Please End the Velasquez "Starting Pitcher" Experiment

716 days ago, Vince Velasquez shocked Phillies fans when he was able to strike out 16 batters in his second start of the 2016 season. Since that start that made everyone a Velasquez fan, the starting pitcher has shown no signs of being that dominant pitcher again.

No starting pitcher can be expected to strike out 16 batters let alone 10 every single start. No starting pitcher can be expected to win every 5th night during the regular season. However, every starting pitcher in the Major Leagues should be able to give your team a chance to win each time they step on the mound. Since that day on April 14th in 2016, Velasquez has become more of a liability than someone to lean on.

There is no question that the young right-hander has a fastball that you can miss in the blink of an eye. No one doubts that Velasquez has electrifying stuff that could cause excitement when you know he is about to pitch. The problem isn’t his stuff, the problem is his role on the Phillies. It is time to end the experiment. “Starting Pitcher” should no longer be seen next to his name. It is time to move him to the bullpen and save his career.

In his 2018 season debut, Velasquez could not even make it out of the 3rd inning. While facing the Atlanta Braves, a team that is expected to finish near the bottom of the entire league, the right-hander allowed a total of 7 runs (4 earned) on 9 hits and 2 walks. In just 2 2/3 innings, Velasquez threw 69 pitches and ended his season debut with an ERA of 13.50.

What we saw last Saturday night, is not something new for Philadelphia fans when it comes to Velasquez. Last season was an injury plagued year for the young righty, but each time we did get a chance to see him pitch, the numbers were troubling. In 2017, Velasquez was only available to start in 15 games. Of those 15 games, he threw a pitch in the 6th inning only 6 times; that is under half of his starts on the year. 2016 was not much better when he made 24 starts and reached the 6th inning only 14 times.

There is one solution to solve this problem, and it does not involve trading him, releasing him, or sending him down to the minor leagues. His stuff is too dominant to just give up on him completely, but it is time to give up on him as a starting pitcher. In a year where the Phillies do not have an every night closer (because manager Gabe Kapler refuses to name one), there is an opportunity to see what Velasquez has in a closing role.

Think about this for a minute: an upper 90s fastball, a slider to change the speed and approach of a batter, and enough juice for 1 inning a day, he has the making to be a closer. We will not see a move like this in the next few weeks, but it is something the Phillies should start to consider. If they make the move now, they admit that their starting rotation is weak, but it also shows that they are willing to make tough decisions. At this point, the decision would not only help the team, but the strength of his arm.

If you need more numbers to make your decision, the right-hander has made 47 starts in his Major League career. Of those 47 starts, only 16 of them are what statistics call a “quality start.” A “quality start” is defined as a pitcher who goes 6 innings while only allowing 3 or less earned runs. Those numbers tell you that Vince Velasquez has only had a quality start in 34% of his career. Again, he is more of a liability at this point for the Phillies.

For Velasquez, a guy who struggles to pitch past the 5th inning because of his pitch count, his stuff is most dominant the first time through the order. Not only do batters start to figure him out the 2nd time around, but Velasquez starts to slow down because his upper 90s fastball loses its juice. Moving him right to the closer role will save his arm, and it will better the Phillies chances when he is not starting that night.

 

- Andrew Salciunas - Phillies Contributor for 975thefanatic.com

Producer of the Mayes and Myrtetus Midday Show - Monday-Friday 10:00a-2:00p