Edinson Volquez became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in 2017 when he went the distance on just 98 pitches in a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 3.
After the game, the 33-year-old dedicated the performance to his late, former teammate Yordano Ventura, saying he was throwing for him and previous Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who also passed away. The emotional outing from the nine-year Major League veteran was followed by another strong outing, which is an encouraging sign for the de facto Marlins ace who looks like an entirely different pitcher now than he did earlier this season despite entering the no-hit game tied for the MLB lead in losses.
The game before his no-hitter, Volquez started to turn the corner. He delivered a quality start on May 24 against the Athletics and then went six innings on May 29 against the Phillies. Granted, Philadelphia is not a powerhouse offense. Still, in those six innings, he allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out six and giving up just a single run.
After his no-hitter, Volquez did not have any letdown. He tossed seven scoreless against the Pirates, allowing just three hits and two walks. He’s now thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings with just three hits, four walks and 18 strikeouts. To get through the seventh against the Bucs, Volquez threw 111 pitches after it took just 98 to record his no-hitter. But he has only thrown 98 or more pitches one other time this year, and that was generally more about effectiveness than pitch count.
The Marlins remain a difficult pick in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests regardless of starter. After six straight losses in Volquez’s starts, Miami has won each of his last three.
Volquez has lowered his ERA more than a run and a half since May 18 when he topped out at 4.87. After another mediocre start on May 24, he sat at 4.82. Since then, he’s pitched 24 innings, allowing just one run. He’s also given up only six hits and six walks in that time. His ERA now sits at 3.41.
While Volquez’s overall WHIP is still a bit inflated, it’s manageable at 1.311. And in his last two starts, it is a mere 0.438.
Examining Volquez’s season performance a bit further, we can see that he’s doing much better in the cavernous Marlins Park than on the road. He’s 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA in five starts at home. His ERA is 4.19 on the road, where he’s 1-5. His next start figures to come at home against the A’s. That seems to be a favorable enough matchup for him to continue his recent run of success.
Volquez is a much better pitcher against right-handed hitters than lefties. Righties are hitting .186 with a .576 OPS in 113 at-bats, while lefties are batting .260 with a .807 OPS.
Oakland’s lineup features a couple of key left-handers in Yonder Alonso and Stephen Vogt, along with a switch hitter in Jed Lowrie. Matt Joyce is another lefty who historically hits righties well, but his overall average this year is below the Mendoza Line. Alonso and Lowrie are having good years, but it’s still a favorable matchup for Volquez. Can he continue his scoreless streak? Or, at the very least, can the veteran continue to provide quality starts and be a reliable arm every five days for the Marlins?
Simply put: yes, in the short term.
Volquez features a difficult, complex delivery. He’s shown good stuff throughout his career, but he has also demonstrated questionable command. As his command goes, so goes his success. He’s never been able to harness his stuff over very long periods of success, though he’s strung together quality months and, in some cases, even quality seasons. The most recent such season was back in 2015 with the Royals.
Even over his last three games, he’s walked six batters, but that’s well down from his 4.6 walks per nine innings on the year and 4.2 ratio in his career.
It’s all about keeping that rate under control. In the years he’s kept the strikeout to walk ratio at or better than 1.9, he’s been at his best. The mark is 1.8 this year and better in recent vintage.