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Vince Velasquez Really Didn’t Pitch That Badly (Mets Game 13) April 20, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Or, back to that wretched Phillies bullpen

Brett Oberholtzer as an Astro. Photo: Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Brett Oberholtzer") [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Brett Oberholtzer as an Astro. Photo: Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

Vince Velasquez is starting to look human, but don’t get too excited. Entering last night’s game, he was 2-0 on 15 innings pitched, 6 hits, 3 walks, a whopping 25 strikeouts, and no runs. He was coming off a shutout of the Padres on a monstrous 97 game score. Contrast that with last night: in 4 1/3 innings, Velasquez gave up 5 runs on 5 hits, although only two of them were earned because, in arguably the most important play of the game, Mets pitcher Logan Verrett reached on an error to start the third inning. Reconstructing the inning without the error:

 

However, because Verrett was safe at first, he was on base for Michael Conforto to single him over to second, and then for Yoenis Cespedes to bring them home on a home run. Although Conforto had already hit a wind-aided homer off Velasquez in the first, it’s debatable whether those hits would still have come at the beginning of an inning with a fresh pitcher. Since Conforto has been so problematic for pitchers, it’s likely he’d have made it to base in the phantom fourth inning, but Cespedes had struck out in the first, and the wind was certainly a factor in his homer; it’s plausible the fourth inning would have gone:

  1. Conforto singled
  2. Cespedes flied out to center
  3. Neil Walker flied out to right
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to short

Then we enter the fifth inning with Velasquez down 2-0, rather than 5-0. That inning may have looked like this:

  1. Travis d’Arnaud grounded out to shortstop
  2. Verrett doubled.
  3. Granderson hit by pitch
  4. Wright struck out looking.

Now it’s the fifth inning, you have Conforto on deck, men on first and second, but the lead runner is a pitcher. Verrett is unlikely to score on a single. Even though Conforto beat Velasquez up pretty badly that evening, Velasquez is one out away from his fifth inning, making him eligible for a win if the Phillies turn it around. Additionally, entering last night’s game, Velasquez’ platoon splits were all in favor of having him face the lefty: he doesn’t strike lefties out as often, but they hit significantly worse. Bringing left-handed specialist Elvis Araujo in to face Conforto was a move that made sense if Velasquez was being beat up, but in this case I’d have been likely to leave him in as a development move. It’s not a given that Conforto would have hit him. Then, we have a totally different game.

Fortunately, the Phillies bullpen is terrible.

Araujo was perfect for two outs and Dariel Hinojosa pitched a perfect ninth, but Brett Oberholtzer allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in two innings; three (!) of those hits were home runs. James Russell allowed another two runs on three hits (one homer) and a walk. Russell was visibly shaken, although his ERA dropped .21 to 18.69. Meanwhile, Verrett gave us six scoreless innings; a rested Jim Henderson was perfect, and although Rafael Montero pitched relatively poorly (gave up one run, with at least one more saved by a killer catch by Juan Lagares in center), Hansel Robles got three outs on one hit. He was visibly pitching around Cameron Rupp (double) and Darin Ruf (struck out looking), both of whom handled the fact that Robles had attempted to murder them with grace and aplomb.

I’m not saying that last night’s game was a fluke. Conforto’s development has come at an alarming pace. Still, the two key plays last night that knocked Vince Velasquez out of the game boiled down to Logan Verrett reaching base twice. Pete Mackanin waved the white flag by leaving Brett Oberholtzer and James Russell out to eat innings, when an extra inning from Vince Velasquez may well have made this one a nailbiter. (Seriously, three and two thirds innings pitched by three different lefties?)

The Mets close out their series against the Phillies tonight. Bartolo Colon took a tough loss against the Phillies in his first start; Jeremy Hellickson has allowed a .256/.316/.430 slash line to current Mets. Yoenis Cespedes has hit .444 in 10 plate appearances against Hellickson; David Wright is .600 in five plate appearances. Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell are each 1 for 3, while Granderson and Lucas Duda are both below the Mendoza line in 23 and 8 plate appearances, respectively.

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