By Jason Shetler
In 2001, the Pirates acquired Ryan Vogelsong from the San Francisco Giants as part of the Jason Schmidt trade. Vogelsong possessed a mid-90’s fastball, and seemed to have good upside. Despite having above average stuff, he had a difficult time with his mechanics, which led to a 6.00 ERA and a Fielding Independent Pitching of 4.88 during his time with the Pirates. Following the 2006 season, Vogelsong went over to Japan for three years. He returned to the States in 2010 where he pitched for the Angels and Phillies AAA clubs. Prior to 2011, Vogelsong signed with the team who drafted him, the San Francisco Giants. After an injury to Barry Zito, he was placed in the rotation, and was terrific, making his first ever All-Star appearance. He also played a part in the Giants World Series title runs in 2012 and 2014. Just like the Giants, Vogelsong will pitch with the Pirates for a second time, as he signed a one-year deal with them this offseason. Here are his stats from the last two seasons, as well as what he projects to do in 2016.
2014 (Giants): 4.00 ERA, 86 ERA+, 3.85 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.4 K/9, 1.3 WAR in 32 starts
2015 (Giants): 4.67 ERA, 81 ERA+, 4.53 FIP, 1.47 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 7.2 K/9, 0.0 WAR in 33 games (22 starts)
2016 (FanGraphs): 4.25 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 0.5 WAR in 22 games (13 starts)
Vogelsong’s numbers across the board were better in 2014 than compared to last year. The only thing that remained consistent was the strikeout rate. The walk rate for Vogelsong in 2015 was much higher, and obviously was a key factor in why he struggled. FanGraphs projects that Vogelsong should be somewhere in between with his numbers this season.
My analysis: The Pirates signed Ryan Vogelsong to be an inexpensive stopgap starter until Tyler Glasnow or Jameson Taillon arrive to Pittsburgh first. While personally I think there were better options that could have been brought in, the Pirates seem to believe that he can be a potential bounce back pitcher on the cheap. Walks were an issue for Vogelsong last season, so perhaps Ray Searage can make a mechanical adjustment for him. If Vogelsong can perform the way he did in 2014, the Pirates would gladly take it.