First, don’t get fooled by the headline. That’s one of the themes of this story, because in many ways Ryan Vogelsong got positively screwed in 2014. We’ll get to that in a bit, but Vogelsong wasn’t blaming anyone but himself for his 13th loss of the season.
Here’s how Vogelsong’s numbers looked in his last regular season start, a 4-1 win for the Padres: 5 1/3 innings, four runs (three earned) six hits, two walks, five strikeouts. He gave up two broken bat hits and it’s not like the rest of the team provided much energy a night after spraying each other with champagne and beer (and consuming some, too). That wasn’t a good break for Vogelsong individually, but that didn’t keep him from getting down on himself for a disappointing effort.
“That’s what makes this game tonight even tougher to take. You never know where you’re going to be year to year when you’re a free agent,” said Vogelsong. “I just wanted to end on a good note here in possibly my last home game, depending on what happens here in the playoffs. I wanted to have a really good one to finish up and I just blew it.”
Vogelsong said “I blew it” on multiple occasions on Friday night in an extra-humid post-celebration clubhouse. His only solace: not missing a single start in a year where many wondered if he’d make it to April.
“There’s some satisfaction in being able to stay on the field and take the ball every fifth day, because there was a lot of questions in the offseason and even spring training, with the way I was throwing in spring training,” Vogelsong said.
He finished with an ERA of 4.00, a huge improvement over last year. He also made all 32 starts. However, the Giants provided one run of support for Vogelsong in 17 of those starts.
“I still feel like I’ve got a lot left. I still feel like I can pitch and win in this league,” he said. “Sometimes you need some breaks to go your way, and I feel like I haven’t gotten a whole lot this year.”
That continued tonight, but one has to imagine that if Madison Bumgarner and the Giants can get past that elimination game on Wednesday (which we now know will take place on the road, with Friday night’s loss and both the Pirates and the Cardinals winning on the road), Vogelsong could waltz into a postseason start and set low expectations on fire once again. That’s in effect what he did in 2012, when he had an ERA of 10.31 in seven starts spanning from Aug. 13 to Sept. 16. Then he finished the regular season with three nice outings and soared in the playoffs. Vogelsong’s 2014 isn’t a carbon copy of what we saw two years ago, but he sees some parallels.
“Just about the same other than getting some better results. In ’12, I think I went through a little stretch there of about four or five starts where I was making one or two mistakes a game and it was costing me some runs. Then I had three really good ones at the end of the season. Physically and mechanical-wise, I feel just about the same (now),” Vogelsong said.
Because he made every start, Vogelsong will end up making more through base salary plus incentives than the $6.5 million he would’ve made this year if the Giants didn’t buy him out for $300K back in November.
“I don’t play this game for the money. I play this game for the love. But you have to get some kind of income for doing your job, right? A couple dollars here or there isn’t going to make me really happy or really mad. I’m just gratified that I took the ball every fifth day of the season. For the most part, minus the last couple games and a few here and there during the season, I gave us a chance to win pretty much a good amount. That’s gratifying, too,” he said.
“The incentives are there to kind of drive you, I guess. They help you out salary-wise, but it’s not what drives me.”
One gets the feeling that what drives him is to get one last chance at showing he can reproduce what he did before in the playoffs. Maybe even at AT&T Park.