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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.

12 Responses to “Vazquez’s Slower Fastball and Flatter Curve”

  1. I’d like to see a thread about just how good a choice Phil Hughes was for the 5th starter spot. He’s been damn near perfect, and has even managed to do very well without his best stuff.  (Quote)

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    old fan Reply:

    Have you looked at Hughes’s hits to IP ratio? Outstanding!  (Quote)

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  2. I get labeled at many places a Javy hater just simply because I had the audacity to suggest earlier that something was wrong with him. I’m not a Javy hater, I love the redemption angle, I’d love nothing more than to have him succeed and prove the haters wrong. I thought he got a raw deal last time out, and I think he’s not performing to his capabilities this time out. I think he should be DLed until the Yankee brass is fully comfortable with where he is. Does this make me a Javy hater if I think that he’s clearly not right, and that I’d like to see him work out his issues in Scranton where it won’t cost the Yankees games?  (Quote)

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    old fan Reply:

    JV is a story that has yet to play out this year. He will either join the dark list of Whitson, Alexander, Rodgers, etc. as pitchers unable to pitch in NY, but can elsewhere, or (I’m hoping) join Ralph Terry, as a Yankee who was able to overcome heartbreaks in the 1960 and 1961 Series to become a hero (very close run thing) in the 1962 Series, or, some midpoint result where he recovers his skills, somewhat, and gives us a lot of league average innings, and gives the team the chance to win, which might be all the team needs this year.

    I just hope that Girardi realizes how much that he will be tempting History and Destiny, if he uses JV in any key playoff situation. (a recent example of note–Torre using Weaver for that relief role in the 2003 Series, which turned that series around in the wrong way.) Joe G. —you better be right, if you do.

    Anyway, watching this unfold is part of the fun of being a Yankee fan.  (Quote)

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    Omar Reply:

    JV is a story that has yet to play out this year. He will either join the dark list of Whitson, Alexander, Rodgers, etc. as pitchers unable to pitch in NY, but can elsewhere, or (I’m hoping) join Ralph Terry, as a Yankee who was able to overcome heartbreaks in the 1960 and 1961 Series to become a hero (very close run thing)in the 1962 Series, or, some midpoint result where he recovers his skills, somewhat, and gives us a lot of league average innings, and gives the team the chance to win, which might be all the team needs this year.
    I just hope that Girardi realizes how much that he will be tempting History and Destiny, if he uses JV in any key playoff situation. (a recent example of note–Torre using Weaver for that relief role in the 2003 Series, which turned that series around in the wrong way.) Joe G. —you better be right, if you do.Anyway, watching this unfold is part of the fun of being a Yankee fan.  

    Woah…playoffs are a long ways a way. I personally want him to work his shit out in Scranton. While Javier Vazquez has had one season where he pitched anywhere close to his actual abilities, he shouldn’t be pitching anywhere near this terribly. If Vazquez is still blowing and CC/AJ/Andy/Phil are all dealing there’s really no need to use him in the playoffs…if Vazquez fixes himself and turns it around, sure give him a shot in the playoffs.  (Quote)

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  3. I said the same thing when Chris posted this. It looks like the PitchFX algorithm for horizontal break has changed. Go look at the rest of the Yankees starters. They all show less horizontal movement this year.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Yeah, I told Stephen this. But I did find the lack of vertical break on the curve interesting. Combine that with a lesser velocity spread, and it starts to give some indication of one of the problems.  (Quote)

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    the artist formerly known as (sic) Reply:

    Im going to take a look at all this. To me, the two worst parts of this piece for Vazquez are the dip in velocity in the FB and the lack of bite on the curve, but the horizontal movement question is obviously worth examining in depth.  (Quote)

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    Stephen R. Reply:

    Looks like I was still using my old handle. Whoops.  (Quote)

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  4. Wow, what a surprise.His fastball is batting practice velocity with no movement and his curve hangs and has no bite.
    Whoda guessed it without the charts.  (Quote)

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    the artist formerly known as (sic) Reply:

    Ha. Well, sometimes it’s good to quantify numerically what your eyes seem to be telling you.  (Quote)

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