Ryan Vogelsong Is Starting For No Real Reason
The Pittsburgh Pirates season ends on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals. There will be no playoffs, and unless the club can get a sweep, there will be no winning season. So the Pirates decided to start a 39-year-old pitcher to end their campaign.
Ryan Vogelsong was signed on December 18th, 2015 to a one year and $2 million deal. The right hander was once a Pirate, coming over in a trade with Armando Rios from the San Francisco Giants for Jason Schmidt and John Vader Wal. Vogelsong was likely going to be a place holder until Jameson Taillon or Tyler Glasnow appeared ready.
But, things do not always go as planned. Gerrit Cole got hurt, not once, but twice, and this does not include him reporting to camp hurt as well. Juan Nicasio, after being signed to be a reliever, lit up Spring Training, and then he did the opposite in the regular season. The only shift that would have helped Jon Niese would be the shift that allowed Pirates outfielders to play 50 feet beyond the fence. Francisco Liriano couldn’t find the strike zone, and then he was traded off. Jeff Locke somehow got worse, and Tyler Glasnow still struggled with control down in Indy. All of this occurred and both expected and unexpected occurrences helped contribute to the Pirates downfall in 2016.
Ryan Vogelsong stood tall though. He had his struggles, primarily getting hit in the face by a pitch on May 23, a game against the Colorado Rockies in which he was making a spot start. Up to and including that outing, Vogelsong experienced some success. He posted a 3.74 ERA in 12 games, which as the long man and the last man in the bullpen isn’t too bad. The five games in which he pitched after he returned on August 4th were remarkable, as he tossed a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings.
However those five starts came against the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers. Four of those five rank in the bottom ten of runs scored, the Giants rank just outside with the eleventh fewest. Those are the teams that you would expect a pitcher to pitch well in, and Vogelsong did, despite his 4.15 FIP meaning he was rather lucky.
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So how does this relate to Sunday?
The Pirates are doing the right thing, starting Tyler Glasnow tonight, as it allows the young right arm to gain some experience. The same could be said for Saturday, as Chad Kuhl will take the bump for what has been a decent season for the rookie, as he has posted a 4.25 ERA and a 99 ERA+, so he’s been about average. For the last game of the season, it would make sense to start a Drew Hutchison who the team acquired for Francisco Liriano, or a Trevor Williams who is another young arm, right? The Pirates don’t see it that way. The club sees the opportunity to give the ball to a pitcher who was found on the Island of Misfit Toys.
Hutch has pitched in 10.1 innings as a Pirate, and has produced a 6.10 ERA and a 4.79 FIP. It’s a very small sample to judge him by, especially given such a high BAbip of .394, and an average exit velocity of 88.3 miles per hour. He has made one start for the team, and he should be making another.
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Trevor Williams was acquired from the Miami Marlins this offseason. He has pitched 11.1 innings, another small sample size. His ERA is like that of Hutchison’s, a 6.35 mark, but his FIP is also 6.32. Williams too has a high BAbip, a .343 clip, and he hasn’t kept the ball in the park so far, giving up 2.38 home runs per nine. However, Williams gets a lot of soft contact, as opposing hitters have an average exit velocity of 85.5 miles per hour.
Those two arms will be competing for a spot in the rotation and bullpen next year. Let them take the ball to end the season, not Ryan Vogelsong. Besides, the Cardinals could still be playing for the Wild Card, wouldn’t it be great to end the hopes of the devil bird by using the future?
*Numbers from fangraphs, baseball-reference, and baseball savant