Dec
22

Javy Vazquez by the numbers

By

Just some stuff I came across regarding Javier Vazquez today…

Payroll implications

By my back of the napkin calculation, the Yankees were at around $197 million in payroll before the Vazquez trade. This included estimated arbitration raises to Melky Cabrera, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre, plus filling out the roster with reserve clause players. Given all the talk about the Yankees’ 2010 budget, it didn’t appear they had room to make a big move. That is, unless the budget number is a bit higher than $200 million. That seems to be the case.

I could go through and make a calculation of the new payroll, but since this is an informal look at the numbers, I’m taking a different approach. Let’s compare what the Yankees shed this off-season to what they picked up.

Off the books
Johnny Damon – $13 million
Hideki Matsui – $13 million
Andy Pettitte – ~$10.5 million
Xavier Nady: $6.5 million
Chien-Ming Wang: $5 million
Brian Bruney: $1.25 million
Melky Cabrera: $1.4 million
Jose Molina: $2.125 million

Total: $52.775 million

Additions
Javy Vazquez: $11.5 million
Curtis Granderson: $5.5 million
Nick Johnson: $5.5 million
Andy Pettitte: $11.75 million

Total: $34.25 million

Raises
Derek Jeter: $1 million
CC Sabathia: $8.8 million (not sure how he showed up on the OD payroll, though)
Robinson Cano: $3 million
Nick Swisher: $1.45 million
Damaso Marte: $0.25 million

Total: $14.5 million

The additions and raises add up to $48.75 million, or just over $4 million in savings. That money will cover the arbitration cases for Gaudin and Mitre, and if the Yankees do trade Gaudin it would cover just about everything. So if the Yankees do intend to sign a left fielder, they’ll go over 2009 payroll by a little bit. But, if CC’s full salary (the ~$15 million salary plus signing bonus) did count against the OD payroll (I think it did), then the Yanks have some wiggle room. Not Matt Holliday wiggle room, but a little at least.

Quality of opponents faced

I’m not sure what we can take from Baseball Prospectus’s quality of batters faced statistics, but it’ll be an interesting look in any case. Clearly, with the pitcher in the nine hole Vazquez faced easier competition in the National League in 2009. But by how much?

Javy’s best American League season came in 2007 with the White Sox. Over 216.2 innings he pitched to a 3.74 ERA, posting 8.85 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, and a 3.80 FIP. Those are excellent numbers by any standard — though his 1.20 HR/9 mark is a bit concerning (though partly a product of the Sox ballpark). That year, he faced opponents who combined for a .270/.339/.418 line. Not too shabby.

Last year, when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, Vazquez faced batters who hit a combined .254/.328/.403. They’re a bit worse, as expected, since the nine hole is consistently filled by a pitcher. Stilll, it’s good to know that he can do it against better opponents, too. For comparison, in his 2008 season in Chicago he faced batters who hit .263/.337/.412, so they were slightly worse than the hitters he faced in 2007, but he fared worse.

Confused yet?

Batted ball data

When trying to account for an uncharacteristically good or bad season from a player, I like to check out their batted ball data to see if there is any significant shift. There appears to be one for Vazquez in 2009. He increased his ground ball percentage, which is always welcome, but more importantly he drastically reduced his fly ball percentage. He had been in the low 40% range for most of his career, but in 2009 he brought it all the way down to 34.8 percent. That’s quite excellent for a player who has a home run to fly ball rate of over 10 percent for his career. Javy is home run prone, but if he keeps the ball out of the air he’ll fare much, much better in that regard.

Plate discipline

Another stat from Vazquez’s FanGraphs page: opponents had a tough time making contact with pitches outside the strike zone. In 2009 Vazquez threw more pitches outside the zone than at any point in his career. Yet he still posted the best walk rate since 2001. The key: opponents just couldn’t hit those pitches. Does it mean Vazquez found something on his breaking and off-speed pitches that eluded him before? I’m not quite sure. It’s an interesting phenomenon, for sure.

Not only did Vazquez throw more pitches out of the zone in 2009 than he had before in his career, but opposing hitters swung at them less frequently than in years past. Even with those two factors, hitters just couldn’t make as much contact on those pitches. That’s something I’ll definitely be looking for when Javy takes the mound this season.

First half of 2004

Many fans can’t forgive Javy for his 2004 meltdown. It started at the All-Star break, and extended all the way through the playoffs. But don’t let that discount what he did early in the season. Through 18 starts, Javy averaged almost 6.2 innings per start, posting a 3:1 K/BB ratio and allowing just 47 runs through 118.2 innings.

Categories : Pitching

112 Comments»

  1. Sean says:

    Don’t forget that A-Rod makes 6 million LESS this year than he did last season. He made 33 million last year, only 27 this year. I’ve yet to hear anyone mention that, but thats a whole 6 million to work with.

  2. BklynJT says:

    Heard that Vazquez changed his arm slot this past year. Is there any truth to that?

  3. EB says:

    Fun Fact: Javy, AJ and Lackey all have a career 3.83 FIP

    The yankees just added the third best pitcher in baseball last year according to FIP and a lock for 200IP. I love it.

  4. Drew says:

    As for the payroll.

    Cash says “I do have a number that we’re working under. We will be at that number and it will be less than last year… I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece.” -Lohud

    Last year we were somewhere between 210-220 when incentives were all said and done, correct me if I’m wrong.

    I wonder if this limit is a bit higher than I expected, say somewhere near 210.

  5. Jamal G. says:

    Some numbers I dug up throughout the day (all WAR figures are from Stat Corner, not Fangraphs):

    Javier Vazquez is the only starting pitcher to produce at least a 5.6-WAR season in each of the last four campaigns – 5.8 (2009); 5.6 (2008); 5.7 (2007); 5.8 (2006).

    Courtesy of Eric Seidman: http://bit.ly/60PQBr

    Over the last ten seasons, only two pitchers have been durable enough to reach 2,000 or more innings thrown—an average of 200 IP per year—while simultaneously posting a strikeout rate north of 8.0 and an unintentional walk rate under 2.5. One of those pitchers is Randy Johnson, a first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably the most dominant southpaw starter of the last quarter-century. The other pitcher happens to be Javier Vazquez …

    In 2008, his final season in the Junior Circuit, Vazquez ranked fourth in the following metrics: tRA (3.51); pitching runs above average (32.6); WAR (5.6); K/9 (8.64).

    During the 2006-2008 AL seasons, Vazquez and teh Johan were the only AL starting pitchers to rank in the top seven of the regressed tRA (*tRA) statistic in every season.

    Yeah, Javier Vazquez is a fucking ace, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Honestly, you can make a very good case that he is the best starting pitcher in the American League East under 290 pounds.

    • Jamal G. says:

      Oh, and if you’re a bit puzzled as to why he has continually underperformed his peripherals over his last three AL seasons, take a look at where the Chicago White Sox ranked in team defensive efficiency during the 2006-2008 campaigns: 20th in 2008; 23rd in both 2007 and 2006.

      Not only did the Yankees finish with an above-average 13th ranking in 2009, but you can logically expect significant improvements at third base (a healthier Alex Rodriguez), left field (Johnny Damon to Brett Gardner) and center field (the Melky Cabrera-Brett Gardner duo to Curtis Granderson).

      • Tom Zig says:

        You forgot: Nick Swisher being Nick Swisher in Right Field.

        Didn’t he make improvements to his defense after talking with Eiland?

        • Drew says:

          Eiland just helped with his arm slot and mechanics I believe.

        • Salty Buggah says:

          He did work on his throwing when the season was close to finishing. And we saw the results in the playoffs. He had some good throws. He’ll probably still be a near 0 UZR guy I think

        • Jamal G. says:

          Yes, he did, and you clearly saw a difference. Also, his range was above average in 2009 (+3.5), and the only thing that seems to have dragged his defense down in UZR’s opinion was his 4.3-runs-below-average throwing arm. Although, I’m not going to be overtly optimistic in this sense and say that he will instantly return to being the plus-six defender UZR sees him as over his career because of a new throwing motion, but it would be awesome to see.

      • Salty Buggah says:

        More evidence to back up my post below (or my post is more evidence to Jamal’s post…either way)

      • Mike bk says:

        if gardner is going to play everyday it should be in center and it has nothing to do with how his bat plays where. he is a better cf’er than grandy, so he should play center and let grandy play left.

        • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

          Not so sure about that. While Brett probably has better range, we’re still looking at his numbers through a very small sample. Also, his arm is pretty weak–though not Damon weak–so it may be better to have Granderson, who still has good range, play CF.

        • Jamal G. says:

          I agree with JMK – Curtis Granderson has been rated as a +5 defender in center field over his career, and Plus/Minus saw him make a total of twenty-four plays that the average center fielder did not over the last three years, and fifteen more in 2009. I am more than comfortable with saying that Brett Gardner is at least a 15-run improvement over Jason Bay and Johnny Damon in LF based on Gardner’s Total Zone numbers in the minors and his UZR projections, but not Granderson, a really good defender by all accounts.

          • Jamal G. says:

            … Curtis Granderson has been rated as a +5 defender in center field over his career, per UZR,

            • Mike bk says:

              is that the same UZR that had him as a -9.4 in 08 and only a 1.6 in 09?

              So the argument is that he should play center in ’10 because he was really good there in 06 and 07?

              Gardner does have a small sample to an extent but was 15.4 in 09 in 790 innings overall in CF rated at 27.6

          • Tank the Frank says:

            I should also bring up a point I heard that Grandy was playing CF in a bigger ballpark with Magglio Freakin’ Ordonez. Yankee Stadium’s dimensions should help him defensively (as well as offensively) as should the better outfield defense surrounding him.

    • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

      Nice stats there, Jamal. I’m going to take it that you’re very happy with the deal?

      I see him as a very, very good fringe ace/ unreal #2 starter. It’s crazy that we could very conceivably see Andy or A.J. as our 5th best starter by the end of the year. Up until today one could easily argue Boston’s rotation trumped ours. Now, I think few would make that argument; at worst we’re on par with theirs, and likely better.

      My only concern is Javy’s home run rate jumping back to his norms, especially with lefties at YSIII, and what will happen to Hughes. I’d really rather have him develop some innings and work on his pitches at AAA or as a swingman (but again, only if he gets serious innings). I’d really hate to see him lose another year building up his arm and developing his pitches while throwing mostly fastballs as a set-up man.

      • JobaWockeeZ says:

        My only concern is Javy’s home run rate jumping back to his norms, especially with lefties at YSIII, and what will happen to Hughes. I’d really rather have him develop some innings and work on his pitches at AAA or as a swingman (but again, only if he gets serious innings). I’d really hate to see him lose another year building up his arm and developing his pitches while throwing mostly fastballs as a set-up man.

        Agreed with the Hughes thing. I’d like to see him at AAA where it’s a guarantee he’s the 6th starter and he can develop some pitches there like his changeup. A swingman role would also be nice if he’s developing pitches and pitching quite a lot like he was doing when he first went to the bullpen and not the 8th inning guy.

        I’ll be really ticked off if he’s only the 8th inning guy not even being an option for starting depth like last year.

        • Cash said him and Joba will compete for that 5th spot, so it’s not guaranteed to go to Joba.

          Stil….

          • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

            Joba’s without an innings limit, started all of last year and is likely a bit more developed. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t Hughes getting dropped from a spot.

            • I kinda assumed that, but both Chad and Sam at LoHud said that they’d assume Joba would go to the bullpen when they did their live chat this afternoon.

              • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

                They can have their assumptions, sure. Still, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense any way you slice it (unless they’ve decided they want Joba permanently in the bullpen).

      • Jamal G. says:

        Hmm, I’d probably go:

        1. CC Sabathia
        2. Jon Lester
        3. Javier Vazquez
        4. Josh Beckett
        5. John Lackey
        6. A.J. Burnett
        7. Andy Pettitte
        8. Daisuke Matsuzaka
        9A. Joba Chamberlain
        9B. Clay Buchholz

        • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Glenn Beck Complex says:

          Yeah, I’d agree with that. Ultimately, I think it depends on how one views the gap is between them all. For instance, I think there’s a small-medium gap from CC to Lester, a big gap from Andy to Dice-K. Because of consistency I’d also argue there’s a sizable gap from Lackey to A.J.

          All in all, it’s pretty close. Both have really, really good rotations. I just see a bit more strength for us on top with CC, Javy over Lester and Beckett and on the bottom with Andy and Joba over Clay and Dice-K, though I’d rather have Lackey over A.J.

          Still, it’s way too close to tell.

          • Jamal G. says:

            I agree it is a small gap between Sabathia and Lester – the only reason I really rated them as such is because the former has been doing it longer than Lester. Also, as far as performance goes, I think Pettitte and Matsuzaka are a wash, but because of the health issues of the latter in 2009, I rated him below Pettitte.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        I echo your sentiments on Hughes. Can we please just have these guys as starters and be done with it!?!

        This is why we need to pray for a quick start by Melancon and/or Nova. Let them pump mid-90′s fastballs in the 7th or 8th inning. Lord knows they have the stuff to get it done.

  6. Salty Buggah says:

    He also has had bad OF D behind him in the past, which will hurt him as he is flyball pitcher. Last year, the Braves had a middle of the pack OF defense. In 08, the White Sox had the 3rd worst OF D in the majors. In 07, their OF defense was the 11th worst. In 04, the Yanks had the worst OF defense in the world by a large margin (-22.5 UZR/150 compared to the next worst team, the Red Sox, who had a -10.6 UZR/150…yea, so REALLY REALLY REALLY bad D).

    Our OF D should be pretty good this year so that will help his stats.

  7. Yazman says:

    Cashman: “Brett Gardner is now in a position to be an every day player for us.”

    Superior speed, superior defense, grit, league-average hitting and minimum pay make a great combination for your #9 hitter. I’m hoping Gardie sticks.

  8. mr yankee says:

    Cashman was just on MLB network, states that they are in talks with an outfielder? Any idea seems like something is almost done. Sorry for the non topic but I thought you guys should know.

  9. mike jones says:

    Replacing Melkym Matsui, and Damon with Granderson and NJ is just not enough. They at least need to get derosa if damon is too expensive.

  10. ARX says:

    “Not only did Vazquez throw more pitches out of the zone in 2009 than he had before in his career, but opposing hitters swung at them less frequently than in years past.”

    So he threw more balls, and those balls induced fewer swings…but he had his best walk rate in 8 years? Um…neat trick?

  11. mr yankee says:

    I am suprised Cashman would reveal that they were close with anyone. I guess we all have to stay tuned

    • Januz says:

      I really would be shocked if it was DeRosa because he is a Type “B” Free Agent, who would cost them a second rounder (And they need to rebuild their farm system). I also do not think it is Holliday or Bay (It would cost them a first-rounder plus $15m (Or more) per season). I think it is Johnny Damon. Damon makes a lot of sense. 1: He will not cost a draft pick. 2: He has proven he can play in The Bronx. 3: He will not cost $15m per season. 4: He will not demand 4 years or longer.

    • This is not meant to be a dick, it’s totally serious. Are you sure you didn’t mishear and he said they weren’t close? I ask because I’m as surprised as you that he would say something like that.

  12. NCpinstripes says:

    Cashman did basically say on the MLB Network that they have a guy all but signed, but it will not be Johnny Damon. I would think it’s DeRosa, but I hope it’s for only a year. Could possibly be Jermaine Dye. The Yanks could move Swish to left if that were the case.

    Honestly, I’m fine if they go with Brett Gardner. His speed is such an asset, and he has always gotten better throughout his minor league career in his second year at a particular level. He’s a hard worker, and I think he will more than prove his worth. I love Melky, but I think separating he and Cano may benefit both of them.

  13. Lanny says:

    I’ll believe the budget is a hard number when I see gardner in LF on opening day hitting 9th.

  14. Ken says:

    Cashman was on MLB Hot stove show and he said they are working on a player. He said they moved on from Damon when he was asked if they would bring him back. I prefer Jermane Dye and Verducci mentioned him as well, they also mentioned DeRosa.

  15. Vic Diana says:

    I like this move by the Yankees. I always like Javy, you can’t judge him for one bad pitch a few years ago. I think he’s going to make the rotation a lot better.

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