Javy Vazquez: Unclutch?

By the Decade: Team of the Decade
Can the Yankees avoid arbitration with Gaudin, Mitre?

It’s a question that’s been asked since the Yankees reacquired Javy Vazquez right before the holidays. Was the second half of 2004 and his abysmal playoff showing the real Javy, or was it the product of bad mechanics or something along those lines? Jay at Fack Youk looked into the issue and determined that yeah, Javy generally does perform worse in higher leverage situations.

During his twelve year career, Vazquez has posted a .798 OPS against with a 4.51 FIP in hi-lev situations compared to .700 & 3.60 in lo-lev spots. American League pitchers posted a .750 OPS against with a 4.45 FIP in hi-lev spots last year, so Javy’s slightly below average in that regard. The flip side of the coin is that Vazquez is superb in lower leverage spots, as AL pitchers posted a .765 OPS against and a 4.56 FIP in those situations last year. Obviously you want pitchers that bear down and do well in big spots, but for a fourth starter, Vazquez is far more than qualified.

If you’re someone that believes in intangibles and stuff (they certainly exist, though I don’t think they’re nearly as important or have as much of an impact as many believe), then Javy has two things going for him this year: a) it’s a contract year and he’s never once been on the free agent market, and b) dude’s got a chip on his shoulder, he’s going to be out to prove that what we saw in 2004 was not the real Javy. I’m betting contract year Javy Vazquez is going to be a damn good pitcher.

By the Decade: Team of the Decade
Can the Yankees avoid arbitration with Gaudin, Mitre?
  • Mike HC

    “If you’re someone that believes in intangibles and stuff (they certainly exist, though I don’t think they’re nearly as important or have as much of an impact as many believe)”

    On the Major League level, everyone is so talented, that the difference between winning and losing is very small. Inches, as we all know. Intangibles might have a very small impact on a 162 game season, but for a playoff series, where every game has so much riding on it, the smallest difference makes all the difference in the world.

    I do like Javy though, and it is obvious that that horrible second half was an aberration that is not likely to repeat.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      On the Major League level, everyone is so talented, that the difference between winning and losing is very small. Inches, as we all know. Intangibles might have a very small impact on a 162 game season, but for a playoff series, where every game has so much riding on it, the smallest difference makes all the difference in the world.

      Agreed. In the small sample size of a playoff short series, intangibles are magnified.

      You know what else is magnified, though? Tangibles. Talent. Ability. Production.

      • Mike HC

        hahah. Can’t argue with that

  • Evilest Empire

    I’d like to see how Vazquez did in hi-lev / lo-lev situations last year. The fact that he happened to pitch in the National League last year is not exclusively responsible for him being one of the top 10 pitchers in the whole game last year.

    Also, you know what other veteran happens to be a on a contract year for (I think) the first time?

    Derek Mother-Effin’ Jeter, that’s who. And I have a feeling he’ll be making his case for another 9-digit contract.

    • Bo

      Jeter can have the yr of his life and no team will pay him a 9 figure contract. Even the Yankees probabl wouldnt do that. He’ll be positionless after this yr and doesnt hit with enough power to warrant those numbers.

      • Chris

        He’ll be positionless after this yr

        They’re eliminating the shortstop position? That seems like a big change to make to baseball and have it go unnoticed.

  • jsbrendog

    cy young from our # 4 starter. i mean, the guy did come in top 5 in the nl in cy voting and at least he was in the east facing the phillies sometimes eh?

    • Evilest Empire

      As Rob Neyer noted in his blog a while ago, Keith Law cost the Braves $70,000 because he voted JV 2nd on his Cy ballot. That made Vazquez 4th in the voting overall, and one of the clauses in his contract is that he gets $70K if he place 4th in the Cy.

      That amuses me.

      • jsbrendog

        haha, nice, did not know that. way to go KLaw

      • Mike HC

        kinda crazy that sports writers now have a role in how much a player gets paid.

        All those cy young or mvp type incentives are kinda nuts when you think about it. They get more money if they are “perceived” as one of the best, not if they actually are one of the best. They should tie the incentives to something more concrete, like top five in WAR or something.

        • http://forums.projectcovo.com/images/smilies/e6omir.gif Do Not Feed The Trolls!

          meh WAR is just as imperfect as as Voters

          • Mike HC

            yea, but atleast it is consistent and everyone knows beforehand exactly how it is computed,

            Voting is completely arbitrary and involves human biases, like whether the reporter likes one guy more than another.

          • Chris

            Imperfect, yes. As bad as the voters? No.

            • BringBackWillieRandolph

              Except that, under the current collective bargaining agreement, you cannot base incentives on statistical monuments. You can have incentives based upon reaching a certain number of milestones, i.e. at bats, plate appearances, games played, etc., but you cannot have incentives based on the number of home runs, rbi’s, strikeouts, etc. I would assume that would also apply to newer metrics such as win shares, value above replacement, etc.

              This was the rule when I was working for a time as a player agent, and I don’t believe it’s changed since then.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      It’ll be funny when Vazquez repeatedly slots up against the dregs of the opponents’ rotations and has a fat 22-9 W/L record thanks to tons of favorable matchups with our elite offense teeing off against the Dustin Nipperts and Jason Berkens of the world.

      • jsbrendog

        he could win 25 games haha

        and we all know wins = cy

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          Bartolo Colon

        • vin

          Javy and Halladay = 2010 Cy Young winners. 25 wins apiece.

          Seriously, though. I’m not sure people realize how uncommon it is for a guy to win 20+ games in today’s game.

          Two of the greatest pitchers of my (or any) generation – Pedro and Maddux only had four 20+ win seasons combined. One 23 win season by Pedro in Montreal, the rest were *only* 20 win seasons.

          So in 37 FULL seasons, two of the greatest pitchers ever only managed to combine to win 20+ games 4 times.

          • Steve H

            Though to be fair, Maddux likely would have won 20 in both 1994 and 1995 if not for the strike. But yeah, your overall point is a very valid one.

          • Ed

            Well, look at Pedro’s career workload. He had lots of injury issues of various degrees, and it was well known that for most of this decade (if not longer) Pedro on extra rest was far better than Pedro on normal rest.

            He topped 200 IP 7 times. Go down to 190 IP and you get another 2 seasons.

            Pedro was provided quality pitching, but not quantity. Quantity is a necessity to hit 20 wins.

      • Thomas

        It’ll be funny when Vazquez repeatedly slots up against the dregs of the opponents’ rotations

        This doesn’t actually happen. Off-days and injuries prevent number fours always lining up against other number fours.

        For example, in 2009, Roy Halladay against the Yankees faced Burnett, Wang, Pettitte, Chamberlain, and Mitre (in order) all once while never facing Sabathia. By Halladay’s fourth start overall, he was no longer facing the other team’s ace.

    • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

      In five games, Javy held the Phillies to a .207/.267/.397/.664 line last year. That was damn good.

  • t

    He pitched vs phili 5 times giving up 3/2/2/4/0 runs. Boston once, giving up 1 run over 7 innings. STL twice 5/2 runs. I am comfortable with those numbers.

  • the artist formerly known as (sic)

    vazquez may not have great numbers in the clutch but his CheMQuo (chemistry quotient) is in the top 5 three years running. so, theres that.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak


      That’s what wins championships after all.

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        that and having guys like him as your #4 or #5 pitcher with Jeter through Posdada flat out raking all year :)

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    Hey, what number is Vazquez gonna wear? I believe he’s rocked #33 at all his stops prior to this one, but that’s currently taken by the SwishHawk.

    Have they announced yet?

    • Jai

      didnt he wear 27 in montreal? is 27 now going to be retired? haha

    • larryf

      18 (soon) and 55 are available I believe…

  • A.D.

    Isn’t leverage going to be partly biased in that generally later innings will have more leverage, also when the starting pitcher tends to get tired?

    Additionally leverage increases as runners get on base, which goes under where a player almost certainly will have worse numbers with runners on base than without.

    • the artist formerly known as (sic)

      even if thats true, and im not sure it is, it would be the same for every pitcher. not just vazquez.

    • vin

      Check the FackYouk link. Javy really struggled with men on base, particularly with the bases loaded (smaller sample though). He was much worse than the two guys he was compared to in the post – Glavine and Pettitte.

    • kimonizer

      You should read the Fack Youk article. He does a really good job of explaining the different metrics and how he put them together to come to his conclusions. He compares him to Glavine and Pettitte and shows how the leverage determinations are made.

  • AndrewYF

    Is there any chance Vazquez is a Yankee beyond 2010? He seems like a guy who will age really well.

    • vin

      Oh I think so. If he pitches well, I can’t see why Cash wouldn’t want him back. He’s always been a fan of him, and he’s another high SO workhorse.

      Andy Pettitte is the wild card in all this, though. If he wants to return, and Javy is re-signed/extended, then that will once again leave only 1 spot in the rotation for Hughes/Joba.

      • AndrewYF

        Of course, this assumes Hughes/Joba succeed at a starting role in 2010, and AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte don’t suffer catastrophic injuries.

        File this under “Good Problem To Have”, as always.

        • vin

          Yup. Good problem indeed.

  • SM

    It would be nice to know if Hi Lev and Low Lev performance are repeatable over time. I like link and Jay did good work but it would be nice to have seen the split between first half and second half of career or variations over 3 year periods, etc Ideally for all pitchers, but at least for the ones he used in his example.

  • mryankee

    I guess Vazquez will be better than he was in 2004. Solid pitcher I wonder if Sheets would have a been a better bet less money and would not have to trade anyone. I know health is an issue bit you would not sign Sheets if he was not healthy right?

    • Steve H

      yeah, and I’d sign Hanley Ramirez if he were a free agent. The hypotheticals are nice, but not very valid.

      • mryankee

        Sheets is a free agent and I think just as good as a pitcher and would be available for less money and no prospects. Am I wrong?

        • SM

          Yes. Probably wanted more money when you factor in savings on Melky.

        • Steve H

          It was the healthy part that is hypothetical. The guy just missed a full season. If Ben Sheets had Javy Vasquez’ track record for health and durabilty, sure, sign me up. In a vaccuum Sheets>>Vasquez, but Sheets even gets hurt in that vaccuum.

    • vin

      Not sure how much less money Sheets would command. I think Harden’s deal inflated the “injury prone/injured pitcher” market. Sheets was said to be looking for similar money to what he last got with the Brewers (11m in ’08). Also, I believe there’s a relatively high success rate with his elbow surgery. Much less of a crapshoot than a shoulder surgery, for example.

      However, there’s still got to be a reason why he hasn’t signed yet. Either he’s not confident in the health of his elbow, or he’s holding out for dollars that just dont seem to be there.

      • mryankee

        Well its a risk I would have taken. I am not sad about Vazquex. I think he willbe an upgrade and I think he is every bit the pitcher Lackey is at this point. So no complaints about that pickup. I also like the Sox took Beltre now they cant get Adrian Gonzalez this year.

        • vin

          It is easy for us to say “sign Sheets, take a gamble on Wang, kick the tires on Mulder, etc.” But at some point Cashman has to try to put the best possible team out on the field.

          Those guys carry so much risk, that a competitive team like the Yankees (a club with a fair amount of older players) needs to be cautious when pursuing them.

          What does Sheets’ injury mean this year? It means that Cashman believes:

          Javy Vazquez (11.5 mil) – Melky – Dunn – Arodys – cash > Ben Sheets (10 mil)

          That’s how much the Yanks don’t want to gamble on Sheets. There is tremendous value in a guy who is a great bet to give you 200+ innings. That means less innings for the pen. Javy will be replacing the Wang/Mitre/Gaudin experience… which is a nice upgrade.

    • http://cache.boston.com/multimedia/sports/bigshots/110509/01.jpg Drew

      If Sheets gets between 6-10 mil guaranteed I see it as too much . Javy will give us quality innings and bolster the middle of our rotation. Also, Sheets has only had one year better than Vazquez’s 2009(era+).
      Considering Sheets hasn’t pitched since 2008 and will not come cheap, I think it was a great choice to pass on Ben and roll with Javy.

    • Bo

      Sheets? How did Sheets do in 2008?

      You dont even know if he can pitch let alone be a top dog on an AL East team.

  • Bo

    How can you not believe in intangibles and clutch after watching playoff baseball up close the last 15 yrs??

    Some players are better when the pressure is on. it is a real thing.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      Totally right. A-Rod is the most unclutch postseason player ever. Oh wait…

    • Steve H

      Do the intagibles change year after year? So did Derek Jeter lose his intagibles in 2007 to the tune of a .176/.176/.176 line, then regain his intagibles? Or is it simply a SSS issue, and like almost every other player, ever, if they got 500 postseason AB’s their line would be pretty similar to their regular season line?

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        The reason Jeter sucked in the 2007 postseason wasn’t because he lost his intangibles.

        It’s because Gary Sheffield was such a disruptive clubhouse cancer during his 2004-2006 stint in pinstripes that his negative mojo rubbed off on the guys and caused them to choke in 2007 against the Indians.


  • Charlie

    wasn’t there already a post about this?

  • Joseph M

    Vazquez is nothing more than a .500 pitcher. When arrived in 2004 he was 64-68, when he left he was 78-78 since then he’s 64-61. I guess we’ll have to all learn this lesson again. If this guy gets near a post season game he’ll get torched, I just hope he doesn’t cost us a post season series.

  • chriso

    i’m expecting good things out of javy, also, in 2010.
    too many fans seem to be forgetting that the yanks wouldn’t need a fourth starter to start games in the post-season. so, javy’s supposedly “unclutch” pitching wouldn’t necessarily be any kind of factor there.
    if javy pitches well in the regular season–and there’s no statistical info that strongly suggests he won’t–the yankees will get to the post-season!!
    also, about 2004….vasquez was one of the better pitchers in the league through the first half of the season. he got hurt, didn’t tell anyone, and tried to pitch through discomfort, which resulted in mechanical issues and bad performances. he’s acknowledged his bad judgment and has, since that season, been the solid performer he was expected to be.
    one other, related comment, about the great, and just-retired, randy johnson. fans like to get down on him for his time with the yankees. again, that is unfair. he was in pain throughout much of that time. he won 17 games each year and gave his team 200+ innings, anyway. sure, he was surly, and all. but give the guy his due. just because he was a disappointment in NY doesn’t mean he wasn’t any good.

  • http://yankees tony

    Im a big Yankee fan who happened to move to South Carolina, so I got to see Javy pitch alot with the Braves, he is a totally different pitcher then the 2004 Javy, he looked more confident, was throwing much harder but mixing up the pitches well, i think Yankee fans will love him.