From 2009-2011, Edinson Volquez posted only 13 combined Wins, pitched 221.0 Innings, and made only 41 Starts with the Reds as he endured Tommy John Surgery, a 50-game suspension, and overall control struggles. Last season though, Volquez became yet another veteran Pitcher to find success with the Padres as he finished the year with an 11-11 record, posted a 4.14 ERA, and led the team with 174 Strike Outs. After Volquez enjoyed his “bounce-back” 2012 campaign, the 29 year-old veteran came to terms with the Friars on a 1-year contract worth $5.725 million dollars this past week.
Although Edinson’s 2012 numbers were not necessarily gaudy by any means, his totals in Wins, Games Started (32), Innings Pitched (182.2), and Strike Outs were the highest they had been for him since his All-Star season of 2008. Plus, I should point out that Volquez finished the year strong as he went 8-4 over his final 17 Starts after he sat with a 3-7 record in the middle of June.
So why should all of this news about Volquez and his recent signing be incredibly important to us Padres fans?
Well, due to the fact that the Friars have not been, and do not appear to be “buyers” this offseason in terms of the Starting Pitching market, the team and the entire Pitching Staff as a whole will need another improved year from Volquez. And with the team’s most promising starter, Cory Luebke, on the mend from elbow surgery, Volquez and Clayton Richard will likely have to shoulder a large amount of responsibility atop the Padres’ Starting Rotation once again in 2013.
Questions regarding consistency and productivity will surely surround the back-end of the Friars’ Starting Rotation until the season begins. Thus, the burden to produce with consistency and “eat” Innings could inevitably be on Volquez and Richard if San Diego’s #3, #4, and #5 Starters cannot perform up to par, or are injured at some point during the year.
To take pressure off of the back-end of the rotation (as well as the Bullpen), Volquez must not only be able to hold his own against some of the National League’s best Starters, but also continue to log significant amounts of Innings when he does has to pitch every 5th day. What could definitely help Volquez and the Padres alike in both departments next year would be some improvement in the area of his control.
Last year, Volquez led the National League in Walks (105) and posted a high Walk/Strikeout ratio (5.2). Edinson’s large amount of Bases on Balls allowed in turn led in large part to him throwing 100+ Pitches in over half (18 of 32) of his starts during the 2012 campaign. Amazingly, it took Volquez until his 30th Start of the season to go an entire outing without allowing a free pass.
To his credit, Volquez does possess the stamina and the ability to go deep into games. When healthy, Volquez has handled large Pitch Count totals over his career. And as I alluded to above, he did so many times last year for the Starting Pitching-depleted Friars. Increased control on Edinson’s part in 2013 would allow for more chances for him to go deeper into ballgames due to the fewer jams he would have to work out of throughout his Starts. Plus, the more Innings that Volquez pitches, the better chances the Padres would have to inevitably win the games in which he takes the mound.
Although Volquez was not as effective as his 2008 self last year, he definitely proved that he was back on the right track. From productivity and health standpoints, it certainly appeared that the veteran had also put the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons behind him. With the moves, or lack thereof, the Padres’ Front Office have made to bolster their Starting Staff this offseason, I believe that this team will only go as far as their Starting Pitching will take them. If the Friars are going to make some noise in the National League this season, their Starting Rotation must find ways to keep the team competitive. Thus, the veteran Starters at the top of the Rotation like Volquez must find a way to improve this year and stay injury-free. If in fact this happens, a .500 record is a definite possibility. But if the Rotation falls apart, particularly near the top with Pitchers like Volquez and Richard, it could inevitably be a 5th losing season out of the last 6 for the Padres.
Stats & Contract Information Courtesy of: Baseball Reference