This is the way it’s always been with Vince Velasquez.
After Monday night’s frustrating outing against the St. Louis Cardinals in which the mercurial right-hander lasted just four innings and gave up three home runs, five runs total, and threw 98 pitches while recording just 12 outs, fans have a right to wonder just how much more rope Velasquez has as a member of the Phillies starting rotation, especially when one considers Nick Pivetta got yanked from the rotation after just four starts just a couple weeks ago.
If you look at the raw numbers from his first six starts of the season, you see a reasonable ERA of 3.86 and a solid 32 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. But you also see 15 walks (4.5BB/9), seven homers allowed (2.1HR/9), and a FIP of 5.61. You also see a pitcher who has not gone more than five innings in each of his last three starts, and in four of the six so far this season.
These are not new trends.
His first four starts this year were excellent. He had a 2.08 ERA and pitched 21.2 innings, allowing a slash line of .203/.276/.392. In the two games that followed, his ERA is 9.39 and opponents have hit .303/.439/.758.
In his first 21 starts last year, he had a 3.80 ERA and opponents hit .222/.299/.378. In his last nine starts, his ERA was 8.45 and hitters slashed .333/.418/.541 against him. His max outing was five innings, done twice, and he only lasted four innings in three other starts to finish up the season. The 2016 and 2017 seasons were much the same.
Yes, this is the same person who, before the season opened, urged you to remember that Velasquez was better than you remember for large stretches of the 2018 season. And while that remains true, it’s also true the stakes are higher this season and, as the Pivetta demotion demonstrated, patience for this type of inconsistency will not be tolerated for long.
And according to The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro, it doesn’t sound as if Gabe Kapler has any more patience than you.
“I haven’t made any determinations beyond tonight,” Kapler said. “I’m still evaluating what we saw tonight. It’s going to take some time to look at the outing.”
It’s also ridiculous that Velasquez was reportedly shaking off J.T. Realmuto in important situations Monday night.
Vince Velasquez, who gave up 3 home runs last night, kept shaking off J.T. Realmuto's game plan. His catcher didn't understand why. "Like, that’s my job to do the thinking. He’s best when he just gets up there and focuses on execution." @M_Montemurro: https://t.co/cQEAvltR6v— The Athletic (@TheAthleticPHI) May 7, 2019
Montemurro reported Velasquez admitted he didn’t listen to his veteran catcher.
“I should do a better job trusting J.T. back there,” Velasquez said of his outing. “He does a great job studying the guys and knowing what works. It seemed like my secondary pitches were kind of working a lot better than I thought, forcing some ground balls. In that situation, it probably could’ve led to a different outcome.”
That’s flat-out ridiculous. Realmuto, for his part, couldn’t understand it either, and one would hope a lesson was learned.
It also doesn’t help that Velasquez is frustrating to watch. He takes forever between pitches, and runs long, deep counts. Last night, Cardinals hitters fouled off 21 pitches from Velasquez. TWENTY-ONE. He walked four batters in four innings last night, and at times falls too much in love with his fastball, which averages a career-high 94.6 mph this year. He’s thrown it 69.3% of the time, also a career-high.
He throws hard, but has little command and can’t put hitters away.
As much as I like Velasquez’ talent, and as dominating as he can look at times, I’ve run out of patience. Given the rapidity with which Pivetta was shuttled to Lehigh Valley and the degree to which Pivetta’s name has been talked about as a potential bullpen arm, it’s fair to wonder if Velasquez isn’t headed down that same road.
Velasquez should get one or two starts at most to prove this wasn’t anything more than a two-outing slump, but history has shown us this is simply who Vince Velasquez is and that it’s not good enough for a team with postseason aspirations.