Edinson Volquez at Peak Stuff

After Edinson Volquez last pitched, the Jays batters had a fair amount to say about his stuff. Yes, his velocity boost has been third-best this postseason, but Jose Bautista and Chris Colabello told Jordan Bastian that his movement was different from how they remembered him.

From Bastian’s piece at MLB.com:

“His fastball is playing with a little rise, rather than sink,” Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello said. “When he’s lower 90s, I think he has a tendency to sink a little bit more. Right now, it’s more of a lateral movement, or an upshoot.”

“His fastball wasn’t running that much,” Bautista said. “I think he was trying to throw a little harder and it was straighter. I kept hitting the bottom of the ball. I was expecting to see more sink.”

It’s true that his movement has been a little different at these higher velocities, and it’s also true that there’s a little less sink right now. October isn’t a full month yet, but as a month, it shows the trend. The drop on his sinker just had the second-worst month he’s had in the last five years. His curve was third-worst.

Colabello is also right to talk about how his stuff has more run than it has drop these days. His four-seam, sinker, change, and curve — all of his pitches just had the their best months of the year when it comes to sideways movement. For his fastballs, they were the best sideways-movement numbers of his career. It’s all probably related to a falling arm slot — in the same way that Yordano Ventura has added some arm-side run with a new slot, and Johnny Cueto’s stuff has turned more sideways than vertical with a falling arm slot, Volquez also just showed his lowest arm slot of the last five years.

Adding velocity also naturally removes some movement, as your pitch has less time to move. Among sinkers thrown regularly by starters over 93 mph, ten had more sink, and four had less. Volquez’s current sinker is most like the one thrown by noted fireballer Andrew Cashner.

That Volquez has lost some sink and gained some run is generally true of the postseason, even if the effect is somewhat small. But in that one game that he’s coming off of, Volquez may have had peak stuff. Or, at least, he was combining some of his best sink and run with his highest velocities.

Since he started this most recent run of success with Pittsburgh last year, there are 70 separate Volquez games listed in the PITCHf/x database. Here is how his last start ranked in a few key movement and velocity categories.

Edinson Volquez’s Last Start Movement and Velocities, Ranked
Pitch Velocity Rank Horizontal Movement Rank Vertical Movement Rank
Two-Seam 1st 2nd 56th
Changeup 1st 32nd 4th
Curveball 2nd 19th 56th
Velocity = Pitch velocities of the 10/21 start ranked against last 70 starts by descending MPH, except for change, which is ranked by biggest fastball/change velocity difference, in MPH

Generally, Volquez’s stuff is tilting sideways instead of vertically, and, generally, that’s led to more whiffs on the sinker and change this year. He’s throwing some legitimate rising four-seamers, too, maybe a few per game.

But in that last game against Toronto, he showed some of his old sink combined with the new velocity and great run. He had the second-best drop on his sinker and change since the calendar turned to September. He had the best run on his sinker and change since April. He had the best velocity gap between his changeup and sinker since 2012.

Given that the 32-year-old Edinson Volquez is in the middle of his best two-year stretch of his career, is showing the best velocity of his career, and is also showing some of the best (relative) movement of the season, it’s fair to wonder if he’s showing his best stuff right now. It certainly looks like it.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Ned Yost
8 years ago

These articles are great, I feel like it should be pay content.