The Philadelphia Phillies' pitching has been steady over the course of the last month. The starting rotation has been much improved since the beginning of the season. The bullpen has been reliable for much of the season, however. Despite injuries to key players, the Phillies relievers have been called upon frequently this year and they have done their job of keeping the team in games.
In a bullpen full of big names such as Craig Kimbrel, José Alvarado, Gregory Soto, and Seranthony Domínguez, another left-handed pitcher has been quietly having a solid season in relief. Andrew Vasquez— reacquired by the Phillies in November off waivers— has been an unsung hero for the club.
Vasquez was originally claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays in August of 2022, but he was quickly designated to assignment and claimed by the San Francisco Giants just two weeks later. Vasquez's career up until 2023 was unstable. In 2022, the left-hander threw 8 2/3 innings between the Blue Jays and Giants. That was the highest number of innings he had thrown in the Major Leagues in his career.
In 2023, however, Vasquez has already pitched more innings for the Phillies than he has in his five-year career. Vasquez has tossed 37 innings for the Phillies thus far. In that span the left-hander has a 1.70 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP with 31 strike outs. Vasquez has proven to be a big part in a solid bullpen, especially with injuries to players such as Alvarado and Domínguez.
What can be attributed to Vasquez's new-found success? Comparing the left-hander's 2022 and 2023 pitch selection, it is evident that Vasquez is throwing his slider about 10% more than he was in 2022. In 2023, Vasquez uses his slider 81% of the time. With a below-average fastball, Vasquez has relied on the slider, and it has been effective.
Vasquez also has improved spin rate on his slider. In 2022 his slider spun at a rate of 2564rpm, in 2023 the spin rate of the same pitch is up to 2650rpm. The increased use and effectiveness of the slider has likely made him a more reliable bullpen option. In a day and age in which most dominant relieves have a high-velocity fastball to accompany their breaking ball, Vasquez has found his own way to effective.
While his stuff is not as dominating or flashy as some of the other Phillies' relievers, Vasquez has used what he has to get batters out. The Phillies do not need him to be Alvarado or Kimbrel, they need him to be a reliable middle reliever and so far, he has been just that.