Do you hear that? It’s the sound of coaches, broadcasters, pundits (and sadly fans) doing the Vince Velasquez dance. By now, we should all know how it goes: Velasquez shows some positive signs - and to be sure, he’s showed some very positive signs this exhibition season - and people start to believe in Velasquez’s potential. It doesn’t take long before they start saying things like, “Maybe Vinny is figuring it out,” or “I think Velasquez might have finally turned the corner.”
Vince Velasquez just finished another strong outing -- and against the Yankees' best lineup. I'm open to the idea of his cutter being a game-changer.— Scott White (@CBSScottWhite) July 21, 2020
Here’s the problem: It’s been over four years since that game, and Velasquez hasn’t come remotely close to replicating that success. Has that stopped people from falling into the trap every year? Of course not.
Rangers, I think. I think Velasquez has huge upside. Reminds me of a young Scherzer.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) July 30, 2016
17 K through 8 innings this season for Vince Velasquez.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) April 13, 2017
Can be electric if he puts it all together.
Vince Velasquez has finally put it together.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) April 19, 2018
We’re watching Vince Velasquez work out of the kind of jams that used to ruin games.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) April 25, 2019
Is Vince Velasquez good now?— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) July 20, 2020
Believing in Velasquez requires us to forget about the multitude of starts in which he fails to make it past the fifth inning. It also requires us to forget that even in his good starts, he rarely makes it past the sixth. For instance, he looked good against the Yankees on Monday night, but he loaded the bases in the first inning and it took him 25 pitches to complete the frame.
Apparently people are all to willing to forget about all that, and are willing to believe that Velasquez is finally ready to become a part of a good major league rotation. They see that he has developed a cutter and believe that could be the second viable pitch that he so desperately needs. I think its more likely that as soon as he runs into trouble, he’s going to revert to his four-seam fastball-happy ways.
Before I continue, can we all agree to stop referring to Velasquez as “young?” We’re starting to reach Darin Ruf territory in which a player is thought of as a younger player even though he isn’t.
Why do I keep seeing the words "youth movement" and Darin Ruf in the same sentence. Ruf is 27 years old. Delmon Young is 27 years old.— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) August 17, 2013
Velasquez just turned 28 years old, and while that’s still rather young in the grand scheme of the planet’s history, it is certainly not young in terms of the typical baseball player’s career.
I understand why Joe Girardi and the new coaching staff are talking up Velasquez. They didn’t have to endure watching Velasquez racking up three-ball counts these past few years. More importantly, Girardi realizes that Zach Wheeler might soon go on paternity leave until 2021, and that any of his pitchers could be forced into quarantine at any moment. When the primary competition for Velasquez’s spot is the similarly-maddening Nick Pivetta, its probably wise to keep Velasquez’s confidence at a high level.
But there’s really no excuse for the rest of us. Some people want to blame Velasquez’s struggles on the previous coaching staff, and to be sure, I trust Chris Young to run a pitching staff about as much as I trust Betsy DeVos to run the country’s education system. (Whoa, Smarty’s getting political!) But unless Gabe Kapler’s staff’s incompetence was so great that it transcended time and space, the pitcher has struggled under two (very) different managerial regimes.
The good news is that with the condensed schedule, Velasquez will only have about ten opportunities to frustrate us this season. Unfortunately, even if he does struggle again, the strangeness of the season might prompt the Vinny truthers to say that he deserves another chance to prove himself. So come Spring 2021, we might be doing the Vince Velasquez dance once again.