Vincent Velasquez’s 2016 season is over after his start Saturday against the Braves. As we look towards 2017 and beyond, we should ponder where Velasquez fits in the Phillies plans. Is he the top-tier starter we’re hoping for?
Velasquez’s best month strikeout-wise came in August, where he struck out 12.3 batters per nine innings. His arsenal was firing on all cylinders, as his four-seam fastball, sinker, and curveball all generated whiffs on about 30% of swings.
While Velasquez continued to rack up the strikeouts, his pitch count continued to rise. One of the drawbacks of being a strikeout-first pitcher is that they often will tally high pitch counts.
Velasquez is 39th in all of baseball in three-pitch strikeouts.
Velasquez threw 2213 pitches in 131 innings this year. He averaged 16.9 pitches per inning, the 18th-most in the MLB among pitchers with 120 innings or more. His 92 pitches per start comes in at 91st in all of baseball.
With such a high pitch count, Velasquez often left games before he could reach the later innings. He managed to reach the seventh inning just four times, while leaving prior to the sixth ten times.
Even though Velasquez would be pitching well, manager Pete Mackanin would be forced to pull Velasquez from the game early.
This brings us to the question about Velasquez’s future with the Phillies; can he remain in the rotation if he struggles to go deep into games?
In addition, Velasquez has an extensive injury history dating back to the beginning of his minor-league career. Prior to the 2011 season, Velasquez underwent Tommy John surgery, missing all of that season along with the first two months of the 2012 season. This season was the first time Velasquez threw more than 100 innings for the first time since 2013.
Jun 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (28) leaves the game after an injury during the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Velasquez’s injury history casts doubt on whether or not he can sustain a starter’s workload.
If the club believes Velasquez has that kind of talent, they would be foolish to ever use him as a reliever. He brings more potential than someone like Brett Myers, who bounced between the pen and rotation. However, their numbers are eerily similar, as both throw a lot of pitches in a low amount of innings.