Possibly the most scrutinized signing of the offseason came when the Pittsburgh Pirates gave $5 million to Edinson Volquez. Sure, it was just a one-year deal and $5 million isn’t much to most teams. The Pirates, however, aren’t most teams. Volquez is the Pirates’ sixth-highest paid player. For a while, it looked like the Bucs and pitching coach Ray Searage may have fixed Volquez, but it’s starting to look like those claims were a bit premature.
In his first five starts, Volquez looked like the Pirates’ best starter, walking no more than two batters in any of his starts and allowing no more than two earned runs. Since then, he has made two starts, pitching 10.2 innings and allowing 12 earned runs.
The difference for Volquez has been his command. In his first five appearances, the veteran walked just five batters. In his past two starts, he has walked four. When his command disappears, he looks a lot like the old Volquez.
Obviously, the old Volquez is not something the Pirates want to see very often. In 883.2 innings, Volquez has a career 4.70 ERA and has 4.63 BB/9. Oddly enough, Volquez has been successful this year while having just 4.81 K/9, and he has had a terrible rest of his career while putting up a much better 8.28 K/9.
If Volquez was serving as the Pirates’ fifth-starter, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to be struggling a bit. However, he has been one of the only bright spots for the Pirates this season, and the rest of the starters haven’t pitched to their capabilities.
It is probably a bit too early to write off Volquez completely, but it is certainly a worrisome sign to see his control starting to fail him. In his next couple starts, we will see if Searage really did fix Volquez or if the veteran pitcher just pitched way better than he is capable of in his first few starts. The Pirates desperately need it to be the former rather than the latter.