Just some stuff I came across regarding Javier Vazquez today…
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
Total: $34.25 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.
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.
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.