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With all of the criticism of Javier Vazquez in recent days, we’ve heard some common themes pop up, most of which can be quickly disposed of. The vast majority of arguments being used against Javier are simply invalid. The refrain of “He can’t pitch in New York” doesn’t hold up, since he was named to the All Star team based on his strong 1st half showing in 2004. The quotes from Ozzie Guillen about his makeup don’t count because. . .well, because they come from Ozzie Guillen, who says a lot of stupid things. Javier has this tag of being ‘soft’ as a pitcher, but most like most tags it’s just media-generated noise that doesn’t add up to much. We all heard last year that CC Sabathia was tagged with ‘can’t pitch in the post season’ based on a few bad October starts, ones where he was clearly out of gas after carrying his team to the playoffs on his back. He went on to dispose of that tag last year in the playoffs, as did Alex Rodriguez effectively remove the ‘choker’ label that dogged him for so many years (also unfairly). So while these tags seem to be an attempt to define a player, they come and go too quickly to have any real value or merit.

But there is one question that has been begging an answer. Is Vazquez just a slow starter? We’ve heard recently that his fastball velocity is down a few ticks, which is normal for any pitcher in April. Pitching Coach Dave Eiland thinks it may just be a matter of mechanics (specifically tempo) getting ironed out early in the year. But whatever the cause, is starting out slow typical for Javier Vazquez?

To do an Apples to Apples comparison, I’m going to look at his first two starts going all the way back to his last stay in New York back in 2004, to see if there’s any sort of pattern here. Here’s the data, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

2004-

Apr 8 NYY CHW W,3-1 GS-8 W(1-0) DR-99 IP-8.0 H-3 R-1 ER-1 BB-2 SO-5 HR-0 HBP-0 ERA-1.12
Apr 16 NYY @ BOS L,2-6 GS-6 L(1-1) DR-7 IP-5.1 H-9 E-6 ER-4 BB-1 SO-5 HR-3 HBP-0 ERA-3.38

2005-

Apr 4 ARI CHC L,6-16 GS-2 L(0-1) DR-99 IP-1.2 H-10 R-7 ER-7 BB-0 SO-2 HR-0 HBP-0 ERA-37.80
Apr 9 ARI LAD L,10-12 GS-6 DR-4 IP-5.1 H-5 R-6 ER-5 BB-3 SO-7 HR-1 HBP-0 ERA-15.43

2006-

Apr 8 CHW @ KCR L,3-4 GS-7 DR-99 IP-7.0 H-5 R-2 ER-2 BB-1 SO-7 HR-0 HBP-1 ERA-2.57
Apr 14 CHW TOR L,7-13 GS-6 L(0-1) DR-5 IP-6.0 H-9 R-7 ER-7 BB-1 SO-4 HR-1 HBP-0 ERA-6.23

2007-

Apr 7 CHW MIN W,3-0 GS-7 W(1-0) DR-99 IP-6.2 H-1 R-0 ER-0 BB-4 SO-5 HR-0 HBP-1 ERA-0.00
Apr 13 CHW @ CLE W,6-4 GS-6 W(2-0) DR-5 IP5.1 H-8 R-2 ER-2 BB-3 SO-7 HR-0 HBP-1 ERA-1.50

2008-

Apr 2 CHW @ CLE L,2-7 GS-5 L(0-1) DR-99 IP-5.0 H-5 R-4 ER-4 BB-4 SO-6 HR-0 HBP-1 ERA-7.20
Apr 7 CHW MIN W,7-4 GS-7 W(1-1) DR-4 IP-7.0 H-7 R-3 ER-3 BB-1 SO-8 HR-0 HBP-0 ERA-5.25

2009-

Apr 8 ATL @ PHI L,11-12 GS-6 DR-99 IP-6.0 H-5 R-3 ER-3 BB-4 SO-5 HR-1 HBP-0 ERA-4.50
Apr 14 ATL FLA L,1-5 GS-6 L(0-1) DR-5 IP-6.0 H-5 R-3 ER-3 BB-1 SO-12 HR-0 HBP-0 ERA-4.50

.

The numbers are clearly all over the place, from outstanding in 2004 and 2007 to horrendous in 2005. Last year may have been the best season of his career, and his first two starts were mediocre. That’s not surprising given the small samples you’re dealing with, and there isn’t any clear pattern one way or the other. So this year’s slow start just get’s chalked up as statistical noise, which is what many of us have suspected all along.

Apr 172010

Scranton and Trenton were rained out today.

Tampa defeats Daytona, 8-4

  • Although he only went 1 for 4 tonight, Abraham Almonte is off to a hot start for the Yankees.  Through 8 games, the 20 year-old outfielder is putting up a .344/.400/.469 line, with 4 steals (and caught 2 times).  Almonte, playing right field in deference to Melky Mesa, has long been a favorite prospect of mine, whose combination of speed, switch-hitting ability, and patience makes for an intriguing prospect.  Abe has frequently played against players older than him, which perhaps explains why his numbers in previous years (particularly 2008) were not super impressive.  In 2009 in the low-A Sally League, Almonte put up a .280/.333/.391 line, with 36 steals (caught only 5 times).  He is definitely a player to watch for Tampa, and now that he is playing against players around his age, he could be in for a breakout season.

Charleston defeated by Augusta, 5-2

  • Jose Ramirez, every Yankee prospect watcher’s pick to have a breakout season, put together a strong start tonight.  In 5 1/3 innings, the 20 year-old Dominican gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, and struck out 9.  For the season, Ramirez has a 3.48 ERA, with 15 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.  Ramirez is an intriguing prospect because he has the ability to run his fastball into the mid-90′s, and combines his heater with a plus changeup that is a great strikeout pitch.  His breaking ball is still raw, but at age 20, he still has time to improve.  In 2009, Ramirez set the Gulf Coast League on fire with a 1.48 ERA, and 53 strikeouts in 61 innings.  It is probably premature to get too excited about his performance at a low level, but if he continues to post a high strikeout rate, Ramirez will begin to get more attention from prospect gurus, and he will become more than just a sleeper prospect.

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