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It’s Hard to Not Believe in Ryan Vogelsong

May 14, 2011

Britt and I started rooting for Vogelsong as soon as this article came out. To quote: “I’ve been trying to get back here since I got traded. I loved it here so much,” and “I was like, I just can’t wear Dodger blue.” If you somehow haven’t noticed, we fall hopelessly for this sort of thing.

~Us, March 14, 2011

It’s always been easy to root for Ryan Vogelsong. His story is the baseball story of all baseball stories. But doing so comes with a problem of sorts. It comes with this annoying little devil who sits on your shoulder and insists on reminding you of the last 10 years. He quotes statistics and talks about Japan won’t shut up about his walk rate with the Phillies farm system in 2010. Vogelsong might be easy to root for, but he was hard to believe in.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 8: Ryan Vogelsong #32 of the San Francisco Giants tips his hat to the crowd after coming out of the game in the top of the seventh inning against Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park May 8, 2011 in San Francisco, California. The Giants won the game 3-0.

Spring Training! 22 innings, 3.27 ERA! Flashes of dominance and dirty, dirty stuff. But Spring Training is Spring Training is Spring Training. John Bowker had a brilliant Spring Training in 2010, Tim Lincecum has always been awful. And 22 innings can never overshadow a career.

Two relief appearances, 4.2 innings, 0 runs, 3 strike outs, 0 walks. But 2003 and 2004 and 2006 all say 193 innings, 6+ ERA, not enough strikeouts, too many walks.

5.2 innings against Pittsburgh, 1 win, 2412 days since the last one. 2 runs, 8 strike outs, 2 walks. But until now he’s never had a major league WHIP under 1.500. From 2000 to 2006, he had a career WAR of .1.

4 innings, 5 runs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts. The Giants end up winning the game eventually, but maybe the pessimist is right. The story was too good to last.

Or maybe not. 6.1 innings, 5 of them perfect, 1 hit, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk. But any “meh” pitcher with good stuff can pitch a no-hitter, just look at the list. In 2010, he had a minor league walk rate 5.9 BB/9. His strikeout rate with the Pirates never broke 7 K/9.

Then 6 shutout innings against the Cubs with bad calls, worse errors, rain and cold and wind enough to blow you right off the mound. 7 strikeouts, 1 walk. It’s scored as a complete game.

Vogelsong came in today with a 3.05 ERA, 3.58 FIP, and 3.67 xFIP. He had a K/9 of 7.4, a BB/9 of 3.05 and a K/BB of 2.43. All of those just got better. Maybe it’s experience. Maybe it’s Dave Righetti or Mark Gardner. Maybe he learned something on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Maybe he “learned how to pitch”. Maybe we’re all fools, and it’s just luck.  After all, there’s still that little devil on my shoulder screaming “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, SMALL SAMPLE SIZE”.

But 26.2 innings and a 2.36 ERA after “I’ve been trying to get back here since I got traded. I loved it here so much,” it’s gotten hard to not believe in Ryan Vogelsong.

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