Every time Edinson Volquez makes an appearance in a Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training game, the team’s $5 million investment looks worse. Prior to Volquez’s appearance in the Pirates’ Sunday game against the Baltimore Orioles, he had a 9.00 ERA in three innings. He would leave the game with an ERA much worse than that.
The problems for Volquez are obvious. He can’t locate his pitches, resulting in far too many walks allowed. On Sunday, Volquez threw 24 pitches. Surprisingly, only one pitch was a ball. Despite not allowing any walks, something clearly wasn’t working, as the right-handed hurler allowed seven hits and six earned runs in 2.2 innings pitched.
It certainly isn’t unfair to criticize the Pirates’ decision to sign Volquez in the first place. However, giving him $5 million was just silly. Every time I write about Volquez, I find myself referencing the endless comparisons to last year’s reclamation project, Francisco Liriano. I don’t understand where the comparisons are coming from.
Think about it. Liriano had been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball at one time. The 2006, 2008 and 2010 seasons were all excellent for Liriano prior to signing with the Bucs. Volquez, who made the jump to MLB in the same year as Liriano, 2005, had only one decent season prior to this year. That season was way back in 2008.
Sure, the problems with the two pitchers are all the same. They both don’t succeed when they struggle to throw strikes. However, the level at which the two struggle with command isn’t even close. For his career, Liriano has 3.77 BB/9, while Volquez is at 4.75 BB/9. Volquez walks almost an entire batter more per nine innings than Liriano has throughout his career. It’s a dangerous thing to look too much into Spring Training stats, but so far, it looks like the Pirates may have gotten their pitching coach, Ray Searage, a little bit in over his head with Volquez.