Mike will post a full recap of the Yanks’ disappointing 7-6 afternoon loss to the White Sox later tonight. I wanted to take the open thread to delve into one former scout’s take on Javier Vazquez’s struggles over his first five outings of 2010. The Yankees have lost eight games, and he has pitched in five of them. Something clearly isn’t right.
For many amateur psychologists among us, Javier’s problems are mental. He can’t pitch in New York they say. His body language and demeanor on the mound foretell that fate. There is more than a little bit of confirmation bias going on there. Because he’s struggling, his mound demeanor isn’t great, but that simply means he’s not pitching well now. It doesn’t mean he’s not equipped to succeed in New York.
But something isn’t right with Javier. His pitches have no bite and no location. In the early goings, his velocity has been markedly lower than where it was last year. To me, this suggests either an injury or a mechanical problem. FanHouse’s Frankie Piliere, a former Texas Rangers scout, thinks Vazquez’s problem is one of mechanics. I’ll excerpt at length:
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…
Where he’s going wrong in his delivery surely isn’t a mystery to Vazquez, but fixing it isn’t as simple as identifying it. Vazquez’ delivery requires him to have his arm and lower half in sync perfectly. Right now, that’s not happening. Everyone is ready to jump on the fact that he is collapsing on his back side and that’s why he’s struggling. Well, not so fast. At this stage with a 33-year-old, you are probably not going to revamp his mechanics when he has been working from this delivery his entire career. The manner in which he collapses on his back side and drifts toward the plate do make him susceptible to funks like the one he is in now, but at the same time when his mechanics are clicking he’s quite effective. So let’s stop short of revamping a big league veteran’s entire delivery.
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.
The way he’s delivering the ball, he’s throwing against his front leg, rather than driving over the top of it and getting on top of the baseball. Again, Vazquez always has and more than likely always will collapse on his back leg and drift toward the plate. But, recently it’s just gotten away from him. Because he’s unable to drive over that front leg and get on top, he’s forced to rotate around his torso and shoulders, creating more of a side-to-side effect than a downhill effect.
Piliere goes on to discuss how Vazquez’s front shoulder is flying open, and from watching the first and second innings of Javy’s outing against the White Sox today, it’s easy to see how Piliere’s analysis seems to be spot on.
The former scout says it’s a tough issue to correct, and the Yankees are going to have to adjust on the fly. Vazquez’s next start comes after an off-day and is slated to take place in Boston on Friday. Because of that off-day, the team could start Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett on regular rest and wouldn’t need Vazquez until they arrive in Detroit. The spacious confines of Comerica may be the confidence booster Javier needs, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them hold him back a few days.
For now, though, the team has a problem with its fourth starter and the luxury of a 15-8 start which allows them plenty of leeway to fix that problem. Time for Dave Eiland to work some magic.
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Beyond that, we have some bad news on Curtis Granderson. He’s out with a Grade II groin strain.
This is your open thread. The Rays and Royals are under way, and the Red Sox/Orioles affair starts at 7:05 p.m. The Canucks take on the Blackhawks on Versus at 8 p.m., and the Celtics and Cavaliers play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals also at 8 p.m. on TNT.