The Future is Bright for Vince Velasquez

The Philadelphia Phillies are a rebuilding franchise, and it appears their return to relevance may happen sooner than many would have expected. Their crop of young starters acquired via trade is a large cause of that return, including a righty who was recently shut down for the season. Ian York uses PITCHf/x and his unique charts to analyze budding star Vince Velasquez after his first full season starting full-time in the majors.

Philadelphia Phillies starter Vince Velasquez has reached his innings limit and has been shut down for the rest of 2016. The 24-year-old has had an up-and-down season, putting up a 1.44 ERA in his first five games (including his 16-strikeout game on April 14), but ending the season with a league-average 4.12 ERA (101 ERA+).

However, some of the damage to his ERA may have come through pitching while injured. He was taken out of his start on June 8 after throwing only two pitches and placed on the 15-day disabled list. Although he said he had only felt the injury (which turned out to be a right biceps strain with no apparent lasting consequences) that morning, his previous three games were among the worst of his season. Taking those games out of the equation gives him a more impressive 3.67 ERA for 2016.

Velasquez throws a typical starter’s pitch repertoire of four-seam fastball (“FF” in these charts), two-seam fastball (“FT”), slider (“SL”), curve (“CU”), and changeup (“CH”). His curve and slider, and his two-seam and changeup, blur into each other without sharp distinctions in terms of velocity or vertical/horizontal movement.  (In these charts I have manually reclassified his pitches, since PITCHf/x has trouble distinguishing them.) All his pitches have good movement, especially in the vertical plane:

Interestingly, Velasquez changed his pitch usage as the season progressed, reducing the use of his curve and replacing it with a slider — which he had hardly used at the beginning of the season — and changeup:

(The game on 06-08-2016 was the one in which he was injured. Although his two pitches that day were both nominally fastballs, they only reached 86-87 mph, nearly 10 mph slower than his norm, and they are shown here as changeups.)

Looking at Velasquez’s pitch values shows why he cut back on his curve; it is his least effective pitch, being hit for nearly double the total bases per 100 pitches (TB/100) as the average curve:

 TB/100
AverageVelasquez
CH10.412.6
CU7.814.3
FF9.98.8
FT10.96.7
SL8.88.4

By comparison, his slider is slightly better than average, and his changeup is only slightly worse. His primary weapons, though, are his fastballs, both of which are significantly better than average pitches.

Although it is always alarming when a pitcher has to go on the DL for pain in his pitching arm, Velasquez returned quickly to the starting rotation and as far as velocity is concerned displayed no signs of any damage for the rest of the year:

The Phillies, with a 60-75 record, are going nowhere in 2016 and were wise to cut Velasquez’s season short. In his first season as a major-league starter, he showed flashes of dominance, and should be least a strong #2 pitcher in a major-league rotation. Letting him recover and prepare for a full workload in 2017 is clearly the right move.


Follow Ian on Twitter @iayork.

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Ian is an immunologist and virologist who lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons. Most of his time is spent driving his kids to baseball and soccer games, during which he indoctrinates his children on the glories of Pedro Martinez, the many virtues of the Montreal Expos, and other important information.

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