There comes a point in time when one must face reality with the understanding that a desired outcome is simply never going to materialize into anything greater than a hopeful proposal. That time has come for Vince Velasquez as a viable starting pitcher.
Velasquez was acquired by the Phillies in December of 2015 as part of a deal that sent Ken Giles to the Houston Astros. At the time, Velasquez was truly the prize piece of the deal, as the Astros threw in Mark Appel, Harold Arauz, Brett Oberholtzer and Tom Eshelman. But it was Velasquez that made the trade worthwhile, as then 23-year-old had just finished his first stint in the big leagues. While the numbers weren’t all to impressive, as Velasquez posted a 4.37 ERA in seven Major League appearances, the “stuff” was there: the velocity, the movement and the deceptive off speed pitches were certainly obvious.
Heading into the 2016 season, the Phillies believed they had a very capable back end of the rotation arm in Velasquez that could bud into something special as his career progressed. Velasquez flashed brilliance at times in 2016, striking out 152 batters in 131 innings pitched, but the command was simply not there. Velasquez was working deep into far too many counts, forcing himself out of games with relatively high pitch counts. He averaged just over 5.1 innings pitched per start. Velasquez also found himself surrendering far too many hits because of this high pitch count. In pitching terms, the word nibbling would certainly apply in Velasquez’s case, as he would not attack the strike zone, but instead, try too hard to not leave pitches over the plate, running up his pitch count in the process. Perhaps a far greater concern was the 25 homeruns he allowed in 2016. He was allowing a homerun every 5.24 innings, or, effectively, a homerun every start he made. Understanding that Citizens Bank Park isn’t exactly a pitchers haven, those numbers are still concerning to say the least.
2017 was perhaps a worse season, albeit a shortened one, for Velasquez. The right made just 15 starts, posting a 5.13 ERA over 72 innings pitched. He battled through injuries all season long, and when he did pitch, his velocity was down. Velasquez still punched out 68 hitters over those 72 innings, but again struggled with consistency. His WHIP was up as he surrendered nearly a hit per inning and allowed 34 walks over those 72 innings. For reference, he walked 45 in 131 a season prior. He also surrendered 15 homeruns in 2017, good for a long ball every 4.8 innings pitched.
This season, Velasquez has been wildly inconsistent. Take his start on April 19 for example. Velasquez took the mound against the Atlanta Braves and cruised through the first four innings. He struckout six, allowed just two hits, inducing a double play on one of them, and allowed no runs. In the fifth, as the order had swung through a third time, the Braves started to tee off on Velasquez. After a leadoff walk and a single by Dansby Swanson, Velasquez served up a three run homerun to Ryan Flaherty. It’s that kind of unraveling that we’ve seen far too frequently from Velasquez.
Over his career, Velasquez is 12-18 with a 4.58 ERA. He’s allowed 46 homeruns in 228 innings pitched, or one every 6.1 innings. That number in and of itself isn’t too harrowing, but to think that he allowed just five i 55.2 innings pitched in Houston leaves cause for concern. Take those factors out of the equation, and you’re left with a pitcher who’s surrendered 41 homeruns in 173 innings. That’s a homerun every 4.2 innings pitched in a Phillies’ uniform. Velasquez’s hits per nine innings pitched has also risen every season. In his lone season in Houston, he allowed 8.1 hits per nine. That number has since risen to 8.9, 9.3, and now, 10.5. You simply cannot rely on a pitcher that is going to serve up 10 hits every nine innings, or in Velasquez’s case, 6 hits per five innings pitched.
I’m not much of a bold statement maker as a writer. I save that prerogative for when I’m on the air. But I am ready to make this statement: it’s time to end this traipsed journey the Phillies and Vince Velasquez have been on. 2018 is the final year of Velasquez’s contract. I’m curious if it’s his last as a Phillie as well.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports