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:
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.