Earlier this morning Steve S. outlined the potential mechanical issues Vazquez may be dealing with right now. I want to take a look at some data on his fastball and his curveball. Are his mechanical or physical issues manifesting themselves in a decrease in the quality of the pitches?
In this first chart we see Vazquez’s fastball velocity plotted against the horizontal movement on the fastball from 2008-2010. As we knew, Vazquez’s fastball is averaging 89.1 mph, which is way down from where it was in 2008 and 2009 when he averaged 91.9 and 91.2 mph, respectively. From a movement standpoint, we see that that Vazquez was averaging around -7.5 in 2008, -6.8 in 2009 and -6.1 in 2010. Anecdotally, we saw this decrease in horizontal movement yesterday when Andruw Jones hit his second home run. Posada set up on the outside of the plate, and when the fastball stayed over the middle of the plate, Jones deposited it in the bleachers.
Here we see Vazquez’s fastball velocity plotted against his vertical movement. Unlike the horizontal movement, we see that his vertical movement is largely in line with past results. In 2008, he averaged 9.2. In 2009, it was 8.7 and this year he is averaging 9.2. Nothing to see here, move along.
In the third chart things get dicey. This chart is a plot of his curveball velocity against his horizontal movement. The first thing to note is that curveball velocity is averaging 75.7 mph in 2010, whereas he averaged 74.1 and 72.5 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. This isn’t necessarily problematic, but he’s also generating far less horizontal movement at the same time. In 2008 and 2009 he averaged 7.2 and 7.4, respectively, but in 2010 he is only averaging 5.3. This would represent the least horizontal movement on Vazquez’s curveball since Pitch F(x) began recording data and would seem to suggest a deterioration in the quality of the pitch.
This chart is the same as the one above, but includes a correlation line for the 2010 curveball. As we can see, Vazquez’s hardest-thrown curveballs are the ones that generate the least amount of horizontal movement. It would stand to reason that Vazquez is overthrowing his curveball and as a result generating less movement. It appears that it may be more effective when it was slower, and generating more movement.
In this fifth chart, which plots the velocity of Vazquez’s curveball against his vertical movement, we see a dramatic decrease in vertical movement. In 2008 and 2009, Vazquez averaged -3.9 and -4.8 in vertical movement on the curveball. In 2010, he has averaged only -2.9. Taken with the increase in curveball velocity, we see that Vazquez’s curveball is coming in harder and breaking less than it has in the past. You want your curveball to curve. When it flattens out, it gets hammered.
Whether Vazquez is out of whack mechanically or hiding an injury is beyond me. It is apparent, though, that whatever issue he has is seriously affecting his ability to generate quality pitches. His fastball is coming in slower and with less horizontal movement. When a right-handed pitcher can’t generate as much horizontal movement, he’s going to have a difficult time commanding the ball to the outer half of the plate. Slower fastballs over the middle of the plate mean more hittable pitches and higher ERAs, plain and simple. Vazquez is also throwing his curveball harder and with less vertical break. He’s not only decreasing the difference in velocity between his hard stuff and his breaking pitches, but he’s also leaving them higher and more hittable. Something is very wrong with Vazquez, and he’ll need to make major adjustments in order to get back to his 2009 form.