The biggest problems for Phillies pitcher Vince Velasquez are the little ones


Last night, the Phillies fell to the Marlins 7-2 to drop their 24th game in 30 tries, lowering their record to a season low 17-33. Despite the continued bad play from the team as a whole, the storyline of the night was likely the departure of starting pitcher Vince Velasquez after just 1.1 innings pitched. Velasquez exited the game with what is being called a right elbow flexor strain, contrary to the hip injury that appeared to be the case when he walked off the mound in the second inning. He’ll now head to the DL for the second time in his tenor as a Phillie with an injury that plagued him in the minor leagues as well. With the injury description, I don’t expect Velasquez to miss more than the allotted 10 days, barring any setbacks.

It’s not the injury I want to discuss here today though, since it should be a minor one. Instead, I want to talk about Vinny’s season to this point, and a quote that he said about a week ago that I am just baffled by.

After getting roughed up by the Pittsburgh Pirates for five earned runs and seven hits through 5.1 innings and picking up his fourth loss of the season, Velasquez was quoted in saying that,

“I guess no matter what or how I feel, there’s no adjustments being made at all.” He later went on to add, “I’m just clueless right now. I’m just running around like a chicken without a head. I don’t know what I’ve got to do but I just know there’s something.”

You don’t say? You mean to tell me that after losing your fourth game in six decisions and your ERA swelling to nearly 6.00 for the season, you might have to change something? Call me crazy, but I sort of thought that might be obvious.

I apologize for my little rant there, but I had to get it off my chest. Back to the analysis of the quote.

Here’s my biggest problem with that quote, sentence by sentence.

Velasquez says there is no adjustment being made at all. Whether it be between hitters, innings or games, that’s just not acceptable at this level. If it’s on a game by game basis, as a Major League pitcher, you are given a wealth of options to learn the tendencies of hitters prior to each start. I don’t expect every pitcher to study film the way a Greg Maddux would if he were still pitching today, but you have reels of tape on every hitter that has spent time at the Major League level. You have the ability to go back and watch pitch selection, hot vs cold zones, when a particular guy wants to go after a particular pitch in a particular count. With that knowledge, you pitch to your strength and go after the hitter’s weaknesses.

Here’s a situation for you. Giancarlo Stanton was hit in the face with a fastball a few years ago. Since then, he is sometimes shy to open up on inside pitches to drive them. With that knowledge, why would you throw him anything away where he can get his hands extended? I know that happened to Mark Leiter last night and not Velasquez, but you understand my dilemma I hope.

If Vinny meant that more on an in-game basis, than adjustments can be made then as well. Here’s a another for you. You’ve cruised through the first two innings against the Pirates, throwing primarily good fastballs. Now you’re into the heart of the order for the second time. Every guy has seen your fastball. They’ve now made their own adjustments to counter your fastball. Wouldn’t it make sense to start a hitter as red hot as Adam Frazier, with two outs in the inning, I might add, with something off speed, maybe down and away? I sure think so. But Velasquez didn’t make that adjustment in-game, served up a two out base hit to Frazier, who was later brought home that inning with an Andrew McCutchen base hit. That is the difference between a 1-0 Phillies lead going into the top of the fourth and 1-1 tie.

Those kinds of adjustments seem to be the biggest problem for Velasquez, the little ones.

Now let’s head to the second part of that quote, the half that maybe irks me the most. For Velasquez to say he’s taking the mound every fifth game like a chicken without a head shows me a major problem, and it isn’t solely Velasquez’s fault. I put the second half of that quote’s blame on pitching coach Bob McClure.

Go all the way back to when you were a little kid. You probably got into some trouble, like everyone has, for something you did at the time that you maybe didn’t know was wrong. Your parents likely put you in time out or took away your games, but they told you why this was happening. Why did they do that? So little you wouldn’t do the exact same thing again. As a great family friend always says, “It’s a learning experience.”

But if your parents never said anything, you’d likely repeat the same thing you did because you would have thought you did nothing wrong. That’s the problem Velasquez seems to be facing here. He says he doesn’t even know what he’s doing wrong. Isn’t it then the responsibility of the pitching coach to sit him down and walk him through his mishaps?

I’m not saying that McClure is entirely to blame here, because Vinny is a Major Leaguer, and a big boy, but if Velasquez isn’t making adjustments on the mound because he isn’t aware of his faults, wouldn’t you suspect that McClure should be doing everything he can to work through these issues? The problems of this pitching staff run deeper than the arms that take the mound, and I think Velasquez may have let us all know that with this quote.

Whatever the reason for Velasquez’s struggles early this season, a stint on the DL may do him some good. It’ll give him a chance to clear his head, rest his arm and get back to the basics of pitching. He has the stuff, no doubt. It’s now time to make good on it.


Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports