Strip away the emotion. Strip away the Homeric prelude to his second turn in a Giants uniform. Look at Ryan Vogelsong as a faceless pitcher -- a combination of age and data. Here's what you might see:
A 35-year-old pitcher ...
… who relies on command and control instead of raw stuff ...
… pitching in one of the biggest pitcher's park in the land …
… with a relatively short history of success …
… who has been successful preventing runs by limiting hits with runners on base.
If it were some goofball on the Padres -- Kyle Pemberkyle -- you might dismiss him when you're doing your mental accounting of where the team stands. That guy? Eh, that guy's not so great. He'll come back down to earth. And the projection systems, what with their math, stats, and pure hatred of the Giants, agree. Here are some pitchers who are projected to be at least as valuable as Vogelsong, if not more, according to the FanGraphs positional rankings:
Jeff Francis (and every member of the Rockies' rotation except for Jon Garland, who comes close)
Them's the stats. There's probably a way to work out a three-way deal where the Giants send Vogelsong somewhere for prospects, and then flip those prospects to the Marlins for Henderson Alvarez! Gotta get those .2 WAR wherever you can!
Of course, you can't strip away the emotion, the fanboyism, the knowledge of where Vogelsong has been and what he's crawled out of.
|PIT (5 yrs)||10||19||.345||6.00|
|SFG (4 yrs)||27||19||.587||3.19|
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of lopsided trades with the same damned organization, it was the age of using those players to win pennants and then taking the prospects back to win more pennants, it was the epoch of Barry Bonds, it was the epoch of Barry Bonds ...
Vogelsong isn't someone you project, dammit. He's something that breaks the system, like a knuckleballer or Matt Cain. He's a presence, a menace, a grunt in your ear when you're alone at a dark bus station on his day to pitch. I refuse to believe in those projections. But as a man of science!, I can't help but dwell on that introduction. He's kind of old for a baseball player. He does strand a lot of runners, which usually isn't a repeatable skill. We're all used to the good Vogelsong, sure, but doesn't it follow that he can disappear as quickly as he appears?
Beyond the Box Score takes a look at his PITCHf/x data, and finds that ...
For the most part none of Vogelsong's pitches had any extraordinary movement. His curveball had slightly less horizontal movement than average, but it was arguably his most successful pitch. When using it he generated whiffs nearly 30% of the time, while also inducing groundballs on balls in play over half of the time. His sinker and change-up were also exceptional, as both pitches got groundballs over half the time on balls in play. His four seam fastball and cutter weren't quite as successful as his other pitches, but they got the job done.
The last thing I think about when I think about a successful Ryan Voglesong is his curveball. And that makes a ton of sense, actually. When I'm watching Vogelsong pitching I'm expecting cutter cutter cutter sinker sinker cutter cutter sinker cutter, so he'd probably strike me out with a curveball, too. He'd probably strike me out with a throw back to the umpire to get a new ball, what with me being horrible at baseball, but you get the idea. Curves and changes are kind of a secret game for Vogelsong, after he stops annoying you with teasing pitches on the corner.
The only thing that worries me about Vogelsong is his margin for error. As in, I'm not sure what it is. What would Vogelsong look like with another tick off that fastball? Could he persevere? What about his never-give-in strategy that often results in a walk? Could the league get used to that and adjust, causing him to re-re-adjust? If his arm strength declines with age, would his cutter still cut like a cutter should cut and his sinker still sink like a sinker should sink?
I'll wait another year to wonder too much. I just realized that I'm almost uniformly positive with the projections this year. That's the kind of false bravado you can get after snorting confetti off the chest of some dude in a seal costume. Feels good, man. Can take on the world, man. Just like my man Ryan Vogelsong.