Some good, but mostly bad in Javy’s latest

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Photo credit: Frank Franklin II/AP

Javy Vazquez would do well to purchase ear plugs before his next start at Yankee Stadium. After two excellent starts, in which he allowed just two runs on six hits in 13 innings. Even better, he struck out 13 to two walks, a much better ratio than he was sporting prior to the start against Detroit. By many indications he, as we’ve heard commentators say, “figured it out.” Something wasn’t right in his first five starts, but a brief rest gave him time to collect himself. Or something else of an inspiring narrative nature.

It’s clear that Vazquez’s velocity has declined this season. His fastball averages 89.1 mph right now, down 2 mph from 2009, and down 3 mph from his superb 2007 season. That’s not completely unexpected. Vazquez will turn 34 in June, a time when many pitchers start to lose velocity. With four quality pitches in his arsenal — fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, plus a two-seamer — he seems like the type of pitcher who can adapt. That is, as long as he retains command of his pitches. So far this season, at least in terms of his fastball, he has not. We saw that on display again last night after the two-game reprieve.

What stood out about last night, other than how hard the Twins hit the ball, was Vazquez’s pitch selection. He went with the four-seamer 57.4 percent of the time, odd because he’s thrown it 38.1 percent of the time this season. The changeup had been his go-to secondary pitch, constituting 19.5 percent of his overall pitches, but last night he threw it just nine times, while going to the curveball 15 times and the slider 13. Maybe he wasn’t feeling the changeup, maybe the gameplan was to go with breaking pitches. I don’t know. What I do know is that Vazquez certainly altered his pitch selection in this start.

The real interesting bit is Javy’s pitch chart, but before that I just wanted to throw up this one. The strike zone, it appeared, was fair. (And if you look at Blackburn’s strike zone plot it looks pretty similar.) There’s just one area that troubles me. At the bottom right, you’ll see a cluster of green dots. Those are pretty clearly strikes, yet Javy didn’t get the call at all. There’s even one green dot that appears closer to the zone than the red dots to its left and to its right.

Unsurprisingly, that green cluster of called balls consisted mostly of sliders. That’s the perfect slot for a slider, low and away to a righty, yet Vazquez did not get the call. That’s not an excuse for his performance — none of this is an excuse — but if he’s not getting that call he has to try something else. If another of his pitches isn’t working, well, it’s pretty easy to understand why he’d pitch badly in that scenario.

It looks like Javy had trouble locating the two-seamer inside. You can see a number of powder blue dots well out of the zone inside, and the few that did hit the zone caught plenty of the plate. He also missed the zone with the majority of his changeups, though I’m not sure whether that’s by design or by mistake. The only one in the zone got hit. The one on the corner caused a swing and miss. The others were nowhere near the zone. Pitchers often throw a changeup that falls out of the zone, hoping a batter chase. I’m not sure if the Twins had a gameplan to lay off the changeup, or if they looked like bad pitches out of Javy’s hand. In either case it’s clear why Javy threw it less frequently than his other pitches.

At a quick glance, it looks as though 41 of his 62 four-seamers were reasonably within the zone, which is a good sign. That cluster in the middle might look concerning, but the Twins only managed one hit there. All of the curveballs in the middle of the zone were either called strikes or hits. The one low and away was called a ball, as were the two at the bottom of the zone. Look at the two curves directly on the inside edge. The one on top was a swinging strike, the one on the bottom a ball. Directly to the left of the bottom one are two more curveballs. They were both called strikes.

Javy did recover a bit in innings three and four, and it looked for a minute as though he might have been able to avoid disaster. But that didn’t last, and he ended up leaving with a pretty ugly final line. He said he battled better last night than he had in his earlier starts, and in a way I can see that. Clearly he didn’t have command of anything other than his four-seamer — perhaps a residual effect of his finger injury — and he got beat seemingly every time he went with a breaking pitch. But when you go into a battle with one weapon, it’s hard to avoid getting shelled. I’m not totally discouraged by the start. What will discourage me is if he pulls the same thing against the Orioles on Tuesday.

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  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    yet Vazquez did not get the call. That’s not an excuse for his performance — none of this is an excuse — but if he’s not getting that call he has to try something else.

    I think it’s a great excuse. The pitcher goes from throwing in a pitcher’s count to a hitter’s count. It makes a huge difference. Umpiring is a joke. I’m sure it’s always been bad, but now fans have difinitive proof. MLB needs to look into a more consistant way to call a game.

  • Jason II

    Just because two pitchers get the same calls for the strikezone, it doesn’t make it fair. Sure, its fair for the teams in the game, but it’s still unfair to the pitcher. Just because Blackburn is also ‘suffering’ doesn’t make it fair to Javy.

  • Bondarri

    I just love this website!! Best insights on Yankees I’ve ever seen. Keep up the great work.

    I wish the Yankees would get rid of Javy, Thames, and Winn for starters. They say Thames can hit but he can only hit the fastball on occasion. Anything that breaks he looks as lost as he does staggering around in the outfield under routine fly balls! He makes me ill!!

    Javy needs to be in the psych ward!! His problems have got to be mental. The Yankee uniform seems like kryptonite to him especially the home uniform.

    A-Rod is earning about 25% of his contract and I can’t figure out what is wrong with Tex at the plate. I am 61 and I can say that Tex is the best fielding first baseman I’ve ever seen. He is amazingly good in the field but with the poor outfield that Yankees have he and A-Rod just have to hit.

    Guess I’m just frustrated. I was really thinking that based on the excellent start this year that the Yankees would be dominate and that is not going to happen. They have some serious holes and no good prospects to fill them that I can see at the moment.

    • Cnight_UP

      Who are you replacing Javy with???

      • Tampa Yankee
      • Mr. Sparkle

        Does it matter? That would be a valid question if Javy was even somewhat effective. But when you’re replacing someone who has been flat out awful, it really opens it up a lot as to who you can replace them with. You have to ask at this point if someone of say, Darrell Rasner’s calibre could replace Vazquez. I’d say a Rasner type would be every bit as able to take that spot in the rotation IF Javy could bring back any value via trade. You’d have to be just plain awful to be worse than Javy.

        If you’re looking for a significant upgrade, well that’s doubtful. The way he’s pitched, a minor upgrade might not be that hard to find. We’re just asking for someone who can keep them in the game on a consistent basis and isn’t a head case.

    • Opus

      How quickly we forget Donnie Baseball…

    • A.D.

      Why are you hating on Thames, cause he’s come in and hit better than expected?

      • lenM

        Cashman got what his bargin shoping derserves a big fat zero!!!
        Injured Johnson Mr. 136 at DH. but oh… he can walk to inflate his OBP. Funny, Cashass thought he was worth five million, but guts the offense dealing Damon (That because he can hit in the clutch). Lets not forget the trade of Austin Jackson because he’s a weaker hitter than Mirranda (Oh boy). Then there is, oh my is that a fly ball I see Thames, and I can’t hit either. But wait let us not forget our savior Granderson Mr. 180 from the left side, and mediore from the right side. If this isn’t the class of a fourth place team I don’t know what is. He has taken a world series team to a are you kidding me team. I love the Yankees, but this years team is a joke. Tex is got the money now his slow start is more, and more like his post season it stinks. Does it get any better than bases loaded no one out and he hits a harmless pitch back to the box for a double play. He will hit 300 this year when I grow hair on my head. This team can’t hit. There pitching has to lights out to win. So Cash, you saved some but you got a lot less than you bargined for. Be a man, admit it and do more than talk about it for Gods sakes.

    • Mike HC

      “They have some serious holes”

      Really? Our starting lineup, when healthy and you can’t predict health, is C Jorge, 1B Tex, 2B Cano, SS Jeter, 3B ARod, OF Gardner, Granderson, and Swisher. DH – Johnson, Thames (smashes lefties) and Miranda (smashes righties) Starting pitchers 1 – CC, 2 – Pettitte, 3 – AJ 4 – Hughes 5 – Javy. Bullpen – Joba and Mo.

      Has middle relief been an issue? Yes. Has the bench been underwhelming? Yes. Are these “serious holes”? No.

      • Zack

        And the last two issues are things every team experiences

        • vin

          Especially when battling injuries.

      • Mr. Sparkle

        Yeah, the serious holes have been in the bats lately. Nothing more boring or frustrating than watching a team that can’t hit and right now…this team can’t hit.

        What’s probably going to happen is one day, against some unfortunate pitching staff, the big guys are going to get back on track and they’ll run off a bunch of games where they’re pounding the heck out of the baseball. When that happens, this will be in their rear view mirror and the panic of “we have to make a move” or “we have to get this guy or that guy” will be gone. Besides, who are they possibly going to get that would impact the lineup? No one.

      • Captain Jack

        Well Posada isn’t healthy, Jeter’s declined, and Teixeira is slumping. Javier Vazquez is god awful, Hughes (probably) won’t be this good all season same with Andy Pettitte, except replace “probably” with “definitely.” It’s not that this is a bad team, it isn’t…it’s a very good team, just that there’s one team that’s probably better (The Rays) and another that has the potential to be very good if the players hit their cycle…err, hot streak at the right time (Boston)

  • Frank

    I don’t bash players by saying they suck or anything of the sort because I realize the talent you need to have to even be the 25th man on an MLB roster. That said, I just don’t see Vazquez as ever succeeding on this team. Whether it’s mental, physical, diminished skills due to age or whatever, this guy, in my view, will never win for this team.

    • Jammy Jammers



      • Joseph Pawlikowski

        I don’t understand SSS

        /Jammy Jammers’d

      • bexarama

        What a silly comment.

      • Pete

        For a pitcher of Vazquez’s stature, an entire year would be a small sample size. For any pitcher, two months is a small sample size.


  • Accent Shallow

    Right now I’m definitely concerned about Javy. Of course, if he starts the season off OK (not spectacular, like Hughes/Pettitte, just OK), this start is seen as a blip. If he’s still throwing up stinkers after another 3 or so starts, then I start thinking DL.

    • Matt on Earth

      “If he’s still throwing up stinkers after another 3 or so starts, then I start thinking DL.”

      That line of thinking bothers me on 2 accounts. First, if he needs to be on the DL because he is actually injured than shame on him. If it comes out that he has been injured and withholding info AGAIN, then that’s really lame. That was his excuse last time around. I think he owes it to the organization to be up front with injuries rather than letting them discover it over the course of 2 months worth of mostly bad baseball.

      Second, I disagree with the whole idea of defaulting someone to the DL simply because they suck. If he’s not physically injured, he doesn’t belong on the DL. Lack of confidence / fragile mentality is not an injury. He’s just playing bad. While it might be a conveniant loophole for the team to get another arm in the rotation, it is not really the purpose of the DL. It was not designed to act as an alternative for underachievement.

      • yoo-boo

        Only way to get vazquez out of the rotation is to bump him to bullpen and Mitre takes his spot in the rotation.

        • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

          worst. idea. ever. (after trading him of course)

        • Steve H

          Who’s Mitre? (I know you don’t mean Sergio career 5.42 ERA as a starter primarily in the NL).

        • Pete

          Vazquez, even now >>> Mitre.

        • yoo-boo

          Peck, Steve, Pat..

          That means Vazquez will stay in the rotation no matter what. Get it!

  • yoo-boo

    If Yanks acquired either Lee or Halladay instead of Vazquez then the rotation would have Mitre as 5th starter. I can live with it but Hughes, Chamberlain and Montero are Cashman’s favorites.

    With Hughes, Chamberlain and Montero on Cashman’s off-limit list, Vazquez was actually the best deal. I could not think of anyone that was better than Vazquez last off season.

    My biggest concern with Vazquez is his skills are gradually diminishing as he is currently sitting on about 7 thousand point ahead of type B. If he finished this season as type B then Yankees wont have any pick better than Yanks’ spot for 2011’s draft. If Vazquez was ended up as a type A FA and Yanks were top 5 best record then signing Lee wont at least kick Yanks out of first round. I know it is silly to think way ahead about draft but I really prefer draft to IFA crap.

    Anyways, did I read the picture right? Vazquez just owned merely 4 swung and missed pitches against Twins? seriously?

    • Cnight_UP

      #1 – Vazquez is a 1 yr deal.

      #2 – We were never in on Halladay, Toronto wanted too much.

      • yoo-boo

        so were Halladay and Lee. duh!

        • Cnight_UP

          The difference with Halladay and Lee, is that you are not trading the pieces needed to acquire them for 1 year, and then extend them for mega dollars.

    • Cnight_UP

      #1 was supposed to read, they are not offering him arbitration, so type A, B, or Z doesn’t matter.

      • yoo-boo

        oh… yeah… arbitration crap… I was counting on arbitration offer.

    • A.D.

      Assuming the Yanks offer Vazquez arb….which is no guarantee.

      • yoo-boo

        not sure which mentioned but I think it was either media or beat writer. After acquiring Vazquez, Yanks were set for 2 extra first round picks. That is what I am counting on. Right now, it may be a bad news because Lee and Halladay are locked as type A easily.

        Hopefully, Vazquez is able to turn around in the midst summer. And, it is not for draft’s sake. I really want to have top 4 starters to be consistency enough to take off some pressure from Hughes.

        • A.D.

          I mean I’m sure they mentioned it, however I wouldn’t expect it to happen given his current salary (regardless of performance) and then add in performance.

          Sure Lee & Halladay are a lock for that, they also would have cost a hell of a lot more.

          • yoo-boo

            that is what I said. Vazquez was a better bargain during last offseason but as far as draft concerns, he does not help us. Yank would have better slot if Vazquez ended up as a Type A fa.

            Some people are still miffed about losing Vizcaino but will accept if Yanks get 2 extra first round picks. The way he is pitching, it wont accomplish the goal.

        • bexarama

          About 12% of what you say makes sense.

          not sure which mentioned but I think it was either media or beat writer.
          What? Who mentioned what?

          Right now, it may be a bad news because Lee and Halladay are locked as type A easily.
          What does that even mean? We’re not getting Halladay, he signed an extension with the Phillies.

          And Hughes has been just fine with this “pressure” on him.

          • yoo-boo

            why bother to post to something you dont get it?

            • bexarama

              Because you post here a lot and I’m constantly trying to figure out what the heck you’re trying to say. I mean, the other day you said you knew the Nats weren’t picking Harper in the draft because of some article you read in Prague. Do you realize how that makes absolutely no sense?

    • Mr. Sparkle

      I said it in the off-season so this is not 20/20 hindsight. I wanted them to take a shot at Ben Sheets. Vazquez was not the best available move. Sheets was a better bet and it wouldn’t have cost them a 4th outfielder. So now we have Vazquez pitching awful and minor league utility infielders playing left field. Classic Cashman. I guarantee this is all because of his obsession with “durability.” Vazquez is supposed to be an “innings eater” while Sheets has a questionable health record. Funny now how Vazquez, instead of giving them innings, is tiring out the bullpen every fifth day. So, that strategy didn’t work out so well, did it Brian?

  • FrankFernandez

    He still has the stuff to be Mike Mussina, post-fastball. He’ll probably figure that out next year after we’ve moved on.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      This is exactly what I was thinking while typing this article.

    • Pete

      agreed. very similar arsenals overall, and Javy has typically had very good control throughout his career.

  • YankeesJunkie

    Looking at Javy’s numbers there have been some major discrepancies between his numbers last few years and this year. First off, his BB/9 rate has doubled to over 4 this year, while his FB velocity has dropped 2 mph which is huge. His change up has also stayed the same velocity making less effective as there is less of a difference between the fastball and the change up. Furthermore looking at the pitch values for Vazquez his slider has been over 2 runs above average per 100 pitches, however his change and curveball have gone from being 2 to 3 pitches above average to 2 to 3 runs below average. Basically, Javy has been different pitcher than what they Yankees traded it. Whether it is his confidence or lack of a fastball as the cause is something that I do not know, but whatever it is the problems run very deep.

  • yoo-boo

    Vazquez and Mussina are not same. Dont make me laugh.

  • dan 7

    javy is worst now then before………and he sucked the first time…………did anyone say…….DFA………………….!

  • dan 7

    EAT THE MISTAKE NOW……………………….!his fastball just high 80s…………….what is this high school?

  • stan kucharski

    Jeter is declining? I get a kick out of these knee-jerk reactions and comments. They reflect very little patience and a total disregard for the body of work that Derek has compiled over fifteen years as a Yankee. If he is batting .250 at the end of the year I might consider that he is declining. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. He is a rare breed of professional and we should be grateful that he has been a Yankee and one of the greatest players of his generation.