May 022010

Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News

The problems with Javier Vazquez have gone from a minor slump to a major concern. Yesterday was his 5th start of the season, and the results haven’t changed at all. If anything, they’re getting worse. He gave up at least one run in each inning he pitched, and has given up a run or more in 6 of his last 8 innings pitched. In his first three starts he was prone to the one big inning, but now he seems shaky all the time. His one decent outing and win of the season came facing the Oakland A’s, where he relied less on stuff and more on veteran guile facing a young and inexperienced A’s lineup.

His velocity on his fastball has been down, Fangraphs Pitch Type values show it at the lowest level it’s been in 7 years. His WHIP is an ugly 2.04. His BB rate has exploded to 5.87/9 IP this year (2.37 career) and pitchers who miss that often out of the strike zone are usually missing badly in the strike zone as well. His GB/FB rate is a career low 0.72, and while he’s always been a fly ball pitcher that tells you just how hard he’s been getting hit, as does his career high BABIP of .349 (.309 career). But you don’t need these numbers to tell you how he’s been doing. By every measure, he’s pitched horribly.

We’ve heard the Yanks repeatedly say it’s just a mechanical issue. That he’s dropping his arm a bit, getting a bit ahead of himself in his delivery. Frank Piliere of MLB Fanhouse agrees with this assessment, and explains it as follows:

There’s a reason that Vazquez has had trouble stringing together multiple good seasons in a row in his career. Yes, he’s been durable but the results have been erratic year to year. His mechanics are always going to be an issue, assuming he doesn’t revamp his current delivery completely. There are pauses, a lot of drifting and a drop on his back leg that simply make his delivery hard to repeat.

His delivery in particular hinges a lot on rhythm. He doesn’t deliver the ball with a brute force, and doesn’t stay tall and drive the ball downhill. So, he has to have a lot of moving parts working in sync together to be successful. Like any good groove, when he gets it going it usually keeps going much the way it did with the Braves last season. That obviously hasn’t been the case so far here in 2010.

For the most part, pitchers need to stay on top of the baseball to be successful and it’s especially crucial for a guy like Vazquez who relies heavily on fastball movement, not raw velocity, and the action on his big curveball. Not being able to get on top of his pitches is the simplified version of why the beginning of this season has been such a nightmare for him.

His mechanical issues have caused both his stuff to be less sharp and his command to be way off. So pitches with less bite are drifting out over the plate, which is why he’s given up an astounding 8 HRs in just 23 IP. Piliere also has an explanation for his velocity being down:

However, it can’t be said enough that timing in Vazquez’ delivery comes into play perhaps more than any pitcher on the Yankee pitching staff. If he’s early with his lower half and stride toward the plate, like he is right now, he’s going to have a lot of trouble. So far, his lower half has been far ahead of his arm and he’s getting too far out in front to generate any decent leg drive. He’s going to have to stay back longer over the rubber and allow his arm to catch up.

Sounds easy to correct, right? But as Frank goes on to explain, correcting this is easier said than done. It’s all about Javy getting into a good rhythm, and right now he’s just completely out of whack. It has nothing to do with New York or pitching in the American League, both of which he has had success in previously. It’s all just mechanical. But bad mechanics can be a function of not being where he needs to be mentally, and clearly this rough stretch is wearing on him. He said this in yesterday’s post game:

“It’s tough. I can’t hide that. It’s tough. But I promise everybody I’m going to keep working hard at it and battle through it,” he said.

Javier is stuck in a ditch right now, and his answer to to hit the gas even harder. I think that’s a mistake. My prescription for what ails Javy would be to simply skip him his next start. With an off day coming up on Thursday, you can skip Javy and keep everyone else on regular rest. You’ll need him after that, since there are no off days after Thursday in May until the 24th. I would further tell him to STOP trying to fix what’s wrong right now, which may actually be the hardest thing for him to do. Tell him that I don’t want him to pick up a Baseball for the next 10 days, then have him get a bullpen in before his next start. I’m not alone in this sentiment, Girardi was asked this very question by one of the beat reporters in yesterday’s post-game. Here’s what he said:

“There’s no doubt about it right now that he’s scuffling,” Girardi said. “We have to find a way to get him back on track. But my concerns right now is tomorrow and the next day and how we deal with some of the things we’re dealing with right now.”

No surprise there, I wouldn’t expect Joe to tell the media anything before he tells Javier. And I doubt he would say anything to Javy so soon after a such a rough start. But this has to be under consideration right now. He’s not giving the team a chance to win. He has been the starter in 4 of the Yanks 8 losses this year. Much like with Wang last season there comes a point where you throw the resume out the window and do what’s best for the team. Right now, I think the best thing Javier can do to fix his troubles is to take a break.

8 Responses to “What to do about Vazquez”

  1. I’d keep running him out there. Didn’t Mike Flanagan get off to an 0-7 start one year and finish with 20 wins?  (Quote)

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    BklynJT Reply:

    That would be the exception, not the rule.  (Quote)

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  2. I agree on the break. It seems like his confidence is shot right now. You can ….

    (a)-skip his next turn, and then pick out the best minor leaguer for a spot start. (I wouldn’t go to Aceves or Mitre, right now, as they are not stretched out. Joba–forget about it.). Any AA guy right now probably can’t pitch any worse than JV. The break of 2 starts might be enough.

    (b)-find a injury–any injury (sprained muscle?), and send him to Tampa to work with it out.

    (c)-trade him for Ian Kennedy. (This is just a joke)

    (d)-seriously, in another month or so, there may be somebody willing to drop a higer priced pitcher, for JV if the Yanks sweeten the deal somehow. The ideal would be the last place rebuilding Astros trading Oswalt for JV, $, and a package. The NL would be his most likely landing spot if a trade occurs. This may be JV’s last year, so his current value wouldn’t be much at all, unless it was a desparate NL club making a run at the playoffs and needing starting pitching badly. If JV can’t straighten it out soon (2 or 3 starts?), it would be unbearable to JV, and the team, and the fanbase, to keep this same spectacle occuring. When was the last time a high profile starting pitcher called it quits in the middle of a season? I’d have to think about this, but I know that it happened quite a lot in the old days.

    (e)-obviously, the best solution for all concerned is for JV to get it worked out with the Yanks, and pitch as (somewhere in the neighborhood of) a league average pitcher for the remainder of the season. (with some approximization of the innings eater that he used to be). I hope he does.  (Quote)

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  3. It may be the exception that a good pitcher off to an 0-7 start wins 20 games, but it’s certainly not the exception that a good pitcher off to a bad start turning it around and having a good season. I think people giving up on this guy this early flies into the face of MLB history.  (Quote)

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    smurfy Reply:

    2c, above, is a pretty good joke, but I agree with you, oldpep. Maybe it was generous, but it’s been said he was the third best pitcher in the National League last year. That would be right after Lincicome and Wainwright. Chris Carpenter may have a beef, I don’t know, but that’s some pretty good company. And now, it’s just gone. Nope – hey, sounds like time for a bet.  (Quote)

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    old fan Reply:

    Old Pep, I generally agree with you, it happens all the time that established starters, in a rough patch, are left alone to work it out. You don’t have to go any further than say, Mussina, late in his second to last season, for an example. Harang with the Reds, over the last 2 seasons, might be another. There are dozens and dozens of examples one could find where letting them work it out, worked to some degree or another. But, usually it was because the teams involved had little real choice in the matter, I think this case, is a little different, for the following reasons…..

    (1)- The fans were on JV, from minute one, because of his past history, fairly or unfairly (I think unfairly). Yea, sure, give him 2 or 3 more starts. But, what if the results are the same? What if, for example, he were 1-6, with a 9.50 ERA and 2.10 WHIP, and a bull pen killer? There is some point, I don’t know where, where Girardi couldn’t keep sending him out.

    (2)- To me, the man seems to be in agony when he explodes. And this look of despair seems to get worse with each start. He’s a sensitive guy, and wants to be cheered, not booed. Sometime over the winter, I read an interview with JV, where he intimated that he has only a short time left in baseball. Does the man, who has made millions, really want to put himself thru this?

    (3)-This Rays team, with it’s deep, good, young starting pitching, looks to me like a 95 to 100+win team. The Yankees don’t get too long to make sure they get at least a .500 record the rest of the way from JV’s spot, if they want to run with this Rays team.

    (4)-I remember Ed Whitson, Doyle Alexander, Kenny Rodgers, and many others. Sometimes you have to recognize this situation, better sooner than later.

    (5)-I really hope that JV turns this around. What a great story if he did! If he wins one or two key games, and gets the crowd behind him, I couldn’t be happier! But.  (Quote)

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    old fan Reply:

    In my heart, I would like to see Javy Vasquez pull a Ralph Terry this year. And go down in Yankees history as examples of how a guy could change his legacy, change the hand he was dealth. But as I said we don’t have a lot of time.  (Quote)

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  4. Steve S., I think you’re right with the rythm. I prescribe Latin music and the beverage of his choice, maybe rum? The Puerto Rican Parade isn’t till June 13, well, maybe that can be a refresher, he needs therapy sooner.  (Quote)

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