Javy and the Red Sox

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(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

When it comes to Javy Vazquez facing the Red Sox, one memory stands out more vividly than the rest. It’s led to the perception that Javy is not a big-game player, especially against the Red Sox. Ozzie Guillen didn’t help change that perception when he questioned Vazquez’s fortitude. And then Javy didn’t help his own case when he opened the season with a series of terrible starts. Plenty has changed since Javy had a start skipped against these very Red Sox — including the fact that they’re not at all the same Red Sox that the Yankees faced in May.

Even more, of course, has changed since 2004. That year not only did Javy serve up the effective season-ending pitch, but he also fared horribly against the Red Sox in his four starts. He lasted just 22.2 innings and gave up 16 runs, 14 earned, on the power of eight Red Sox home runs. He struck out 25 and walked just eight, good signs for sure, but those eight homers ruined him. It’s understandable, then, why that perception was created that year.

What’s not understandable is why it has carried over six years later. The Red Sox used 25 different position players at various points during the 2004 season, and of those only two remain on the team. One of them is not only on the DL and won’t play in this series, but also never faced Vazquez in 2004 — and is just 3 for 18 with eight strikeouts in his career against him. The other, of course, is not quite the hitter he once was, producing a .408 wOBA in 2004 and .380 this year.

In other words, Vazquez’s historic production against the Red Sox means little, because most of those players are no longer on the team. There need be no worry about Manny and his 8 for 22 with two homers line, because Manny is in LA and injured. Dustin Pedroia’s 8 for 15? Non-factor. We only need to worry about the current Red Sox, and even then the results can be a bit misleading. For instance, Mike Lowell might have a career .817 OPS against Vazquez in 49 PA, but since 2006 he’s 1 for 10 with a single.

Three current Red Sox have hit Vazquez particularly hard. J.D. Drew is the best of the bunch, going 10 for 28 with two doubles and four homers in 32 career PA. That rests mostly on a 5 for 10, three-homer performance that came all the way back in 2005. In the five PA he’s had since he’s 1 for 5 — though the one was a homer. Adrian Beltre has destroyed Vazquez, going 15 for 34 with three doubles and two homers — though, surprisingly, that has led to just 5 RBI. They haven’t faced since 2008, when Beltre went 2 for 3 with a homer. And then there’s Ortiz, the lone holdover from 2004, who is 8 for 25 with two doubles and two homers in the regular season, plus 2 for 3, both singles, in the postseason.

Other than that, Vazquez has either performed well against the current Sox or otherwise has not faced them. Victor Martinez, for example, is 5 for 26. Jacoby Ellsbury, Marco Scutaro, and Jed Lowrie have yet to record a hit. Eric Patterson is just 1 for 5, though the one was a homer. Bill Hall is 1 for 3.

What does that mean for Vazquez facing the Sox tonight? Absolutely nothing. Not only are these all small samples — yes, even the 30-plus PA crew — but they represent a time when Vazquez was a different pitcher. We’ve seen the changes this year. HIs fastball velocity is down. His slider, the main weapon during his superb 2009 season, has been placed in his back pocket in favor of a two-seamer and, more recently, his changeup. So while some Sox hitters have had success, and some failures, against Vazquez in the past, only one of them, Youkilis, has faced Vazquez this year, and he won’t be in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

Vazquez might get bombed tonight. He might plow through the depleted Sox lineup. But whatever the outcome it won’t stem from something that happened six years ago. It won’t even stem from something that happened two years ago. It will depend only on how the Sox hitters are seeing the ball, and how well Vazquez is delivering it. The rest is just lore and mythology.

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  • larryf

    Hopefully the offense will adjust well to the Bucholz changeup since we just faced Marcum and we can score early with aggressive baserunning against the crappy Red Sox catcher (s)…. that should help Javy challenge the hitters a bit more…

  • Jose the Satirist

    I long for the day when 2004 mentions become less frequent.

    • Tom Zig

      Whenever Sox fans mention 2004 I just tell them to stop talking about the past. They would use the same line on us when we talked about the dynasty years.

      • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

        I enjoyed when they would use it right before the postseason last year. “We’re gonna end up getting the last laugh!!! Like in 2004!!!!”

        Apparently not.

        • Brooklyn Ed

          I’m seriously loving the fact that the Yanks get to knock the Sox out of contention twice in the last 4 years.

    • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

      I saw a kid wearing a Sox shirt that said “got rings lately?” the other day. That would be like a Yankee fan wearing a 1918 shirt.

  • Klemy

    Great write up reminder to put things in perspective.

  • nathan

    I dont understand why folks think Javy lost the 2004 series when it was Joe Torre who lost it.

    Joe lost it the moment he chose Brown for game 7 who was terrible.

    To me Javy is the guy we traded Arodys for and the only way this ends well is if we end up in the Series (hate calling it the WS).

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      A number of people lost it. Javy was one of them but he was also one of the least blame-able of the guys who deserve blame.

      To me Javy is the guy we traded Arodys for and the only way this ends well is if we end up in the Series (hate calling it the WS).

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        A number of people lost it. Javy was one of them but he was also one of the least blame-able of the guys who deserve blame.

        2004 Red Sox pythag record: 96-66 (.592)
        2004 Yankees pythag record: 89-73 (.549)

        2004 Red Sox team ERA+ and OPS+: 117, 110
        2004 Yankees team ERA+ and OPS+: 96, 111

        Red Sox starting pitchers and 2004 ERA+:
        Schilling (150), Pedro (125), Arroyo (121), Lowe (90), Pedro (125), Schilling (150), Lowe (90)
        Yankees starting pitchers and 2004 ERA+:
        Mussina (98), Leiber (104), Brown (110), El Duque (137), Mussina (98), Lieber (104), Brown (110)

        We had no business ever being up 3-0 in that series. The 2004 Red Sox were a much better team than we were.

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

          That too.

          That said, when you’re up 3-0, you should probably be able to win one out of the next four games. But yeah, it’s not surprising, the 2004 Red Sox were way better than the 2004 Yankees. No one would make that big a deal about that series (well, Boston fans would) if the two teams had just alternated wins.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            No one would make that big a deal about that series… if the two teams had just alternated wins.


        • Jose the Satirist

          The Yankees may have had no business being up 3-0 in the series, but the Red Sox had no business coming back by winning 4 consecutive games. The Red Sox may have been better that year, but the Yankees should have won up 3-0.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Meh, as better as their pitching was, had they swept us 4-0 I wouldn’t have been surprised. Does it matter that the 4-0 sweep happened after the initial 0-3 reverse sweep?

            • Jose the Satirist

              Yes. I think it does matter.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      I dont understand why folks think Javy lost the 2004 series when it was Joe Torre who lost it.

      Mariano Rivera, Games 4 and 5, 2004 ALCS:
      2 appearances, 2 blown saves

      I’m just saying.

      • Don W

        Mo had a 1.29 ERA over 7 innings in that series. He walked a few which came back to hurt him when Roberts got into scoring position by stealing 2B after Mo walked Millar.

        1 of the blown saves was Mo giving up a SF in relief of Tom Gordon, (who had been Proctored by Torre that season and had nothing left), hard to blame him for that.

        Mo was not the problem.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I agree that Mo was not the problem, he pitched well. The fact remains, though, if he hadn’t blown both of those saves, we would have won that series.

          People who seem to enjoy bashing Javy Vazquez or Kevin Brown always overlook that fact. We had the ball in the hand of the best reliever on the planet with the chance to close out the series twice, and couldn’t get it done either time.

          • Evan3457

            The game 5 blown save was kind of a tough one; 1st and 3rd, no one out, Varitek up. He hit a sac fly.

            But yeah. I’ve said it myself a couple of times…

            The big IF: If Mo saves game 4, the Yanks probably go on to beat the Cards for the title (though almost certainly not in an overpowering sweep as the Sox did), and the whole “A-Rod is a choker who can’t win the Big One” never starts, because he’d have a big HR in game 4, and gone 8-19 with 2 HR, 8 runs, 4 RBI (before Torre batted him 8th in the post-season, he batted him 2nd).

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama


          In fact, tsjc, I remember you said something like you’d bet Mo had one of the lower WPAs from that series, but then someone looked it up and he in fact had one of the higher WPAs for the Yankees in that series, IMO. You have to remember that he got saves in other games, and pitched multiple innings in Fenway and didn’t let the winning run score.

          He’s obviously not blameless, but I find it difficult to blame him for Game 5, anyway, especially when Torre swore up and down he wouldn’t use him for two full innings after using him for two full innings the night before, and then… ended up using him for two full innings when Tom Gordon couldn’t get an out. Sweet.

          • poster on a different computer who happens to be a deuce bag

            The idiocy was swearing he wouldn’t use him for two full innings in the first place.

            Tom Gordon never should have entered the game.

      • nsalem

        Joe lost it when he decided to start El Duque in Game 4 rather than Mussina. If he would have started Mussina in Game 4 Mike would have also been available for Game 7. He knew the injured El Duque had only one bullet in the chamber and he would not be able to use him again. Perhaps he ASSumed the series was over and was resting Mike for the WS. Whatever it was the worst of many bad decisions made in the second half of Yankee managing career.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          2004 was the worst season of Mike Mussina’s career. His peripherals were down across the board and he had a sub-100 ERA+ for the first time ever. He didn’t look like the same Moose.

          I can understand why he didn’t start Mussina on short rest in Game 4 up three games to none. He had a better pitcher (El Duque) available, he didn’t need to push Moose, and he probably had little reason to expect a good performance.

          Your complaint seems fairly ridiculous, IMO. Torre has made plenty of bad decisions, but starting El Duque in Game 4 instead of Moose isn’t one of them.

          • nsalem

            Actually Mussina would have been pitching on 4 days rest.
            Game 4 was on October 17 and his start in Game 1 was October 12. Though it was an off season for Mussina he had a strong September including 2 good September starts resulting in wins
            vs Red Sox and a 6 strong innings in Game 1
            before things went south in the 7th. My point is he had the opportunity to use Mussina in Game 4 on full rest and Game 7 if (which it was) necessary rather than being stuck
            with a turkey like Brown in Game 7. I think it is quite a valid and strong complaint and don’t understand why an intelligent person such as your self would regard it as ridiculous.

          • nsalem

            Also El Duque was injured at the time. He had been removed from his third to the last start vs Boston in the
            third inning. In his last two starts he was shelled by the
            Jays (who were just playing out the string) for ten runs.
            I don’t understand how you could possibly consider El Duque a better choice on 10/17/04 than a fully rested
            Mussina. Also in light of what Mussina did in Game 7
            in 2003. Numbers can be very meaningful at times, but applying it to this specific situation is fairly meaningless.

          • nsalem

            I think most of your posts are intelligent, interesting and compelling. However I find it very telling how you never respond to a rational counter argument after you blurt out
            incorrect information and/or the numbers you espouse simply don’t apply to the situation at hand.
            Perhaps my complaint would not have “seemed fairly ridiculous” if you had bothered to check the facts

            • Tim

              @nsalem – one flaw in your argument is this – after Game 3 was rained out, the last 5 games of the series were pushed together with no off-days. If Mussina had started in Game 4 on full rest, he would still not have been able to pitch Game 7 (he would have been on two days rest). So there’s that.

              A move by Torre to use Mussina in Game 4 would have been equivalent to Jack McKeon’s decision to use Beckett in Game 6 on short rest in 2003, with no Game 7 starter. He went for the jugular, and won. If Beckett had gotten slapped around, the press would have killed McKeon for flushing the WS by having no starter available for Game 7. In 2004, starting Mussina in Game 4 means either Duque or Lieber in Game 5 or six, and either Brown or Vazquez in Game 7, both on three days rest. The rain out screwed the Yankees big time in 2004.

              It should be noted – Derek Lowe did pitch Game 7 on two days rest, and was brilliant. And Duque pitched a very credible Game 4. So your point is really moot – if Duque had sucked, you could have an agrument. Because he was very good, there is no argument.

              • nsalem

                Disagree El Duque pitched 5 innings and gave up 3 runs. Mussina pitched 6 innings and gave up two.
                Obviously he wouldn’t have pitched the same game, but he was our best chance to win. Javy and Brown only pitched 4.1 and 2 innings respectively in game three so they both could have pitched on 3 days rest.
                Torre should have known after game 3 that we would have had no one for game 7 in the event it occurred.
                Mussina saved us with 3 great innings in game 7 03
                on two days rest. By not starting him in game 4 Torre was relegated to using Brown and Javy in Game 7 which we had little chance of winning. Wouldn’t you have rather had Mussina ready to go even for 4 or 5 innings (much like Lowe) in that Game 7 rather than Javy or Brown. I certainly would have. Flipping Duque and Mussina would have a)given us a better chance to win Game 4 and b) given us the use of Mussina in Game 7. Nothing else would have changed.

                • Tim

                  Except that on e again you miss the point thAt starting Mussina in game 4 leaves him only 2days rest before a game 7, so he never would have started game 7. Been available for relief, yes, but not starting. Just because Lowe did it doesn’t mean Mussina could have done it. They only had Lowe and Arroyo available for the game 7 start. We had no choice but to pick between Brown and Vazquez on short rest. That choice, despite the hand injury for Brown, was an easy one. If you wan to live in a world of revisionist history, be my guest. It still doesn’t make you right.

    • Andrew

      I agree with you that Javy should not bear sole responsibility for losing the 2004 series, but I have to disagree that Torre lost it. Let’s remember that the ALCS should have been wrapped up in games 4 and 5 when the Yankees had leads going into late innings. The man who should be blamed for the loss is Tom Gordon (set up man to Rivera), who blew leads and put Mo in tough positions.

      • Tim

        Gordon was fried by the time the playoffs arrived, which was clearly Torre’s fault. And Gordon was in no shape to pitch Game 4 (puking in the bullpen is generally a BAD sign for a reliever prior to entering a game). Torre knew it and used him anyway. Ironically, his insistence on NOT using Mo for the two inning save killed the Yankees in Games 4 and 5. And he eneded up using him for two innings both times anyway.

  • Brooklyn Ed

    For those who read last night’s open thread, I mentioned that the Sox is smart enough, they should move V-Mart and have Varitek catch while failed to realize that Varitek is on the DL. They should call Saltalamacchia up, and have him play 1B. They might catch a lighting in a bottle with him. Like I said, hey what do I know?

  • viridiana

    Let’s just mop em up this weekend.

    Between “I’ll get to the bottom of this” David P.E.D. Ortiz, creepy Varitek and nasty Beckett I can’t for the life of me figure out who is the biggest jerk.

    • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

      Papelbon. You’re welcome.

      • Brooklyn Ed

        Yep, its Paps. still can’t believe he said that he should be the one closing out the All-Star game over Mariano Rivera at YANKEE Stadium. just because Terry was the manager, he thought for sure Terry would made him the closer.

        • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

          It wasn’t even that it was YS and whatnot, which honestly might have been enough reason in a freaking All-Star Game, it’s that Mariano Rivera was blowing Paps’ season away. There was no debate.

          I didn’t make it to the ASG that year, but I did go to the parade with a friend and we chanted “YOU’RE NOT CLOSING!” when his car passed by. We got lots of high-fives from the people near us; it was pretty awesome.

          • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

            Booing Papelbon as he entered that game was one of the best moments ever.

        • Tim

          Francona has too much class and baseball sense to make such a ridiculous decision as to put Papelbon ahead of Mo.

      • B-Rando

        I was a firm believer in the Papelbon is a douche camp. However living in Boston, and getting to see a ton more interviews etc., I now realize that while yes Paps is a douche, he is a complete freakin moron, plain and simple.

        Now Beckett on the other hand is smart(ish). I have to pass the torch onto Beckett now that I know Paps is just an idiot.

        Congrats Beckett!

    • GG2010

      Sounds like a great idea for a new NBC competitive reality series!

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        NBC presents “The Biggest Douchenozzle”, live from Fenway Park with celebrity judges Curt Schilling, Geraldo Rivera, and Lil’ Mama.

        Tuesdays at 10 (9 Central).

    • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

      Beckett for sure.

    • http://www.thesubwayconnection.com/ Newbie

      Has to be Beckett.

  • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

    Well I guess I’m starting Vazquez tonight.

  • http://twitter.com/j_yankees j_Yankees

    I’m not one to sit here and whine and bitch about the 2004 ALCS as it pertains to Javy. There was a lot of blame to go around for that mess and i put little, if any really, on Javy Vazquez. It was to me a wrong place, wrong time kinda thing for Javy with that HR vs Damon.

    What i will say is that the perception of Javy not being a big game player is there for a reason. Its not just there because of the damon HR…or that he sucks vs the red sox.

    Its games like 9-27-08 with his team down 1/2 game in the division, already on a 4 game slide that he started and trying to fight their way into the playoffs…and he lays down a 4.1 IP, 7ER outing.

  • Total

    “What does that mean for Vazquez facing the Sox tonight? Absolutely nothing”

    Uh, yeah, so how’s that analysis holding up now? 4 runs through 3 innings (and no, that they weren’t ER doesn’t count).