The Pittsburgh Pirates clearly think they can turn any pitcher into an All-Star. After they signed Edinson Volquez, I didn’t really understand it, so I wrote a quick reaction piece on why I didn’t like the move. Like most moves the Pirates make, I then thought about it endlessly for a few weeks, and I have come to the conclusion that I still don’t understand the decision to sign Volquez.
The idea that the Bucs think they can turn Volquez into the next Francisco Liriano is silly for a few reasons. First of all, Liriano is a lefty, and Volquez is a right-handed pitcher. PNC Park is extremely favorable to southpaw pitchers because it is favorable to left-handed hitters. They cancel each other out. Left-handed pitchers tend to shut down left-handed hitters, meaning that PNC Park’s favorable dimensions don’t help the hitter in this case. Right field is extremely deep at PNC Park, so right-handed hitters tend to struggle to hit for power in Pittsburgh, even against lefty pitchers.
Another reason this move is unlikely to work out is because Liriano had been dominant in his career prior to coming to the Pirates, Volquez hasn’t. Liriano had two seasons in his pre-Pirates career with xFIPs lower than 3.00 and a few others with xFIPS lower than 4.00. Volquez has had one season with an xFIP lower than 4.00, it was 3.84 in 2008.
Liriano’s major problem is that he hasn’t had great control for the majority of his career, but he had a few decent control seasons before. A huge factor for his resurgence with the Bucs was that he regained his command. Volquez has had terrible command throughout his entire career — his best BB/9 in his career was 3.97 in 2007.
At least with Liriano the Pirates had previous success to point to as a reason for optimism. With Volquez, he had one decent season, and the rest of his career has been horrible. Signing Volquez made no sense, and giving him $5 million made even less sense.