By: Noah Wright
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Pirates’ closer Felipe Vazquez’s bullpen role may be in jeopardy after a heartbreaking blown save last night against NL Central Rival, The St. Louis Cardinals. The game ended with a walk-off homerun from Yairo Munoz who hit it off a Vazquez 95.8 MPH fastball. This has not been the only time Vazquez has struggled this year, as this is his fourth blown save. Last year he was an extremely dominant pitcher, even not giving up an earned run in the entire month of July, to now having his role in jeopardy. His struggles have had Pirate fans wondering, what happened to Felipe Vazquez?
On Sunday, it was reported Felipe felt soreness in his left forearm (throwing arm). It has been apparent all year that something was wrong with his throwing arm. Vazquez’s signature pitch is his blazing fastball. Last year, his fastball averaged in the 98-100 MPH range. His performance and velocity with the fastball in 2017 rivaled that of Aroldis Chapman. This year, Vazquez’s fastball has averaged in the 95-97 MPH range. Vazquez also claimed the fastest pitch thrown by someone not named Chapman in 2017, at a whopping 102.6 MPH. So far in 2018, Vazquez has barely touched 100 MPH a few times this season. With his lack of velocity, Vazquez can’t blow the fastball by batters like he did last year. It has also caused his strikeout rate to dip from 10.51 last year, to 9.27 this year. The injury may also be affecting his control as well, with his walk rate rising a whole 1.24 points from last year to this year.
With his apparent injury, dip in velocity, and loss of control, it is likely Felipe will require a DL stint. While it’s not official, I predict he will be placed on The DL by the end of today.