It was as if someone reached into the electrical panel on Edinson Volquez‘s back and flipped the switch from auto to manual. Surely, he must be a machine with settings that can go array for him to be so night and day in one game. To go from pure domination (three innings/one hit/five K/no BB/no runs) to one inning of free fall (2 hits/4 walks/2 runs) would require simply turning yourself off it would seem. Some sort of switch would have had to flipped. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Volquez. He simply changed in the fourth inning. Aside from the obvious conclusion that Volquez’s wildness struck again, let’s see if there’s anything else we can see to explain his outing.
Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, you’ll find the pitch location chart for Volquez’s first three innings:
You’ll see, Volquez had 24 pitches outside the zone in his first three innings verse 18 in the zone (at least pitch was thrown to the exact same location resulting in two dots on top of each other).
Now, let’s look at the destructive fourth inning:
In the fourth inning alone, Volquez approached his number of outside-the-zone pitches he had in the first three innings. He threw 20 pitches outside the zone in the fourth inning. He threw just twelve pitches in the zone.
This is not to insinuate that Volquez should throw more pitches in the zone, but that he should be more efficient with his pitches rather. It appears, that after the first three innings, the Dodgers hitters took a more patient approach at the plate. This caused many of Volquez’s pitches outside the zone to go for balls. 16 of his 20 pitches outside the zone in the fourth inning went for balls. In the first three innings, just 12 pitches outside the zone went for balls.
So, what could have caused the massive switch in Volquez’s control. Aside from his history of control issues, could it have been that he was being squeezed by the home plate umpire? Could both teams’ pitchers have been squeezed?
Keep in mind the dashed line represents a typical strike zone as calculated by Brooks Baseball.
Against left handed hitters, you can see the pitcher’s in yesterday’s game were given about one foot less to work with than normal by home plate umpire Gary Darling.
Against righties, the pitchers in last night’s game were given about a 3/4 of a foot to one foot smaller strike zone.
Gary Darling is a very good umpire, and by no means can we say Volquez’s wildness is derivative in whole of Darling’s strike zone. We can make some assumptions that Volquez worked harder to get the ball exactly in Darling’s zone only to find himself missing by more. It’s an interesting concept. Volquez may have been working harder to find the actual strike zone, and in turn, he became wild.
Did we solve anything here with this analysis? Probably not, but we were able to look at Volquez’s outing in more detail than you may have thought to. He is going to struggle with command. That’s part of who he is as a pitcher. However, we can always look beyond the numbers to see exactly what happened.
Let’s hope the majority of Volquez’s outings are more of the first three innings and less of the fourth inning.