Javy’s season comes into clearer view


(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Last time through the rotation Javy Vazquez blew through the Angels’ order, using just 37 pitches to record the first 12 outs. This time it took him 45 pitches to record those first 12 outs, but the difference was that he kept cruising after that. He completed the seventh and even came out for the eighth, using 102 pitches (64 strikes) to keep his team within striking distance. It seems like he’s doing that in almost every game now. That’s quite a change from the beginning of the season.

At this point we can draw a few conclusions about Javy’s season. For instance, he’s clearly lost a bit on his fastball. In good starts and in bad he’s averaging around 89 mph, after averaging around 91 mph for most of his career. That has led to a number of changes in his numbers, including an decreased strikeout rate, increased walk rate, and increased home run rate. Of course, some of that is attributable to his ugly first five starts, which he has put behind him. It warrants a bit closer look to see what has changed since the beginning.

Home runs stand out the most, because they do the most damage. Javy has surrendered 18 of them this year, which has led to a career-high rate of 1.51 per nine. Eight of those came in his first five starts, meaning he has surrendered just 10 in his latest 13 starts, a much more palatable number (1.07 per nine). Opponents are putting the ball in the air frequently, 47.4 percent, a number that, if anything, has gone up as he’s gotten better.

The added fly balls do have a side benefit. While ground balls suppress extra base hits, fly balls suppress base hits in general. The AL is hitting .231 on groundballs, but is hitting .222 on fly balls (.142 BABIP because of the sac flies). This helps explain Javy’s .255 BABIP. It might seem unsustainably low, and I do suspect that we’ll see something of an uptick in it. I’m not sure when that will happen — after all, he does have a .221 BABIP in his last 13 starts.

His walk rate, 3.45 per nine, is quite high for him, but again comes mostly from the beginning of the season, when he displayed no command of his fastball. In his last 13 starts he has walked 2.79 per nine, still a bit above his normal numbers but understandable given his change of scenery and diminished fastball. Those facts also have affected his strikeout rate, which is at just 7.23 per nine. There’s little chance he recovers those lost strikeouts, but it seems he’s made some other adjustments.

In terms of pitches, it seems he has all but ditched the slider. While it rated at 3.0 runs above average last season, it was the worst of his four pitches. This year it rates at 0.2 runs above average, better than his curve and change, which rank in the negatives. Yet this could be more indicative of how pitch type values measures runs above average. In his first five starts he threw his slider 16.1 percent of the time, mixing it well with his curve and change. He threw it for strikes, 62.7 percent, and got batters to swing and miss on 12 percent of them. Yet something just wasn’t working with it.

In his last 13 starts he has cut down on the slider usage greatly, throwing it 10.6 percent, less frequently than all of his other pitches. He has gone more to the change and the curveball. The change has become his weapon of choice, as he’s deployed it 19.8 percent of the time and has seen a 14.8 percent whiff rate. As for the slider, he’s seeing fewer swings and misses, 9.5 percent, as he throws it less often, but he’s also seeing fewer of them, 14.6 percent, put in play. Back when he was throwing it more often opponents put it in play 21.3 percent of the time.

This is not, in other words, the Javier Vazquez who contended for the Cy Young last year. He’s not the guy who will strike out more than a batter per inning and refuse to issue the free pass. He’s not the guy with four lights out pitches who will go to any one in any situation. Instead he’s a veteran who’s learning to survive with diminished stuff. It caught him off-guard earlier in the season, and it took him five starts to finally realize his limitations. He’s made those adjustments, though, and it shows in the results. Javy might not be a top of the rotation starter, but he provides stability to these Yankees.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Jamal G. says:

    In his first five starts he threw his slider 16.1 percent of the time, mixing it well with his curve and change. He threw it for strikes, 62.7 percent, and got batters to swing and miss on 12 percent of them.

    Texas Leaguers‘ pitch f/x database is the best.

  2. SK says:

    On mike & mike this morning the trivia of the day was that Javy is one of two pitchers that is working on his 6th straight 200 IP season with double digit wins. So far he’s looking good with 9 wins and 107 IP.

    • Stephen R. says:

      I’m not so sure he’ll make it. The Yankees have 64 games left. Assuming the starts are divided evenly between 5 starters, Vazquez would get 12-13 more starts. He’d need to average over 7 innings per start to get to 200 innings, assuming my math is right

      /it probably isn’t
      //moar coffee pls

  3. Tank Foster says:

    Interesting post. But I have some questions.

    Fastball velocity going from 91 to 89….that’s a shade more than 2%. What is the precision of a radar gun?

    We make alot of the radar gun velocity measurements, but I am unaware of any standardization of the various radar guns used in MLB, or whether any sort of attempt is made to ensure radar guns are tested and calibrated at regular intervals.

    If I sound dweeby, well….sorry. But if we’re going to dissect minutiae of player performance data, I’d like to at least know whether we are using reliable data.

    Did you do any comparison of these basic metrics – walk rate, SO rate, HR rate, etc. – between Javy’s time in the NL v. the AL?

    • Stephen R. says:

      I think that if there was some sort of radar gun problem it would be evident in more than one pitcher. I haven’t heard of any league-wide drop in velocity.

    • Did you do any comparison of these basic metrics – walk rate, SO rate, HR rate, etc. – between Javy’s time in the NL v. the AL?

      Each player’s league totals are at the bottom of his stat blocks at BR.com.

      Javy, NL: 1664.1 IP, 1.238 WHIP, 8.9 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 2.3 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 3.58 K./BB
      Javy, AL: 932.2 IP, 1.257 WHIP, 8.7 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.0 K/9, 3.11 K/BB

      Nothing drastically different.

      • Tom Zig says:

        Nothing drastic, only minor differences you’d expect going from the NL to AL. Although the H/9 is down, but I guess that could be a function of increased walk rate?

    • The standardized gun is PitchFX. There might be anomalies from park to park, but this normally evens itself out. Javy has thrown just under 1,000 fastballs this season. I think we have a pretty good handle on his speed. Even the Baseball Info Solutions data, which uses adjusted park radar gun readings, agrees with the PitchFX numbers.

      And no, I didn’t compare his time in the NL vs. his time in the AL. It didn’t seem relevant to the discussion.

  4. B-Rando says:

    We gotta hand it to Javy. He has been rock solid through the fluctuation of AJ, the injury to Petitte, and the growth of Hughes. He has really kept us in ball games.

    Could you imagine what this season would be like right now if Javy had continued to pitch the way he did through his first month or so?

  5. We traded the guy who succeeded for the guy who failed.

  6. CountryClub says:

    It really is crazy how his stuff diminished so much during one off season. I’m glad to see he’s learned how to deal with it.

    Still, I hope he doesn’t accept arbitration if the Yanks offer it. This article doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in his future performance.

  7. vinny-b says:

    if Javy recevied the run support of Phil Hughes, he would have 13-14 wins right now.

  8. YankeesJunkie says:

    Javy has been straight up dominating since his time off. In his las 14 G (13 GS) hitters have a .631 OPS and gone 9-5. Arbitration looks better and better ever start he has.

  9. Zack says:

    Too bad they didn’t trade Javy to the Mets and put Mitre in the rotation back in May.

    /john harper’d

  10. theyankeewarrior says:

    Javy will be one of the interesting stories come October (knock on wood). It seems as if Hughes is all but destined for the pen come playoff time, which means the Yanks will turn to Javy for their game 4′s.

    I would love to see him go out and prove all his critics wrong. He’s always been a class act wherever he’s played. He takes the ball, throws his 200+ innings and mixes his pitches well.

    He’s no Greg Maddux, but he’s proven that he can get batters out with sub-90′s stuff when he hits his spots.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      At this point I would say Javy is the #3 starter, while Burnett is the #4 starter. Things can change, but right now Javy is much more consistent than Burnett the last two and half months.

      • Pete says:

        Eh, I’d say it depends on what AJ looks like in September. Good AJ is easily our #2 (though Andy may get that nod anyway). I’d rather let Javy pitch against somebody else’s #4 anyway. AJ could pitch better than any other team’s #2, and could pitch worse than any other team’s #4. In the meantime, if you pit Andy against the other team’s #3 and Javy against the other team’s #4, you’ve got a great shot at winning both of those games.

        • mike c says:

          yeah, bad AJ is going to lose against anybody’s #4, good AJ can beat anybody

          • Pete says:

            ya. IMO, CC-AJ-Andy-Javy probably puts us at either 3-1 or 4-0, whereas CC-Andy-Javy-AJ probably puts us at 2-2 or 1-3

        • Dirty Pena says:

          There’s some factors you aren’t considering though. For example, what if the opposing team needs to use their ace just to advance and re-jiggers the whole rotation? Or if they throw the ace on three days rest to face Javy. You just pick the best guy to go first, 2nd best guy to go 2nd, etc. The other teams aren’t going to conveniently line their rotations the way we want, 1600s battle style. You have valid points, it’s just not that black and white.

          Guerrilla warfare FTW

          • Pete says:

            I understand. My point, though, was that I think Good AJ is our 2nd best starter. I’d have just as much confidence in Javy beating another team’s ace on 3 days rest as I would in him beating another team’s #4. And if the other team doesn’t line up their ace against CC, I’ll gladly take it. AJ could still beat their guy in game 2, and CC vs. another team’s non-ace gives the yanks a pretty good shot at winning.

            I realize that there are other factors to consider, but I still think that CC-AJ-Andy-Javy is the best alignment for the Yanks.

      • Not Tank the Frank says:

        I heard someone (not sure who, maybe on WFAN) that you don’t want to start back-to-back lefties in the playoffs and that’s why either Javy or AJ will be the #2 starter for the postseason.

        I remember thinking…Why the hell not? It’s the playoffs. Just put you’re two best pitchers out there for the first two games. What difference does back-to-back lefties make?

  11. Basil F. says:

    Given his salary and “diminished stuff” do you think Cashman offers him arbitration?

    • Pete says:

      yes. Worst case scenario we’ve got a ~$12 million 4th starter for 2011 who will probably pitch like he’s worth ~$12 million. Best case scenario we wind up improving our draft situation despite signing Cliff Lee because whoever signs Javy will have a worse record than we will at the end of the year.

      • Basil F. says:

        Yes, but do we sign Lee with a $12 million 4th starter on the team? To me, this is a potential problem.

        • Pete says:

          Do we sign Tex when we’ve got A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, Posada, CC, and AJ?

        • CountryClub says:

          I think the yanks would be OK with this since it’s only going to be a 1 yr thing.

          I think there’s a legit chance the yanks have a 12 mil pitcher in the 4 slot regardless. Odds that one of Pettitte/Javy come back have to be pretty good.

          • Pete says:

            this too. I also think that the Yanks will probably have an agenda to sign Lee this offseason. They offered Montero for three months of the guy. I think Cash and the Yanks are much more lenient with money when the player is in that uppermost tier. The reason they constrain themselves with guys like Damon is because they need to save every penny they can so that they can wow guys like Lee/Sabathia/Teixiera.

      • CountryClub says:

        Well, the real worst case scenario would be that he accepts arb and then declines even more from this yr. While I doubt that happens, it’s a possibility.

        • Pete says:

          this is true. Still, I like the way he has reinvented himself as a Mussina-lite kind of pitcher. He still has four decent pitches and mixes them up very well. He hits spots pretty well, too, and doesn’t walk any more guys than he should (he stays off the plate more now than he did at the beginning of the season or earlier in his career, which is a good thing; we don’t want him walking the park, but I’ll take a walk over a home run).

          • larryf says:

            When Javy can throw the change for strikes behind in the count-it is huge for him. I noticed he shook Cervelli off quite a bit last night and most of the time it worked out well….

          • Basil F. says:

            At the risk of sounding clueless, Javy scares me in big games… and he would REALLY scare me in October. But given this conundrum of arb or no-arb and diminished stuff, the wise thing may be to trade him NOW.

            • whozat says:

              And bring in…who?

            • Pete says:

              because of his stuff?

              • Basil F. says:

                I would just hate to give up prospects and get nothing in return, not to mention the possibility of not chasing Lee.

                But again who takes his place?

                • Pete says:

                  where would the Yanks be giving up prospects? They could only gain them by offering Javy arbitration

                  • Jose the Satirist says:

                    I think he is referring to the prospects given up to acquire him initially.

                    • Pete says:

                      but then they wouldn’t be getting nothing in return, they’d be getting either a year’s worth of Javy Vazquez + Boone Logan + somebody else’s 1st round pick and a compensation pick in a deep 2011 draft, or two years of Javy Vazquez at a fairly reasonable price + Boone Logan. Both of those sound like pretty decent tradeoffs for Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn (whose ceiling is somewhere around Boone Logan), and Arodys Vizcaino.

                      You don’t always need to get prospects in return for prospects. In fact, you almost never do.

                    • Jose the Satirist says:

                      I’m not going to disagree with you. I was just clarifying what Basil meant.

                  • Basil F. says:

                    I meant Arodys Viz, Dunn & Melky… and they won’t gain anything but him & his salary and possibly no Lee if he accepts.

                    • jsbrendog (returns) says:

                      the only prospect in that sentence is arodys. a lefty who walks too many dudes and a guy in his first arb year are not prospects

                    • Pete says:

                      there’s still a decent chance that two years of Javier Vazquez are more valuable than the rest of Vizcaino’s, Dunn’s, and Melky’s careers put together.

              • Zanath says:

                I think he is referring to Javy not being able to handle the big game. He certainly has the bad track record with the big grand slam to Damon in ’04…but that was out of the bullpen and it was a pretty shitty situation. While that stands out to me and other Yankee fans, I’m not willing to pass judgment on his postseason ability based on one game…although it was a huge game obviously.

                • Pete says:

                  but that’s a ridiculously tiny sample. Pettitte’s had plenty of bad games in October, do you not want him up there? CC had a terrible postseason track-record up until last year.

                  I think it’d be silly to assume he can’t pitch big games because of one game, no matter how big that game was. It’d be the same as saying that Hughes should start in the postseason because of that game he pitched in relief against the Indians back in ’07.

            • Pete says:

              had the Yanks made the Cliff Lee trade, I would have been in favor of a Javy-for-Werth trade, although only barely.

      • Chris says:

        I’m not so sure… the Yankees seem to be a little bit concerned about having the budget to be able to sign Cliff Lee (after reupping Jeter and Mo). Adding a $12M obligation to Javy could be an impediment to that, and I’m certain they would prefer Lee to Javy – even if they’re paying Lee twice what they’d pay Javy.

        The chances of an arbitration offer also go down if Pettitte decides to come back. That would lock up 3 spots (CC, AJ, Pettitte) plus Hughes and likely Lee.

        • CountryClub says:

          While his thinking could obviously change, Cash mentioned when he traded for him that he liked the fact that he was a type A player that would help the Yanks recoup what they gave up in the trade. We’ll see what happens.

        • Klemy says:

          Yeah, I think that if they are at all worried about the money, tey’ll go safe with Javy to be sure to get Lee signed. That is, they wont offer arbitration.

          The gamble for 1 year at that salary might be too good to pass on though and you eat the money to have a chance at the draft picks. If he accepts, they run him out there every fifth day.

  12. Rose says:

    This certainly isn’t the first time in recent history that we’ve seen this happen.

    Randy Johnson finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting in 2004 and then immediately went to the Yankees and gave up 14 more hits, 24 more earned runs, 14 more HR (32! Wow!), 3 more walks, and 79 less strike outs in 20 less IP.

    And that was his best year for the Yankees. The other year stunk badly.

    Kevin Brown was an All Star as well the year before (like Vazquez and Johnson) and gave up 4 more earned runs, 3 more HR, and struck out over 100 less in 79 less IP the very next year on the Yankees.

    [Dr. Evil voice]

    Pretty standard, really

    • Pete says:

      I would argue that Vazquez has been much better than Brown or Johnson, though, and was an inherently much better acquisition because of his age at the time of the trade respective to theirs.

      • Rose says:

        True. I was just talking about the All Star performances the year before…only to be immediately followed by decline and mediocrity the very next year with the Yankees. Just in general.

        • Not Tank the Frank says:

          Not only did they suck, but the Yankees paid them… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!!


  13. viridiana says:

    Very good post. Not the usual overload of meaningless stats here. But lots of to-the-point data, insight and analysis.

    • Pete says:

      what is the usual overload of meaningless stats, exactly?

      • jsbrendog (returns) says:

        things he probably doesn’t understand, meaning anything other than rbi, avg, and obp

        • Pete says:

          hey now, let him defend himself. I’ve read many articles with an overload of meaningless stats. Just not here. Maybe that’s what he’s referring to. ESPN often publishes articles that have about 100 stats listed in them except they’re all basically batting average in varying situations (and, of course, specifying the situation always decreases the value of the statistic because it diminishes the sample size).

          • jsbrendog (returns) says:

            fair enough, 1000 pardons sir. (although, while i could be wrong, i feel like i have seen some posts from this name before that would make me think that is the gist. could be wrong. either way, apologies, you are right)

  14. A.Hinds says:

    its funny/interesting to here yankee fans talk about budget concerns…. with that in mind does anyone think that jeter sings for about 45 mil over 4 year and cliff lee take a 6 year 100 mil just to win a championship? take less money to win. i would love to see it happen more in sports. i wonder if lebron and the heat will set a precedent.

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