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Pirates All 40: Should Vince Velasquez Begin Season in Rotation?

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Pittsburgh Pirates- Vince Velasquez

This is one in a series of stories looking at the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster members.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been busy this off-season… well, for their standards, anyways. The Pirates seemed to fill some holes, and one of those potential fillers is Vince Velasquez.

Velasquez signed with the Pirates back in December of 2022 for one year and $3.15 million. During his eight-year major league career, Velasquez has spent time with the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, and most recently, the Chicago White Sox.

During his run in the majors, the California native has spent his time primarily as a starter. In his first 156 starts (2015-2021) Velasquez started 127 of them.

Thanks to three separate 15-Day IL stints in ’22, Velasquez was used primarily used as a reliever, despite making seven straight starts to begin the year.

Velasquez put up fairly decent numbers in 18 games or 36 innings pitched out of the bullpen in ’22.

Opponents slashed .212/.269/.371 with an OPS of .640. Opponents also hit just three home runs, and he limited all extra-base hits to 15.

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To add a little nuance to this, I also looked at Velasquez’s numbers in high-leverage situations for ’22.

Granted, it’s a very small sample size, but in eight games or 27 plate appearances, opponents only managed a .143/.308/.286 slash line with an OPS of .593.

For reference, I looked at Velasquez’s career numbers in high-leverage situations, and a much different picture was painted.

In 124 games or 440 plate appearances, Velasquez allowed a .248/.320/.440 slash line with an OPS of .760. Maybe last year was a fluke, or maybe it’s an improvement with age.

In terms of his career stats out of the bullpen, there isn’t a huge difference in ERA, with a 4.96 as a starter and a 4.66 as a reliever.

The main difference between the bullpen and starter role for the California native is the slash lines and OPS.

As a starter, Velasquez has pitched in 653 innings, allowed 114 homers, and allowed a .258/.333/.465 slash line with an OPS of .797.

Velasquez has pitched in just 73.1 innings as a reliever, allowing eight homers and a slash line of .231/.324/.392 with an OPS of .716.

One promising stat from Velasquez comes from his four-seam.

During the ’22 season, the former 2nd rounder had pretty good movement with his four-seam with around 2417 RPMs. The average RPM on a four-seam is somewhere around 2300.

As a result of his high spin rate, Velasquez held opponents to a .197 batting average and induced 37 of his 69 strikeouts with it.

One interesting tidbit from Velasquez’s repertoire is his sinker.

Using it only 8% of the time, Velasquez’s sinker got hammered to a tune of a .348 average, but one must wonder if the Pirates and Oscar Marin might fine-tune that pitch for a higher usage rate.

At the end of the day, the 30-year-old righty isn’t a groundbreaking signee, but he does offer some depth for the Pirates in the early part of the season.

Now we must wait for spring training to see where the Pirates envision Velasquez starting in 2023. Should he be a starter, or should he be a reliever?

 

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