Tagged: Javier Vazquez

The No. 5 spot: A never ending problem

Chamberlain 1:7.jpgAs it stands right now, the Yankees will go into opening day with the following rotation: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez. Not bad for the first four. But the number five spot remains open.

The Yankees have choices. They can go with Joba, they can go with Hughes, or they could slip in Serigo Mitre, who just yesterday signed a one-year $850,000 deal, according to the Associated Press.

If you have read anything I have written, you will notice a hatred of mine for the idea of putting Joba in the rotation. Hughes is a better starter and Joba is a far better reliever. So it seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Just put Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the bullpen. It would work as both a long term and shor term solution. But, the ridiculous Yankee coaching staff philosophy has me backed in a corner.

First off, let’s just remove Mitre, who most certainly does not deserve a spot over Hughes or Joba.


Who should be the fifth starter for the Yankees?(polling)
But back to the issue. Just as the Yankees had a “Joba Rule” thing in effect, you can bet your dollar they would have some “Hughes Rules” as well. Which makes me very skeptical. There is no doubt that you can attribute Chamberlains atrocious starting pitching to the fact that he was constantly on a pitch count. It made him always think about the pitch count, which took his focus away from being aggressive.

In 2010, the wheels would be off for Joba, so maybe he would be a better starter. I’m afraid that the same thing that happened to Joba will happen to Hughes, should they put him in the rotation.

But either way, you go with the better option. Like I said, Hughes is a better starter, and Chamberlain is a better reliever. Long term, Hughes can be the next Pettitte, and Chamberlain can be the next Rivera (maybe a bit worse.) You might as well set up for that now, rather than screwing stuff up. ⧫

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A few thoughts on Damon

I thought I would take a few moments to point out some interesting points on Damon. It looks at this point — and has for a while — that Damon will not be back in 2010. Boras has set his asking price a little to high for the Yankees.
Do you want Damon on the Yankees in 2010?(polls)
But here are a few reasons that I think you shouldn’t count out Damon returning to the Yankees.

  • Ken Davidoff of Newsday tweeted a couple of weeks ago, that Damon requested a two-year, $22M deal from the Yankees, which they declined. This was after Boras said that they wouldn’t take anything less than a three-year deal. The fact that Damon was willing to bring it down to two shows that he really wants to play for the Yankees.
  • No other teams have shown interest in Damon, yet.
  • One possible suitor a couple of weeks ago was the Giants, who signed Mark DeRosa to play left.
  • Another possible suitor was the Braves who got Melky in the trade for Vazquez.
  • All of the teams that showed any interest at all were from the National League. It’s very unlikey that a NL team will take him because there is no DH, and I doubt they will risk having Damon as their everyday left fielder.

So don’t count it out. It’s quite obvious that Damon really, really wants to play for the Yankees. They also may end up being the only choice for him. The only thing between Damon and the Yankees is Boras. If Boras backed down, Damon would be on the Yankees. There are only two ways Damon ends up on the Yankees: (a) Damon goes to the Yankees, alone, and works out a deal, or (b) Boras realizes that the Yankees are their only choice and takes a cheaper deal. But don’t expect (b) to happen until, very, very late.

Vazquez: A new pitcher

There has been so much said about the deal the Yankees made for starting pitcher, Javier Vazquez. Many can’t get the memory out of their mind of Vazquez giving up the grand slam to Johnny Damon in the 2004 ALCS. It is that memory that has raised a lot of debate over a pitcher who has had mixed results in his career. Last season was the best of his career, when he recorded a 2.87 ERA. So, the question is: Was last season a fluke? Or did Vazquez really change something about himself?

The first thing I heard on this issue was from Brian Cashman. He said that Vazquez changed his release point last year, and that made him more effective. Using PitchFX data from fangraphs.com, we can see if that is true or not. Here are two graphs of Vazquez’s release points, showing a random game from 2007, 2008 and 2009, in order.

Vazquez release.pngIn 2007 and 2008 his release point was on the same plane, but then jumped up in 2009. Obviously he changed something in his mechanics, and it worked. PitchFX data doesn’t go before 2007, but if it did, I bet his release point would still be at that low level it was at before 2009. Bottom line: His release point has, indeed, changed.

Another thing that jumped out to me was his pitch selection. Here is a table showing the pitch tendency of Vazquez:

Season FA% SL% CH% CU% FT% IN% PO% UN% Pitches
2007 58.9 % 15.7 % 15.1 % 10.1 % 0.0 % 0.1 % 0.0 % 0.1 % 2324
2008 54.7 % 20.1 % 12.2 % 12.8 % 0.0 % 0.3 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 3073
2009 44.8 % 22.1 % 14.1 % 14.2 % 4.6 % 0.2 % 0.0 % 0.0 % 3307

The difference we see here is that Vazquez has significantly decreased the amount of time he throws his fastball, by 10% to be exact. As a result, he threw his slider, change-up, and curveball more often, as well as developing a two-seam fastball, which he had never featured before. Overall, he has mixed up his pitches more effectively and as a result become less predictable.

Now, let’s look at his velocity:

Season FA-Vel SL-Vel CH-Vel CU-Vel FT-Vel IN-Vel PO-Vel UN-Vel Pitches
2007 92.5 84.8 82.8 75.7   65.0 75.9 39.8 2324
2008 91.9 84.6 81.9 74.1   72.1 81.1   3073
2009 91.2 83.2 80.2 72.5 89.9 72.1 81.3   3307

His velocity has actually decreased over the past three years. That may seem bad, but what’s important is to realize that all of his pitches have decreased in velocity at a somewhat equal rate. That means that the speed differential is all the same between pitches and is therefore not a problem.

Last, we will look at Vazquez’s prediction for the 2010 season based on formulas used from Bill James.

Season Team W L ERA GS IP H HR BB HBP SO
2004 Yankees 14 10 4.91 32 198.0 195 33 60 11 150
2010 Bill James 15 9 3.60 31 215.0 205 26 52 7 204

I put 2004 in there to illustrate the fact that he is a completely different pitcher. Basically, he will be a tad worse than his flawless season last year, and considerably better than his disaster season in New York. Bottom line: I would sign up for Vazquez as my number four starter in a heartbeat.

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Poll of the Day:
Will Vazquez be a reliable starter next year?(answers)

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