The Reds are in first place after the All-Star game and are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 1995. In order to help them finish out the season, they will be adding a pitcher who arguably vaults to the top of the rotation in Edinson Volquez, who will be making his return from Tommy John surgery on Saturday.
The Reds have already used nine starters this year, partially thanks to injuries to Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey. The rotation currently features three rookies, in Mike Leake, Travis Wood, and Matt Maloney, and Sam LeCure has also seen time in the rotation. As a whole, this group, along with Harang, Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, and Johnny Cueto have seen decent results, with a 4.10 ERA. But peripherals suggest that this group is performing over its head – as a whole, they have a 4.43 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP, and I’m not sure if that kind of talent is good enough to stave off the Cardinals for another 70 games.
Volquez likely won’t be the kind of ace that he looked like in 2008, where he threw 196 innings of 3.60 FIP baseball. He was poor before going down with injury in 2009, wasn’t much good in 2007, and is coming off one of the hardest surgeries to recover from in all of sports. But ZiPS still projected a 4.04 FIP for this season and CHONE projected a 4.11 mark, which is almost certainly a large improvement over Maloney, who hasn’t shown the ability to draw strikeouts in the MLB. If he hits around his ZiPS projection and can throw about 70 innings, he’ll provide about 1.0 WAR for Cincinnati, and at this point, every win is extremely important.
Of course, there’s a good amount of uncertainty surrounding Volquez given the fact that he is returning from Tommy John surgery. Given his excellent performance at AAA, where he struck out 28 and only walked eight in 31 innings, there’s reason to believe that Volquez is ready to go. It would be unreasonable for Cincinnati to expect Volquez to become a true ace for them, but he should become the best pitcher on the team, at least until Harang’s return. The fact that they’ve been able to hold first place until the cavalry could arrive is a great sign for the team. If Volquez can even be 75% of what he was in 2008, the Reds will be in excellent shape in their quest for the NL Central crown.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.