Does anyone remember when Vince Vaughn was funny? It was a time long ago in a land far, far away, your wife was still dating guys wearing Armani Exchange shirts, and George W. Bush was using words like strategrey. It was long before the abortion that was True Detective Season 2, or Couples Retreat, and sometime between Swingers, and The Breakup. In that wrinkle in time Vince Vaughn ruled the box office, and the douchy part of our soul where things like Ed Hardy t-shirts, mirror selfies, and Criss Angel performances still roam free. So where am I going with this awkwardly constructed analogy? I’ll hurry up and get to the point, today’s subject Vince Velasquez has much in common with his big screen brother in initials, way beyond his first name and banal use of the word “Bae-be”. He too started his career with a bang, and universal love during his brief stay in Houston, and then the early season dominance in 2016. And much like Mr. Vaughn, Velasquez took on the task of leading man in the drama that is the Philadelphia Phillies 2017, but unfortunately he just hasn’t been able to recapture the magic. Maybe Velasquez’s nightmare seems less like a heroin dream, and more like a string of poor performances. But the effect is still the same, you just don’t view their latest release with the same excitement you used to. So when I was tasked with covering Velasquez this week by our fearless leader Grey Albright, it felt like a choir singing to me. Perhaps it was the angelic voice of Mr. Albright, perhaps it was my paycheck. Either way, when Grey Albright comes to you and asks “Can you see what’s happin’ with this young brother”, you A. wonder when he became a member of 5% Nation, B. you profile Vince Velasquez. So to the God Grey Albright this is for you…
Scouting Report: Velasquez is a power pitcher through and through, his arsenal is led by a dynamic mid 90’s four-seam fastball, that sits between 93-97. V2’s heat generates mores swings and misses than league average, producing a whiff rate of 11.8% on the pitch. The Fangraphs pitch value on the fastball of 5.2 is significantly higher than normal for a four-seamer with a usage rate of nearly 70%. So long story short, he’s got a great four seam fastball.
The story of Velasquez’s struggles this season, and really throughout his career, boil down to his sinker, and trio of off-speed pitches. While his four-seamer generates a 50%+ flyball rate, his off-speed stuff induces groundballs at rates of greater than 50% on each. The slider and changeup produce the highest whiff rates of his secondaries, each generating swings and misses at 12-13%. His slider is by far the better pitch, limiting batters to a batting average against of .250, while the change has gotten beat up this season to the tune of a .462 batting average against. The curveball and sinker aren’t far behind, with a BAA against of .435 on the hook, and .333 on the sinker. This is why the usage rate of 6.6% on his best secondary, the slider, is baffling. Let’s get into the tape, and see what answers await, because on the surface there’s a lot of unanswered in Velasquez’s profile.
92 MPH sinker, down and in, strike 1, 94 MPH 4 seamer, middle in, foul ball, 94 MPH FB, middle up, swing and miss by Blackmon. Three pitch strikeout.
94 MPH sinker, low and inside, poorly called strike 1, 94 MPH four-seam high and outside, popped up, Velasquez has 5 consecutive strikes on 5 consecutive fastballs, 77 MPH curveball low in the zone is hit for a single through the hole between short and third.
94 MPH Fastball high to the inside corner, strike 1, hangs another curveball, and Arenado smacks it between the same space Desmond’s single found.
Strike 1 in a 94 MPH four-seamer to the outside, 93 MPH fastball way outside, Ball 1, 91 MPH sinker, low for ball 2, 93 MPH four-seam to the outside swung and missed at 93, strike 2, Velasquez goes right back to the heat on the outside, breezing a 95 MPH pitch through the swinging Car-Go. Strikeout!
94 MPH fastball high and inside, swing and missed, strike 1, 95 MPH high to the glove side fouled back for strike 2, 93 MPH FB outside is taken for ball 1, 94 MPH about chin high and over the plate, is popped up for out number three.
The curveball killed Vince in this inning, accounting for both hits. The four-swam fastball looked great particularly to the arm-side. The at bats that were exclusively fastballs were dominant.
Change up down the pike at 90 MPH, taken for strike 1, a 93 MPH sinker drops low and inside to Story for ball 1, curveball at 82 middle-in whacked foul, 94 MPH down Main St. Is fouled back again, 1-2 count, 92 MPH high and inside, ball 2, 95 MPH to the glove-side of the plate fouled back again, 93 MPH elevating above the zone, full count, 93 MPH fastball is hit for a lazy flyball to left.
93 MPH over the inside part of the plate, strike 1, fastball at 94 to the outside part of the plate, ball 1, another fastball taken for ball 2, 93 MPH four-seamer swing and missed on the inside, strike 2, Velasquez goes right back to the fastball on the outside part of the plate for a swinging strike 3.
94 MPH sinker outside, ball 1, high fastball at 94, ball 2, fastball down the middle at 93 is fouled back, 2-1 count, 93 MPH fastball to the outside is turned on for a single.
92 MPH to the outside, ball 1, swinging strike 1 to the inside, another fastball at 94 to the outside part of the plate, swinging strike 2, fastball at 93 is whacked foul, 96 MPH fastball over the plate is a swing and miss for strike 3.
Inning started off great but you could see he missed his spot a couple times and it got to him. He calmed down after a visit from Rupp, and struck out the pitcher.
Fastball at 92 starts off Blackmon for strike 1, curveball to the outside ball 1, another curveball outside at 77 ball 2, 91 MPH changeup to the outside for ball 3, 92 MPH sinker on the inside for a questionable strike 2, four consecutive fastballs are fouled off, before we see his first slider, also fouled off, Velasquez gets him on a swinging strike three on a high heater.
93 MPH fastball high and inside fouled for strike 1, an 83 MPH slider to the outside gets a swinging strike two, that pitch is nice, 95 MPH fastball down Main Street is hit by the second baseman for another single.
84 MPH slider is taken for a ball, as Desmond heads to second, and is called out on the replay, 87 MPH slider low is taken for ball 2, a 92 MPH four seamer to the glove side is swung and missed for strike 1, another fastball at 93 gets a foul for strike 2, a 94 MPH middle in is fouled again, 81 MPH curveball gets away from him for a ball 3, another awful curveball brushes Arenado back for a walk.
Fastball on the outside for 93, fouled back for strike 1, fastball for a ball, followed by a fastball that’s hit into right field for a single.
85 MPH slider taken low for ball 1, fastball low and inside taken again for strike 1, fastball over the plate is fouled off for strike 2, fastball at 94 is high and inside, foul tip, 83 MPH slider gets a grounder to Franco who throws to second for the force out to end the inning.
A 30 pitch inning for Velasquez, heavily inflated by his battle with Blackmon. He introduced the slider finally, and it easily could have gotten away from him, but he buckled down and got the job done.
Fastball 91, middle in, fouled for strike 1, curveball at 82 over the middle, strike 2, fastball middle middle is launched to right center for a homer.
Fastball down the middle, strike 1, curveball to the outside taken for ball 1, another curve is whacked to right for a single.
Leads with a 92 MPH fastball down the middle for strike 1, 93 MPH on the inside fouled back, strike 2, another fastball fouled back, curve to the outside gets a groundball and Amarista is out on a fielder’s choice.
Immediate sacrifice for Anderson, moves the runner along.
Slider to the outside fouled off, strike 1, 92 MPH low and inside, ball 1, another low fastball chased for strike 2, 94 MPH fastball to the outside is taken for strike 3.
Two mistakes to Story and Amarista, otherwise a solid inning.
Fastball at 92 MPH taken for ball 1, another 92 MPH over the plate is hit for a lazy fly to right field.
Fastball at 94 is fouled off. Change up at 87 is fouled back as well, strike 2, 92 MPH fastball up high gets a swing and a miss from Arenado.
Fastball at 93 is hit to the right side for a hard grounder. Car-Go moves to second on Michael Saunders lackadaisical defense.
Fastball 93 MPH low and outside, ball 1, 94 MPH fastball middle and high swing and a miss, strike 1, slider at 83 taken for ball 2, 94 MPH fastball fouled off for strike 2, 93 MPH pitch is hit and popped up for a fly out to right field.
A solid final inning for Vince, as he manages to only allow one hit to Car-Go on a hard grounder. His day is over, and he ends it on a high note making quick work of the heart of the Rockies order.
5 IP, 8 Hits, 1 ER, 1 Bb, 7 K’s, 94 Pitches, 70 Strikes, Game score 50
Summary: This was one of the stronger starts of Velasquez’s season, which is saying something, that it’s a 5 inning 1 run effort. His fastball is dynamic and as good as advertised, but no surprises there. He commands it well all throughout the zone, as well as to both sides of the plate. Velasquez rarely misses his spots with his four-seamer. The curveball on the other hand is god awful. After consecutive weeks of profiling pitchers with elite curveballs this stood in stark contrast. He needs to throw that pitch almost never, because hitters eat it up.
As the numbers alluded to in my pre-scout dig, he needs to throw his slider more. It generates weak contact, and if sequenced correctly could be a real weapon. His change is nothing more than a straight, less fast, fastball. In fact I’m sure I mis-identified his change as a fastball once or twice. Overall not a bad start, and there’s certainly room for improvement, though it might be a slow burn.
Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings for ROS based on 12-team Roto)
- I ranked Johnny Cueto above Gerrit Cole if only based off of the better K/9 numbers, and superior swing and miss stuff. However his 27% LD% allowed is bad, like my Perts League Team bad. When Johnny has been bad, he’s been atrocious.
- As a big fan of Rick Porcello, it pains me to say this, but he has to be moved down. Even if he’s not pitching that poorly. When you average 10 hits a game over the course of four consecutive starts it’s tough to take a positive spin. Sure his K’s are up (8.96), and the walk rate is still elite (1.71), but a 1.48 WHIP is a 1.48 WHIP. He’s also had the antithetical run support of 2016, getting literally zero runs from the Red Sox offense in 6 of 9 starts. Pitching is a different game without a 5 run lead.
- Danny Salazar has been moved to the bullpen and is hence off the list. He still leads all qualified starters in K/9, but he’s been hit hard, and had trouble finding the zone on Saturday. Francona made it sound like it might be one or two turns in the rotation. Salazar should be back in the rotation and the ranks by the second week of June.
- Peripherally speaking, which sounds like something you’d say to give context to a blindfolded Pepsi challenge, Jeff Samardzija is having a great season. I mean seriously how good does this look, 10.46 K/9, 1.46 Bb/9, 2.95 SIERA, 3 positive value pitches according to Fangraphs, and an 11.6% SwStr? Pretty good, amirite? The only significant approach change for Samardzija has been all but scrapping that “Cooper Cutter”, he started leaning on during his Season 2 of True Detective in Chicago two years ago. His ratios have been inflated by a trio of bad starts in Arizona, Colorado, and …….at the Mets?!?
- One of the toughest starters to rank is Ivan Nova, on one hand he’s like mint flavored lube for your ratios, on the other a 4.76 K/9 is a major strain on your strikeout totals. Much like the O.G. Nova, he’s perfect for PBS. That’s a public broadcasting joke.
- Over his past four starts Kenta Maeda has been who we thought he was, going 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA/2.39 FIP/3.36 xFIP, a 4.17 K/Bb, and just 1 homer over 25.1 innings. He was awful in his first four starts, going 1-2 with a 8.05 ERA, 3.80 K/Bb, and 7 homers allowed over 19 innings.
- I know, I know, Rich Hill should probably be higher, but his rank is discounted by significant injury concerns. If it’s not the blisters that get him, it will be the Dodgers musical DL chair. If he’s healthy, he’s a top 25 starter.
- Hey, Masahiro Tanaka! Great game! Seriously *reaches out, mats hair on Tanaka’s head*, good work little buddy. *Looks at camera Ferris Buehler style* So guys, Friday was great and all, but do you trust this guy?
- RIP Charlie Morton 2017 hype, it was fun while it lasted. Glad we had a chance to work together. He’s down with a lat sprain, so I buried him deep in the 60’s. The 60’s are to mediocre pitchers as the 40’s are to good ones. A waiting room for redemption or death.
- After watching David Price’s rehab in Pawtucket last week, I’m slotting him outside the top 50. Let’s see what we get today in Chicago. When you more or less admit that if you were 25 you would have opted for surgery, it can only mean one thing. You need surgery.
- The Dodgers are just being pains now, they placed Alex Wood on the DL two hours before this posted. He’s been discounted accordingly.