Edinson Volquez’s career has been a model of, well, inconsistency. His is a story more about potential – and briefly obtaining it – than anything else. It’s a career plagued both by injury – mainly Tommy John surgery in August of 2009 – and mental lapses, once demoted to High-A in 2007 and then again last season, to Triple-A.
Volquez, armed with a mid-90s fastball and two solid complementary pitches, has all the talent in the world, and has had only one great year, way back in 2008, as a 24-year-old in his first full season. He went 17 and 6, with a 3.21 ERA and a strikeout rate of 9.46 K/9. Since then, however, he’s failed to top 110 innings in a season and posted a combined ERA over 5.00.
Following his offseason trade to the Padres, is he finally poised to recapture the success he flashed four years ago, leaving behind the Great American Ballpark for one of – if not the best – pitcher’s park in baseball?
Despite the stigmas surrounding both the Ballpark in Arlington and the Great American Ballpark, both were, in fact, rather neutral grounds for a pitcher during his time with their respective teams. According to BaseballReference’s calculations, the multi-year pitching park factors (which are “blanket” or overall park factors) in Texas (2005 to 2007) were: 106, 101, and 98. Likewise, for his time in Cincinnati (2008 to 2011): 103, 100, 101, and 102. Remember: 100 is a neutral park.
And, unsurprisingly, his career home/road splits paint the same picture:
- Home: 248.2 IP, 4.67 ERA, 27 HR, 9.0 SO/9, and 4.69 BB/9
- Away: 248.1 IP, 4.64 ERA, 32 HR, 8.4 SO/9, and 5.03 BB/9
On the other hand, however, Petco Park, home to the Padres, had a multi-year pitching park factor of 92 last season, tied for the second lowest in the majors.
So, what, exactly, would Volquez’s 2011 numbers look like in Petco?
First, his 2011 away/home splits:
- His road splits, which will remain constant, are: 62.1 IP, 40 ER, 64 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 10 HR, 39 BB, 53 SO
- His home splits, which will eventually be park-adjusted: 46.1 IP, 42 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 26 BB, 51 SO
Next, adjust his home numbers to a neutral ballpark, and then adjust for Petco:
- Neutral: 46.1 IP, 42 H, 13 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 28 BB
- Petco: 46.1, 37 H, 12 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 28 BB
Finally, determine the differences between his actual numbers and Petco-adjusted numbers. Then, using linear weight averages, determine how many less runs he would have allowed:
- Differences: -5 H, +1 2B, 0 3B, -3 HR, 0 BB
- Runs saved by Petco (using average linear weight total for each specific situation): About four runs less.
So, if he pitched in Petco, his overall 2011 ERA would have been 5.38, instead of 5.71.
Fine. It’s a noticeable difference, nearly half of a run less. But what about his prospects for 2012, is he going to show drastic improvement?
Well, yes, actually. Assuming he’s healthy, of course.
Volquez’s HR/9 spike last season, up to 1.57, more than half a point higher than his career mark coming into 2011. So there should be some major regression from that standpoint. And considering how homer friendly the Great American Ballpark is (1.314 PF) compared to Petco (0.862 PF), there should account for some more improvement too.
His double rate also spike last season too. His career mark before the year was .0504 2B/AB; last season it was .0588 2B/AB. So some more improvement should be seen there too, as those numbers regress. (Petco and Great American Ballpark have similar doubles park factors so the only improvement would be from regression).
The only other area to improve upon is his walk rate, which has historically been high anyway. Only one season of 50 or more innings has he posted a walk rate less than 5 BB/9, and that’s his breakout 2008 (4.27 BB/9). Oh, yeah, Petco’s walk PF is actually higher than the Great American Ballparks. That’s not going to help.
So, is Edinson Volquez destined to improve in Petco Park?
Absolutely. But which pitcher wouldn’t? He’s also going to show some improvement as his numbers regress. But, honestly, Edinson Volquez won’t start tapping into his vast potential unless he starts trimming his walk total, and there’s really no reason to believe that he will.
He might. He’s flashed it before and has done so in the minors too. So there’s hope. Anything, after all, is possible. But this is a 28-year-old pitcher with almost 500 career innings and a walk rate of 4.8 BB/9 in the big leagues.
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