Ryan Vogelsong: Why the San Francisco Giants Should Stick with Him

Mark ReynoldsCorrespondent IIMay 16, 2013

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal after Wednesday's game about whether or not Ryan Vogelsong will make his next scheduled start.

According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Bochy said, "We’ll talk about that internally...I’ll talk about that later. I’m not going to guarantee anything right now.”

Skipping a start to give Vogelsong more time to work things out makes sense. However, it's too soon to give up on Vogelsong by removing him from the rotation permanently. His track record over the last two years and last postseason is too good to overlook.

Vogelsong's next turn through the rotation is in question because he was hit hard again on Wednesday. He allowed six hits, two walks, two home runs and eight runs (three earned) in just two innings of work.

In 41.1 innings spanning eight starts this season, he's now allowed 59 hits, 44 runs and 11 home runs. He's 1-4 with an 8.06 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. It's logical for the Giants to consider skipping Vogelsong's next start given those atrocious numbers.

However, Vogelsong has overcome these types of stretches before.

His entire career was a prolonged rough stretch before he re-signed with the Giants in 2011. Entering that season, he was 10-22 with a 5.86 career ERA. He was 33 years old and had been released from two different Triple-A teams in 2010.

Vogelsong then resurrected his career with the Giants. He went 27-16 with a 3.05 combined ERA over the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He made the All-Star team in 2011 and finished 11th in the NL Cy Young voting.

Vogelsong had a similarly difficult period to the one he's enduring now last year. Over a seven-start stretch from August 13 through September 16, Vogelsong was hit extremely hard. He went 2-4 with a 10.31 ERA, allowing 48 hits, 34 earned runs and six home runs over 29.2 innings during that span. 

Vogelsong then recovered over his final three starts of last year. He allowed only one earned run over his last 17 innings during the regular season. Then, in the postseason, he was the team's best starter.

He went 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA over four postseason starts.

He helped the Giants stave off elimination with stellar performances in Game 3 of the NLDS and Game 6 of the NLCS. He went 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA during the NLCS. He had a legitimate claim to the NLCS MVP award that ended up going to Marco Scutaro.

Even though Vogelsong has overcome adversity before, that doesn't guarantee he'll be able to get out of this rut. There are reasons to be worried about him right now beyond his terrible statistics.

His fastball velocity is down 1.2 miles per hour from last season according to FanGraphs. Last year, his average fastball was 90.8 miles per hour. This season, his heater is down to 89.6 on average.

As the velocity on his fastball has decreased, so has its effectiveness. Last year his fastball was worth 9.5 runs according to FanGraphs. So far this season, his fastball has been worth -3.4 runs.

Vogelsong resurrected his career predominantly with the fastball, so he's less apt to overcome a loss in velocity than the typical starter.

At the age of 35, perhaps Vogelsong won't get that extra tick back on his fastball. However, there's a chance that his velocity decline is due to mechanical problems or fatigue from pitching in the World Baseball Classic. Thus, the Giants should give him every opportunity to try to sort things out.

They have no starter in the minor leagues who they can call upon right now. Their two best prospects at Triple-A, Michael Kickham and Chris Heston, have not pitched effectively this season. Kickham has a 5.40 ERA and Heston has a 6.18 ERA. 

Giving Vogelsong's next scheduled start to reliever Chad Gaudin would make sense. Vogelsong can throw more on the side to try to get his mechanics corrected and his velocity back into the low 90s. Or, he can rest his arm to try to make up for over-extending himself back in March during the World Baseball Classic.

After that, the Giants should give Vogelsong several more starts to try to rediscover his magic. After all, he recovered from a miserable stretch last season to become the staff ace during the postseason.

If Vogelsong doesn't rediscover his old form by the trading deadline, the Giants will probably have to deal for another starter. Until then, the organization should stick with him.

Vogelsong has been too good during the last two years for the Giants to quit on him this early in 2013.


All statistics in this article are courtesy of ESPN, FanGraphs and Baseball Reference