a head start.

The power of quality D

Part of the reason why Volquez underachieved last year was his .330 batting average on balls in play, fourth-highest among qualified starters and 24 points above his career average. In particular, his BABIP on fly balls (.231) was dead last among starters and over 100 points above the MLB average (.128). With Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen chasing down fly balls in Pittsburgh (and graceful right field prospect Gregory Polanco not far away), Volquez should see fewer pitches reaching the gaps in 2015.

Collectively, Bucs pitchers had a .121 BABIP on fly balls last season. Overall, Pittsburgh converted balls put in play into outs at the fifth-best clip in the majors. By comparison, the Padres and Dodgers (Volquez's 2013 teams) ranked near the middle of the pack. Better luck and better defense should help Volquez get his ERA out of the high fives.

Volquez has some built-in advantages in Pittsburgh, though the same was said in San Diego, where he pitched in spacious Petco Park under the tutelage of Bud Black. His top-tier stuff could be waning, given that he lost a tick on his fastball (from 93.4 MPH in 2012 to 92.4 MPH in 2013) and struck out a career-low 7.5 batters per nine innings last year.

Maybe he is the second coming of Liriano, erasing years of disappointment with a dominant season. But for every Liriano, there are a dozen Kyle Davies who just never figure it out. Volquez keeps getting chances, with pitching coaches thinking he's a few mechanical tweaks away from turning back the clock to 2008. Past promise counts for less with each passing day, though. If Volquez can't make it with the Pirates, he might not get another chance.

Friday
Apr122013

2012 Hit By Pitch Rates

After last night's bench clearing brawl between the Dodgers and Padres we decided to take a quick look at MLB's league leaders in 2012 in the "hit by pitch" category. Carlos Quentin (Padres) led MLB batters in 2012 with a HBP Rate of 5% as he was hit 17 times. Gavin Floyd of the White Sox led all MLB pitchers hitting 14 batters with a HBP rate of 1.93%.

Wednesday
Mar132013

Strasburg to start opening day plus more

"Not that there was any uncertainty about it, but Davey Johnson made it official nonetheless this morning: Stephen Strasburg will start Opening Day for the Nationals.

"I guess you want me to say it," the 70-year-old manager said. "He's going to be my Opening Day starter. You drug it out of me."

Johnson's selection of Strasburg is hardly a surprise. The right-hander got the Opening Day nod last season in Chicago, then went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts before his much-debated shutdown in early September after 159 1/3 innings."

Source: CSNWashington.com

CJ Wilson effective in off-day assignment

"For most major league veterans, spring training is a pretty low-key affair. All you have to do is get a little work in, break a sweat occasionally, and fine-tune a few things for the regular season.

But even by those standards Tuesday was a relaxing day for left-hander C.J. Wilson, who pitched four innings against a team made up primarily of minor leaguers on what was, for the rest of the Angels, a day off.

"We have to make it like a real game even though we're just facing our own guys," Wilson said. "So I'm trying to go in and kind of get rah-rah and have fun. 'Let's go! Let's beat these Angels!'"

Source: LAtimes.com

Carl Crawford faces live major league pitching

"Carl Crawford faced relievers Kenley Jansen andJ.P. Howell on Tuesday, marking the first time he took live batting practice against major league pitchers since he was shut down two weeks ago.

“A step in the right direction,” said Crawford, who resumed working out last week.

Crawford, who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, was encouraged by how he felt.

“Your timing at this point is never going to be the way you want it, but it wasn’t as far off as I would expect it to be, either,” he said."

Source: LAtimes.com

Carlos Gomez agrees to deal with Brewers

"Outfielder Carlos Gomez and the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a $28.3 million, four-year contract.

The 27-year-old outfielder would have been eligible for free agency after this season. He had agreed to a $4.3 million, one-year deal in January, and the new contract includes salaries of $7 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015 and $9 million in 2016."

Source: ESPN.com

Hochevar transitioned to bullpen

"Right-hander Luke Hochevar, eternally inconsistent as a starter, is shifting, at least temporarily, to the Royals’ bullpen.

Manager Ned Yost announced the move Wednesday morning prior to a game against Seattle at Surprise Stadium.

“I think it makes us a better team,” Yost said. “I think it makes us a stronger team. It gives us a better chance to win every day. With three weeks left, I want to get him acclimated to that role.”

Source: Kansascity.com

Casey Kelly might need "Tommy John" surgery

"The already cloudy picture regarding Padres starting pitching turned darker Wednesday afternoon when it Padres manager Bud Black confirmed that right-hander Casey Kelly has had tests on his right elbow and could be a candidate for elbow reconstruction surgery.

“Anything is possible,” the Padres manager said of the possibility that Kelly would be the Padres pitcher to have “Tommy John” surgery in the last 10 months.

“It is that part of the elbow that we’re concerned about,” Black continued. “The doctors are concerned about what the tests looked like. There’s going to be a lot of discussion between Kelly and his family. They’ll probably want a second opinion.”

Source: UTSandiego.com

Dodgers hoping plasma injection helps Greinke

"Zack Greinke has a sore elbow and Chad Billingsley doesn't, neither of which the Dodgers really expected this spring.

What they have in common is that Billingsley's partially torn elbow ligament responded last year to injections of platelet-rich plasma, and now the Dodgers are waiting to see if a similar injection, along with anti-inflammatory medication like cortisone, will have the same beneficial result with Greinke.

The Dodgers have been using the treatment since 2008, when reliever Takashi Saito responded well to the procedure as has Billingsley, avoiding Tommy John surgery."

Source: MLB.com

Brennan Boesch released

"The Detroit Tigers have released outfielder Brennan Boesch, the club announced Wednesday morning.

The Tigers should have nontendered the 27-year-old outfielder last December, but they thought they could trade him. As it turned out, they weren't getting any bites, so cutting bait now was the right move. Boesch's contract for the 2013 season was worth $2.3 million. By cutting him now, the Tigers only owe him a sixth ($383,333) of that.

Also note that the Tigers have Austin JacksonTorii HunterAndy DirksQuintin Berry andAvisail Garcia as outfield options, so there's no need for Boesch.

Boesch finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2010 and then hit .283/.341/.458 with 16 homers in just 115 games in 2011, but last season was a different matter. Boesch regressed to .240/.286/.372 with 12 homers in 503 plate appearances. He struck out 104 times while walking just 26. For those into the advanced metrics, Boesch's WAR was 2.3 in 2011 and negative-1.4 last season."

Source: Cbssportsline.com