For Now, Velasquez Remaining in Phils’ Starting Rotation Makes Sense

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Some news out of Pittsburgh this afternoon, courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury:

I have a take on this.

Some seem surprised that it’s Nick Pivetta, not Vince Velasquez, that will be getting bumped from the rotation in favor of Drew Smyly.

Why?

I get that Velasquez doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence, but Pivetta hasn’t made a quality start (and I don’t mean the literal stat) since June 14. Over his last five starts, Pivetta holds a 7.13 ERA in 24 IP. The numbers are brutal. He has a 1.67 WHIP, while opponents are hitting .284 against him with an .890 OPS.

“Oh, but he’s got big strikeout stuff.” 

Cool, that’s true – or it was true – and maybe it will be true again, but he actually doesn’t have big strikeout stuff right now. He has a 5.6 K/9 over his last five starts and couldn’t throw a strike on Wednesday night, walking four of the 11 Dodgers hitters he faced before rain shortened his outing in the top of the third inning.  He has a 4.9 BB/9 in his last five starts.

That’s not going to get it done.

None of this is to say that Velasquez, who has a 5.21 ERA over his last four starts, has set the world on fire, but there were at least some encouraging takeaways from his last start on Tuesday night against the Dodgers. Plus, his other numbers are solid. Over his last 19 IP, Velasquez has a 1.11 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and 1.4 BB/9. The home run, however, is killing him – he’s allowed seven of them, including four in his start against the Dodgers.

Kapler spoke before Wednesday’s game about an adjustment the team is working on with Velasquez. “I think it was very, very clear, every fastball that he threw at the top of the zone, no damage. Every time he missed down in the zone, damage,” he said. “That’s the takeaway. It’s really simple.”

Okay, so now what? Go ahead, Gabe:

One thing that I know that our pitching group is working on it constantly, we’re toying with some targeting stuff, some things that we’re talking through there. I’ll sit him down, and we’ll watch it together and I’ll ask him because coaching is not one way, it’s not “Here’s all the information – go do something with it.” It’s like, “What were you experiencing when you threw that pitch? Were you trying to execute that pitch up in the zone and you just missed down? Or was it something about your conditioning where you’ve been told throughout your career that you’re safe down and away that led you to try to throw the ball there?” And then see what he says. There are no quick fixes in coaching. It’s over time – a conversation that moves the needle just enough where a guy takes a step forward and we’re still trying to figure that out with Vince.

Whether or not Velasquez can make the adjustment remains to be seen, and it’s entirely possible that he won’t, but I like that there’s at least a coaching point the Phillies are exploring with him.

Meanwhile:

That’s fine, but let’s not act like they have to justify this decision. Obviously, the Phillies’ starting rotation is in a sorry state right now, but if they’re basing this on recent performance, which they should be as they jockey for a postseason spot, then Velasquez over Pivetta is a no-brainer.

 

 

 

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