Has Vince Velasquez finally earned a spot in the Phillies rotation?

Vince Velasquez #21 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Vince Velasquez #21 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (10) hands a ball to starting pitcher Vince Velasquez (21) (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports) /

Vince Velasquez is catching fire at a time where the Phillies need him the most

Given that both Chase Anderson and Matt Moore have been so ineffective this season, Vince Velasquez has been forced to step in and consistently start again. The results this time couldn’t be more different from what fans have grown accustomed to though. Following six shutout innings against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, he lowered his season ERA to 2.95 and picked up his second win.

Velasquez now ranks second on the team in ERA and K/9 behind only Zack Wheeler. He also has currently thrown the fourth-most innings on the team. Pretty safe to say that no one was seriously predicting Velasquez to pitch better than Aaron Nola. If you did predict this you either were A.) were joking; or far more likely, B.) you are clearly a time-traveling wizard and I’d love it if you sent me tonight’s lotto numbers.

Is this a mirage? A smokescreen? Just a streak of consecutive hot starts where he will inevitably implode again? It’s quite possible, but this year Velasquez just looks and feels different.

So what’s behind his turnaround? Well, he’s generating more groundballs. According to FanGraphs, Velasquez’s 43.0% ground ball percentage would easily be the highest of his career — and well above his 36.8% career average.

He’s also more effectively mixing up his pitches — throwing fastballs to hitters 50.5% of the time, easily a career-low. In turn, he’s using his changeup (16.4%) and curveball (19.0%) at career-high rates, while also rarely going to his sinker (2.6%).

Oh, and that dreaded third time through the lineup? He’s improved leaps and bounds, even if he does still have some room for improvement. This season, Velasquez’s ERA is 2.03 his first time through the order and 2.08 his second time. The third time it climbs to 3.60 — a mark that is just a bit higher than his career average for his first time through a batting order.

Velasquez feels like he’s pitched in Philadelphia forever, but he’s also still just 28. There is more than enough time for him to finally develop into the pitcher the Phillies always hoped he could be. Is this season the start of that? Fans sure hope so. The early returns have been encouraging, even if no one is quite ready to hold their breath.

Phillies: Ranking the team’s top 5 starting pitchers in 2021. light. More

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