Where in the world did Ryan Vogelsong come from? No, no, I don’t want the birds and the bees, the stork, or the miracle of life answer (at least, definitely not the latter).
After a five-year absence from the majors, Vogelsong had a huge season in 2011, going 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and a 6.96 K per 9. He allowed over three earned runs in only three outings. And while he was a huge waiver-wire add for multiple teams, he was an afterthought yet again for fantasy owners drafting this year.
Starting the season on the DL with a back issue may have been a main factor, but Vogelsong has been nothing short of brilliant yet again, with a stronger ERA (2.36), WHIP (1.23), and slightly lower but comparable K rate (6.76) entering Monday afternoon’s tilt with the Cubs. And somehow he’s still not universally owned at 90% ownership in ESPN and 65% in Yahoo leagues. There’s obviously some dead league data in there, but what do you do with Vogelsong?
He’s obviously not a big trade chip, and would be a throw in at best. But therein lies your answer. A guy like Vogelsong that no one fully believes in yet continually churns out quality start after quality start can really bolster your roster. Getting him as a toss in can really tip the scales on a trade.
However, is there a chance that spacious AT&T Park or other factors are obscuring an otherwise average veteran pitcher? Vogelsong’s BABIP, LOB% and xFIP all indicate Vogelsong has been a little lucky since his return to the Majors last year.
So I decided to spend my Monday afternoon doing what I love most – watching baseball and analyzing a starting pitcher. Here’s how Vogelsong looked:
First Inning: Vogelsong’s first pitch of the afternoon is a 90–MPH fastball for a called strike to leadoff man Tony Campana. On the next pitch, Campana slaps it to center for a routine flyout. Vogelsong again starts with a fastball at 92-MPH for a strike against Starlin Castro. I’ve seen a few of Vogelsong’s starts and he’s usually not that high on the radar. On 0-2, Vogelsong throws a nasty curveball that Castro barely holds off on, 1-2. After one is fouled off, Vogelsong throws a two-seamer on the outer edge, but doesn’t get the call. The 2-2 jams Castro and he grounds out routinely to short. Vogelsong again gets a first pitch strike, this time on David DeJesus (yes, hitting third for the Cubs), and on the 1-2, DeJesus hits a routine fly to right. Three up, three down.
Second Inning: Again aggressively attacking the zone, Vogelsong gets up 0-2 on Alfonso Soriano (but then again, when does Soriano not fall behind 0-2) and on the 1-2 he slightly hangs a curveball, but it’s an easy fly out to center. Vogelsong is again ahead of the hitter, this time Bryan LaHair, and throws a 2-2 fastball in on the hands, but LaHair is able to flare it into no man’s land in left for a fluke single. LaHair’s BABIP was at .407 before this game, and another lucky hit pads that stat. After five straight first-pitch strikes, Vogelsong falls behind of Ian Stewart 1-0, but works it back to 1-2 and strikes him out with a fastball on the outer edge, two down. Man, Vogelsong again with a perfectly placed fastball on the lower edge of the zone for strike one on Darwin Barney, but the next pitch is flared the opposite way barely over Theriot at second for a single. Runners on first and third. Vogelsong is again ahead of Steve Clevenger with a curveball taken for strike one. The 1-1 is then smashed to center for a single, and Vogelsong gives up his first run. Runners still on first and third with two outs for the opposing pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who takes strike one. A quick stat flashes on the broadcast that Vogelsong has allowed 9 of his 18 runs this year in the second inning. That’s a head-scratcher. On the 2-2, Vogelsong throws a nice curveball, but somehow Samardzija inside-outs it on an emergency swing through the opposite gap for a single and Vogelsong’s second run given up. Now 10 of his 19 runs in the second inning. That wasn’t a bad pitch either. And Tony Campana is up and bluffs a bunt but it’s low, 1-0. The very next pitch is flared to the opposite field for another single. Clevenger is held at third, so it’s bases loaded now. Castro is up and Vogelsong gets ahead 1-2 with a nasty curveball. After one is fouled, Castro nubs one softly down the third base line but Vogelsong is able to field it and throw him out at first. Two runs given up, with all the damage on singles, and 4 of the 5 with two outs and 4 of the 5 hit the opposite way.
Third Inning: After picking up a run of support, Vogelsong throws a first-pitch breaking ball taken for strike one. 10 of 12 batters have gotten strike one from Vogelsong thus far. Vogelsong gets up 0-2 but loses two changeups way out of the zone, however the 2-2 is a nasty, nasty curveball in the dirt swung on and missed. Second strikeout for Vogelsong and that was probably the nastiest pitch I’ve ever seen Vogelsong throw. Again ahead 0-1, Vogelsong gives up a single to Soriano. That was a no-doubt hard-hit single. Vogelsong barely misses with the first pitch this time to LaHair, and the 2-1 is hit squarely but right at Pagan in center, two down. The first pitch to Stewart is a strike on a change-up, and the 1-2 is what looked like a strike on a fastball, but Posey inexplicably makes a snap throw to first… It was close getting Soriano out at first base, but it looked like strike three that Posey obscured with his motion by trying to get Soriano. It turns out to be moot, because the next pitch is hit sharply to first for a groundout, and the inning is over.
Fourth Inning: Vogelsong is again ahead 0-1 on Darwin Barney, but on the 1-2 Barney rolls one to short that barely gets under Crawford’s glove for a leadoff single. That would’ve been an out with a better play at short. Another hitter down 0-1, LaHair lifts one to left for a quick flyout, one down. Next up is Samardzija who bunts one a little too hard and Belt throws out Barney at second and the Giants almost turn the double play, but it’s Samardzija on first with two down. We got to see some of his wide receiver speed right there. Again up 0-1 on Campana, and Vogelsong gets him to flyout to left to end the inning.
Fifth Inning: On the 1-0 to Castro, Vogelsong induces a lazy flyball to left, one down on two pitches. Vogelsong gets up 0-1 on DeJesus and gets him to ground one softly right back to him and it’s two down on four pitches. He then falls behind 2-0 on Soriano with two breaking balls falling low, but the next pitch is lofted to center and it’s a one, two three inning on seven pitches.
Sixth Inning: The first pitch of the sixth is a ball and on Vogelsong’s second pitch LaHair grounds weakly to Theriot on the shift, one down. Vogelsong is right back to attacking, up 0-2 on Stewart with a 4-seam then 2-seam fastball. On the 1-2, Vogelsong goes cutter dipping low and it’s swung on and missed, two down. Three Ks for Vogelsong. Again up 0-1, and Barney grounds out to short and it’s another three-up, three-down from Vogelsong, this time on 8 pitches.
Seventh Inning: Vogelsong falls behind 1-0, but works it to 2-2 and gets Clevenger to flyout to left, one down. He falls behind again to pinch-hitter Adrian Cardenas 1-0, and after two strikes works it to 1-2, but the 2-2 curveball gets a little too much of the plate and Cardenas sits on it and smacks a double to right. That one hung a little and it’s probably Vogelsong’s last inning with that pitch – one of his worst on the day. Vogelsong gets ahead of Campana 0-1 with an 89-MPH two-seamer, then goes right back there and gets him to ground out to second. Two down, runner on third with Castro to the plate. This will be a nice final out if Vogelsong can get it. He starts with a curveball that dances on the outer edge of the plate to go up 0-1, a perfect first-pitch strike. After a ball outside, Vogelsong throws an 87-MPH fastball that’s laced to Theriot at second, it hops off his glove, but bounces right to his free hand and he’s still able to throw Castro out to end the inning. Not exactly the best way to end your day, but sure enough Vogelsong exits the game and picks up a run in the bottom half that ends up giving him the win.
Final Line: W 7 Innings 101 Pitches (71 Strikes)
8 Hits 0 Walks 2 ERs 3 Ks
Final Analysis: Yet another quality start and great performance from Vogelsong. He’s gone into the seventh inning in all of his ten starts this season. I was debating whether to break down Vogelsong or Jeff Samardzija for this game, and decided to go with Vogelsong because I like him more for this season. And boy was I reaffirmed.
It took Samardzija 9 more pitches to get through five innings while Vogelsong got through seven, and even though Samardzija battled with control (5 walks in this one), that hasn’t been a big issue for him as of late. Vogelsong’s mound presence and constant attack of hitters makes him more valuable to me. Sure Samardzija will probably beat Vogelsong in Ks, but I like Ryan V in the four other main pitching categories.
Constantly getting first pitch strikes and fighting through an unlucky second inning, this is the perfect start you want to see from one of your back of rotation starters. You see a line of 8 Hits and 2 ERs against the Cubs and shrug it off, but in reality that second inning had 3 flukish hits on a total of 5 singles (4 of the 5 with two outs) in what could have kept many other pitchers from sticking with it and turning out such a great game afterwards.
It’s funny that when you think of Giants pitchers, analysts are always asked to rank Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner… I think Vogelsong belongs in that discussion, and maybe minus the K rate will be right in there with the numbers of those other pitching giants (oops, pardon the pun). The Giants have the best rotation in baseball in my opinion, yes better than the Nationals, and when they get Pablo Sandoval back this could be a dangerous team yet again heading towards the postseason.
Even without racking up the strikeouts, Vogelsong is a quality pitcher in every other way. He attacks the zone keeping his pitch count down, he’s able to bounce back from misfortune, has 4 quality pitches (well 5 if you count 4-seam and 2-seam to go along with a cutter, change-up, and curveball), and plays in the best division and one of the best parks for pitchers. If for some reason he’s unowned grab him now, and if you’re looking to trade an owner who happens to have Vogelsong as well, try to get him in there as “filler.” Despite not having as much street cred, I like Vogelsong much more than a lot of the buzz pitchers who have started well this year.