Edinson Volquez pitched for the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 and had a combined ERA of 5.71. He pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014 and had an ERA of 3.04.
The easy conclusion — and a number of people jumped to it when the Royals signed him before the 2015 season — was that Volquez was inconsistent.
But talk to Volquez and there’s a much simpler answer: the Padres and Dodgers emphasized pitching away and the Pirates wanted him to pitch inside to batters. The Royals also want Volquez to pitch in, and his ERA was 3.55 in 2015.
Pitching away can rob a hitter of power — most hitters need to pull the ball to hit home runs — but if you never pitch in, hitters will stand on top of the plate or dive to the outside corner. Now that away pitch is down the middle and anything in the middle of the plate is pull-able.
Pitchers have to pitch in to knock the hitter back and open up the outside corner. And if the hitters don’t back off the plate, that inside pitch will jam them.
After Friday night’s 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, Royals catcher Salvador Perez said Volquez was throwing a hard sinker in on the hands of the Braves’ hitters. That tactic allowed Volquez to go seven innings while giving up only one run.
Dillon Gee starts tonight against the Braves, but his fastball is a few mph short of Volquez’; so stay tuned to see if Gee can pitch in and get similar results.
How Volquez helped the Royals offense
Royals starting pitchers lately have been giving up runs early in the game, and that puts pressure on the Royals offense. If you’re down by several runs, there can be a tendency to try to get those runs back with just one swing — but hitting home runs is not the Royals’ strength.
So Volquez keeping the Braves off the board early allowed the Royals offense to play their way. Look at the four guys with RBIs on Friday and how they drove those runs in:
▪ Lorenzo Cain, ground ball up the middle
▪ Alcides Escobar, single to the opposite field
▪ Kendrys Morales, single up the middle
▪ Salvador Perez, single up the middle
Nobody was trying to pull the ball and hit a bomb. Maybe that was because the wind was blowing in, but the fact that a single run mattered and a single would get the job done also had something to do with it.
The last time Jeff Francoeur played for the Royals was 2013, and he had a cannon for an arm when he was here. I haven’t seen Frenchy play on a regular basis for several years, so I have no idea if he still throws as well as he did, but last night the Royals ran on Francoeur’s arm a couple times and neither throw came close to getting the runner.
Watch if the Royals continue to challenge Frenchy’s arm.
Orlando’s hit by pitch
Paulo Orlando came to the plate in the second inning and after two pitches it was clear Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran was trying to hit him. The first pitch came close to Orlando and the second pitch did the job.
I’ll ask around about the situation, but there’s almost zero chance anyone will talk on the record about this; pitchers usually say the pitch “got away” from them. It was Orlando’s first plate appearance of the game, so whatever the problem is, it probably started somewhere else.
Orlando’s second at-bat
And just to prove the point I made at the beginning: after Orlando got drilled with a fastball in his first-plate appearance, Teheran threw him sliders away. Getting smoked by an inside fastball might make you reluctant to dive toward that outside corner to cover that slider away.
Orlando struck out.