The Edinson Volquez era finally ended on Tuesday, when the Padres released the erratic right-hander three days after designating him for assignment. A lot went wrong during his nearly two seasons in San Diego after coming over from the Reds as part of the package for Mat Latos. Pitching coach Darren Balsley noted that Volquez overthrew in games, which “led to mechanical breakdowns,” which led to disastrous results.
He had his moments, such as the near no-hitter in 2012 and, well, that’s about it. Bryant investigated Volquez’s “quest for control” back in March and called the pitcher an “infuriating combination of top-level talent with lackluster results.” As Padres Trail more recently put it, “So long and thanks for all the walks.”
Volquez tied for the MLB lead in walks in his first season with the Padres. This year he cut his walk rate from 5.2 to 4.4 and compensated by increasing his hit rate from 7.9 to 10.6. Oh, he found the plate all right. He led MLB in runs allowed at the time of his release, which is no small achievement given his home venue.
We suspected that Petco Park might be less forgiving in 2013 with the fences moved in, and it sort of has been (homers are way up, while runs scored haven’t changed much), but this wasn’t the issue with Volquez. Number 37 was lousy everywhere.
How lousy? I’m glad you asked.
This year, Volquez’s ERA was 6.01. He is the first pitcher in Padres history to work at least 100 innings and post an ERA over 6. The previous high had been 99, by Sean Bergman in 1997 (one of the guys we wished we’d forgotten were Padres). Nobody else was even close to Bergman:
As did Volquez in 2008, some of these guys pitched well at times. Santorini is a fun name. I wrote about him a lot when I revisited the Padres 1969 season. We’ll return to him in a moment.
First, here are the five highest ERAs in club history by pitchers who worked at least 300 innings:
As battle cries go, “Better than Bobby Jones and Kevin Jarvis” lacks a certain je ne sais quois. It’s too much cry, not enough battle.
It also ignores context. Jones and Jarvis pitched in a tougher environment. If we use ERA+, which accounts for league offensive levels and park effects, Volquez rises to the top like a fastball out of the strike zone:
If you’re looking for silver linings, here’s one: At least the Padres didn’t give Volquez 320 more innings to prove he was worse than Bill Greif.
Even better, the Dodgers have signed Volquez (no, I’m not kidding), which means he could qualify for the league ERA title and do something special. Since 1901, only two qualifiers have posted an ERA+ under 60. Volquez is seeking to become the third, and the first in 98 years:
Thank you, Ned Colletti.
In Volquez’s final start with the Padres, last Friday against the Cubs, he allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning. This marked the 661st time since 1916–when records are first available–that a starting pitcher had allowed at least six runs without surviving the first inning.
In such games, the team whose starter imploded went 40-619-2. You don’t win.
Except the Padres did, becoming the first team to pull the trick since Cleveland weathered a Paul Byrd shelling and beat the Royals, seven years to the day earlier. Between those two contests, teams whose starters met our parameters lost 45 straight.
The Padres have seen their starter allow at least six runs without surviving the first six times:
|Al Santorini||5/5/70||Phi||W 11-8||0.1||4||6||5||1||1||0|
|Mark Thurmond||5/18/86||Mtl||L 3-8||0.0||5||6||6||1||1||0|
|Dennis Tankersley||4/9/03||SF||L 11-15||0.0||3||7||7||0||4||0|
|Brian Tollberg||6/10/03||Cle||L 5-8||0.1||2||6||3||0||3||0|
|Tim Redding||5/8/05||StL||L 5-15||0.2||5||8||8||0||3||0|
|Edinson Volquez||8/23/13||ChN||W 8-6||0.2||5||6||5||1||2||0|
I wrote about the Tankersley game. His quote could apply to Volquez as well: “For some stupid reason, I just keep making the same stupid mistakes, which I can’t keep doing.”
I wrote about the Tollberg game, although my “insight” was that the Padres should get Scott Linebrink into the rotation. Also that Sean Burroughs was going to be awesome and Khalil Greene homered in his Triple-A debut. Yeah, I’m old.
I didn’t write about the Redding game, but did note that he was placed on the disabled list afterward, which gave Tim Stauffer the opportunity to make his big-league debut. Several years later I saw Redding pitch in Albuquerque. It filled me with great sadness, like when I saw Brian Lawrence and Paul McAnulty play in Tucson. Baseball is hard.
Meanwhile, there’s our friend Santorini, “leading” the Padres to victory. (I didn’t write about that one; dude, it was my first birthday.) So when the Padres defeated the Cubs last Friday night at Petco, it marked the second time in franchise history that they overcame a starting pitcher getting destroyed.
This is Volquez’s legacy. Maybe you miss him, but he misses you more. Then again, he misses everything.
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