The San Francisco Giants rode a deep starting rotation to the World Series despite an over the hill fifth starter last year.
However, this year, the club has received a significant boost from Ryan Vogelsong, who replaced Barry Zito when he went on the disabled list with a sprain in his right foot.
The 33-year-old Vogelsong, pitched to a 6.00 ERA for five seasons with the Pirates from 2001-2006, but he has continued to impress this year by compiling a 1.68 ERA in 10 games (eight starts). What has Vogelsong changed to find success so late in his career? (Colby Lewis comes to mind).
His average fastball velocity of 91.1 mph this season is exactly what he was averaging in his last few seasons with the Pirates in 2005-2006, and he has the same repertoire as his last big league season in 2006. (Fastball, curve, cutter and change-up).
Most importantly, he has improved his peripherals. Both his 7.06 K/9 (career 6.30) and 2.35 BB/9 (career 4.10) are the best rates of his major league career.
Control has always been a problem for Vogelsong in his big league career, but he is tenth in baseball among pitchers with 50 or more innings pitched in first pitch strike percentage (65.4 percent). Furthermore, Vogelsong's 44.2 percent ground ball percentage is the highest of his career.
So, what should the Giants expect from Vogelsong for the rest of the season?
His xFIP of 3.46 indicates that he should regress, but that he could be an above-average starter for the rest of the season. His .252 BABIP and 86.9 percent strand rate prove that Vogelsong has benefited from good luck this season, and his 8.0 swinging strike percentage is similar to his 7.8 percent career rate.
Vogelsong, will eventually throw a couple of clunkers, because he is Ryan Vogelsong. However, I think he is a better option than Zito, who was averaging 83.6 mph with his fastball and 5.54 BB/9, at this point in the season.
My guess is Vogelsong finishes with a 3.65-3.80 ERA—not bad for a non-roster invitee who pitched in Japan a few seasons ago.