Phillies Starter Vince Velasquez Aims to Improve on Solid 2016 Season

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Jul 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (28) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 3, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (28) throws a pitch during the second inning against the Kansas City Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /
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After going 8-6 in his first year with the Philadelphia Phillies, starter Vince Velasquez should improve in his second year in the MLB.

When closer Ken Giles was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Houston Astros before the 2016 season, the prized prospect the Phillies received in a five-player return was starter Vince Velasquez.

As a part of a rebuilding pitching rotation, Velasquez started 24 times for Philadelphia in his first full season at the big league level, going 8-6 with a 4.12 earned run average and 152 strikeouts. His number of punch outs was third best on the roster, only behind Jerad Eickhoff (167) and Jeremy Hellickson (154).

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The 24-year-old put in the best performance of the year in just his second appearance as a Phillie, throwing a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the San Diego Padres on April 14 which included a career-high 16 strikeouts.

Towards the end of the year, Velasquez struggled on the mound, recording an ERA of 7.52 in five starts in August.

Velasquez made one start in September before being shut down for the rest of the season after reaching his innings limit.

The bread-and-butter of Velasquez’s pitching repertoire is his four-seam fastball, which averaged a speed of 94.04 MPH last season and is capable of reaching the mid-to-high 90s on a consistent basis.

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An interesting stat to look at when judging Velasquez’s 2016 campaign is his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). This stat takes a pitcher’s home runs allowed, walks and strikeouts, and converts it into an ERA-type number to determine how effective a pitcher truly was. With a FIP of 3.96, it can be said that Velasquez pitched better than his ERA showed, and was the victim of bad luck.

With that said, what should Philadelphia fans expect from “South Philly Vinny” in 2017?

For one, the number of innings he pitches will see an increase.

After throwing a career-high 131 innings, Velasquez won’t be as closely monitored this season as he was in 2016. A year after averaging 10.44 strikeouts per nine innings, the hope is he will keep that number around there while improving on his team-high 45 walks allowed.

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Currently on the depth chart as the Phillies’ fifth starter, he is one of three young arms manager Pete Mackanin has at his disposal, with Eickhoff and Aaron Nola being the others. Although Hellickson remains at the top of the staff and Clay Buchholz was added through a trade, the majority of focus spent on the Philadelphia rotation will be on Velasquez and the back-end of it.

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