Remember this article from back in June? Go look at the poll, and check out those comments; Edinson Volquez was the only starter the Royals could consistently count on to even keep the game within a few runs. This is no longer true, though it’s gone under the radar as the Royals continue to win game after game.
Ian Kennedy and Yordano Ventura have both really turned around their seasons lately. Danny Duffy continued to produce legitimate ace results until we finally believed in them. But check out these two stat lines for a pair of Royals pitchers from July 31st through August 28th, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:
|Player||G||Results||Decision||IP||WHIP||K||K/9||XBH(HR)||XBH/9||ERA||AVG||OBP||SLG||OPS||WPA||Avg. Run Support||Avg. Game Score|
One of those starters hasn’t done very well, and the other has been even worse. You probably already figured it out because of context clues, but the first player is Edinson Volquez. The other is Dillon Gee, who has a two-inning relief appearance mixed into his last five starts.
Volquez has given up fewer home runs - though more extra base hits overall in fewer innings - and received more run support; in every other way he's been worse. Gee has given the Royals more innings per start, allowed fewer base runners, struck out more, and most importantly allowed fewer runs.
There is not much of an argument to be made that Dillon Gee has been a good starter for the Royals this year. His last five starts, the ones averaging a game score of 48.8 (below the starting value of 50, which means they are not good) are all among his ten best starts this season. Volquez, on the other hand, has had some pretty good starts this year, but only one of those has occurred since June, on July 18th
His five-inning start against Miami on Thursday was his best start since then, but it easily could have been among his worst. If Cheslor Cuthbert had whiffed on his dive instead of snagging the ball and then throwing it away, the two unearned runs would have been earned. Without a pair of stunning plays in the first inning by Raul Mondesi and Jarrod Dyson, Volquez would have given up at least one more run and probably two. Considering the fact that those two runs would also not have been outs, it might have gotten even uglier before the inning was finished. Gee has also benefited from the superb Royals defense and even has a lower BABIP with a similar batted ball profile. However, the plays made in that inning for Volquez were unprecedented, even by the Royals' standards.
Edinson Volquez has begun to look more and more like a certain infamous Royals pitcher. Both were acquired with little fanfare and were mostly just expected to eat innings at best. Both pitched much better in their first season with the Royals than anyone had anticipated. In the final year of their contracts things started to fall apart. Each pitcher kept the Royals in the games they pitched for the most part, but that had a lot to do with the run support they received and varied definitions of 'in the game. It was also frequently said of them that they were steady veterans and you knew what you were going to get from them. The frequent argument in support of these pitchers is something to the effect of "if you take out that one start where he gave up a lot of runs in the first inning he hasn't been bad at all!"
The resemblance referred to belongs to none other than Jeremy Guthrie. Volquez has not yet descended to the level of horror that was Guthrie’s final season, but he is not as far from it as you would like either. Even so, he’s likely to be a factor in the Royals’ playoff rotation should they finish pulling off this latest miracle-in-the-making and get that far. He might very well receive a qualifying offer from the Royals this off-season, too. Royals’ fans’ only hope then will be for some other team to overpay even more to acquire his ‘services.'
Until then, Edinson Volquez is still pitching.