From the beginning of the season to mid-August (more than four months), Ryan Vogelsong made a pretty good case for being the San Francisco Giants' ace and winning the Cy Young Award.
Seven starts later, he's on the outside looking in when it comes to the Giants playoff rotation.
Vogelsong's ERA ballooned from 2.27 to 3.65 in that span, and his record got worse. His stats declined, and they aren't even close to great now. Recently, he has left pitches down the middle frequently, failed to keep his pitch count down and lost games for the Giants.
Barry Zito, San Francisco's inconsistent No. 5 pitcher, will probably be in the playoff rotation due to his recent success. Despite having a staggering 4.91 ERA, Tim Lincecum should expect to see himself in the rotation too.
Add in the fact that Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are locks, and it will be tough for Vogelsong.
The Giants may use a three-man rotation, which would also change things. Unless Vogelsong puts up quality starts and wins in his last few starts of the season, he probably won't be in their playoff rotation.
Yes, Vogelsong could see some time as a long reliever. But overall, his terrible performance has cost the team, and he will pay for it.
A number of things have gone wrong for Vogelsong, but mainly, hitters have been more patient with him, and he hasn't been able to get away with his approach lately. Despite having a very low K/9 rate, Vogelsong had a very low WHIP and ERA early in the season. Hitters were jammed often, and it felt like they never stood much of a chance against him.
However, having been more patient, they've realized that if they take more pitches, he will give them more pitches to hit. And it applies more to Vogelsong than most pitchers.
If he locates a fastball inside on the first pitch and the batter swings, the result will probably be a weak ground ball. But if the batter takes that pitch, even if it's a strike, the result can be better.
When Vogelsong throws a lot more pitches, he will get tired. When he's tired, he makes a lot more mistakes, and hitters are capitalizing on that. Even if they can't bring in runs early, they will run his pitch count up and break out when he collapses.
Usually, that leads to a loss for the Giants.
Vogelsong's next start is against the San Diego Padres, where he will look to get back on track at home against a mediocre offense. However, Chase Headley, Logan Forsythe and company will be ready. They know what to do.
The last time Vogelsong faced them, he got the loss while lasting just three innings. That was the second of his seven horrible starts. If that happens again, he can kiss any hopes of being in the Giants playoff rotation goodbye.
Barry Zito has great numbers for a No. 5 pitcher, going 12-8 with a 4.21 ERA. Bruce Bochy has put faith in Zito before, and Zito has pitched in the playoffs before. Vogelsong hasn't, and he hasn't been doing well with the pressure amped up.
Vogelsong's main competitors are Zito and Lincecum. Zito can be absolutely dominant, and he has been pitching very well in September. The same goes for Lincecum, who has been changing speeds and eye levels effectively while locating his off-speed stuff to receive good results.
So even though Vogelsong has been magical, there just isn't room for him in the rotation.
If I were Bochy, I would have him on the roster as a long reliever. He hasn't shown that he's able to go deep into games, and he hasn't shown the ability to pitch well after being overworked. So, the Giants don't really have an option.
They need to leave Vogelsong out of their playoff rotation.