Javy Vazquez and the lost fastball velocity

Yanks battle back to beat the Rangers
Pondering roster moves for the returning pitchers
Aaaand the pitch. Credit: AP Photo, Tony Gutierrez

Lost in the aftermath of a thrilling Yankee victory last night was another mediocre start by Javier Vazquez. Pitching in temperatures nearing 100 degrees, Vazquez, thanks in part to his defense, labored through 4.1 innings, and his final line — 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 1 K — doesn’t do much to inspire confidence. After a great run through late May, June and the first half of July, Javier Vazquez has seemingly run out of steam.

Last night’s affair caps off a rough stretch for Vazquez. Over his last 28 innings, he’s allowed 20 earned runs for a 6.43 ERA while giving up 36 hits and seven home runs with 10 walks and just 15 strike outs. His FIP clocks in at 6.35, and while earlier this season he couldn’t locate his pitches, this time, he doesn’t seem to have much on them.

“It’s been very frustrating for me, the velocity,” Vazquez said after his start. “I don’t have any life on my fastball. All the swings and misses I’m getting are on my change-ups and curveballs.”

The results bare out the pitcher’s own observations. Of the 82 pitches Vazquez threw last night, the Rangers swung and missed at just four of them. According to the Pitch F/X data, those swings came on pitches that were 77, 75, 68 and 65 miles an hour. In other words, none of them were on fastballs.

As with last week’s outing against the Red Sox, Vazquez’s heaters weren’t too hot. He started the game out with a few heaters that didn’t crack 85 and hit 88 only once in the first inning. The fastest pitches he threw were a pair of four-seamers in the third that just eked above the 89-mph mark and the final pitch of his outing. For the first time all season, his fastball velocity never cracked 90.

Vazquez, as the Yanks said last weekend, has been going through a dead-arm period, and he doesn’t need his velocity to excel. As Mike Mussina showed, smart pitchers with pinpoint command and very good breaking pitches — two traits Vazquez possesses — can keep hitters guessing with a slow-slower-slowest approach to pitching. The Yankees need that from Javy right now.

In an ideal world, the 34-year-old with the fifth most innings pitched among active players would get some time off before the playoffs. But when it comes to starting pitching, the Yankees are a little short-handed right now. Andy Pettitte is still a week to ten days away from rejoining the team, and Phil Hughes is fast approaching the magic 175 IP mark, his soft cap for an innings limit. If the Yankees need to monitor Hughes’ workload to keep him fresh for the playoffs, they can’t ease up on Vazquez at the same time. When Pettitte comes back, the Yanks can use Dustin Moseley to give Vazquez an extra day off now and then, but until then, their starters must go on turn.

So the Yanks will continue to run Javy out there every five days. Without an extra pitcher — say a Cliff Lee — the team has few options, and despite the results, it’s an easy choice to make. They won’t overtax Hughes, a future starting pitcher, to coddle Javier Vazquez, a one-year rental. Instead, they’ll hope he can make the best of it and work through a dead arm period. With no days off until the 26th, the Yankees are going full steam ahead through the dog days of August.

As the fans sigh in frustration at another slow fastball, though, Vazquez does as well. “I’ve got a lot of innings on my arm,” he aid after yesterday’s game. “Maybe it’s catching up to me. I reach back and see 88. It’s kind of frustrating.”

Yanks battle back to beat the Rangers
Pondering roster moves for the returning pitchers
  • pollo

    “Maybe it’s catching up to me. I reach back and see 88. It’s kind of frustrating.”

    Fuck. Looks like were not going to be offering him arb.

  • mike c

    the skipped start worked out well for him in the spring… maybe when andy comes back you let mose take the start and give javy a breather

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      I’m thinking if Moseley is still rolling Pettitte can give both Javy and Hughes a breather.

      • http://janeheller.mlblogs.com/yank_c.jpg T-Dubs

        Was just going to post this. Hopefully Andy comes back quickly and can skip a Vasquez start once through the rotation and a Hughes start the next.

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

        I wonder if we’d give a start or two to Nova when rosters expand.

        The only thing better than a 6 man rotation is a seven man rotation, eh?

        • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

          I was wondering about that as well. If the rotation needs a break and Nova is able to start a game or two, that would very nice.

        • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          7’s the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that’s the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin’ on a branch, eatin’ lots of sunflowers on my uncle’s ranch. You know that old children’s tale from the sea. It’s like you’re dreamin’ about Gorgonzola cheese when it’s clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.

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


            • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

              Cause you’re fu@kin’ fired!

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

                Kenny: Hey, girl, you hungry?
                Overweight Black Woman: FUCK YOU, N%#$A!
                Kenny: I was talkin’ to the horse.

          • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

            This is amazing

          • monkeyjaw

            You forgot to mention 7 seas…and Lucky 7’s lottery game…7 deadly sins….Seven For All of Mankind jeans…the movie “Seven”…

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

              Segrams 7.

              • kosmo

                Ruturn of the Secaucus 7.

                • kosmo

                  `Return´ that should read.excusa.

  • Jose the Satirist

    “For the first time all season, his fastball velocity never cracked 90.”

    I don’t think his fastball cracked 90 in his last start either. Anyone have confirmation?

    • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

      You are correct:

      Max velocity
      8/11: 89.4
      8/06: 88.8
      7/31: 90.5
      7/26: 91.6
      7/21: 90.2

  • Jon Sherick

    I think he’s got a chance to be one of the better players. This coming from a fan.

  • Pasqua

    Ideally, the Yanks can build a bigger lead in the division and clinch somewhat early. That way, everyone (esp. Javy) can get some extra rest before the postseason.

    • Mike HC

      I was thinking/hoping the same thing.

  • Johnny O

    Man won’t it be great if/when we have Cliff Lee next year? 15/1 K/BB and averaging over 8 innings per start?!

    • http://www.lessthismorethat.com/author/ddarrell Jamal G.

      I drool at how this relates to the bullpen’s effectiveness. Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia going deep into games would be normal; even one-bad-inning A.J. can get you a full six innings; Hughes, while still developing, seems like a good bet to give you six frames as well.

      Having a rotation that can consistently give you 6-7 innings (and into the 8th from your co-aces) from four starters allows you to deal with the up-and-down nature of a rookie starting pitcher (or a guy coming from the bullpen the previous season).

  • Mike HC

    Well, the data, combined with what the team and Javy is saying, does not look good. Pettitte can not come back soon enough.

  • iYankee(next generation from Apple)

    Edited by RAB: This is completely off-topic. Please keep comments on topic.

  • Will in NJ

    We gave up arodys for this?!

    /negative nancy

    In all seriousness, hopefully Javy can find his velocity soon. We need him for the stretch run.

    • billbybob

      You do know he’s injured, right?

  • Jake K

    Without revisiting the Granderson trade, this would be the time we could use someone like Ian Kennedy to step in and give the team some innings of solid league average pitching while Javy took a breather.

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

      Someone like IPk… so, Z-Mac or Nova?

      • Jake K

        Yes, in theory. Although neither of them has had anything close to the minor league success IPK did. I would be curious to see how Nova would do with a few spot starts, but Z-Mac is really struggling in AAA.

      • Slugger27

        neither 1 of those guys are as good as IPK… i don’t want Zmac anywhere near the mound during a division race

        • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

          Kennedy has a 4.94 FIP in the NL. His stuff wouldn’t play in the AL East, Nova’s potentially will.

    • Mike HC

      I could easily be wrong, but I get the feeling Kennedy would still be crushed in the AL East. He is mediocre now and that is the NL West. I’m sure the Yanks have guys that could give similar production to Kennedy.

  • Sleepykarl

    Kinda a curious statement reguarding Javy, AJ and CC, is there a philosophy preached by the Yankee’s staff that explains the surprising drop in K-rates from their previous teams to NY?

    • Sleepykarl

      *This pertains to CC and AJ more than Javy as the drop in velocity is an evident change.

    • Zack

      CC’s career GB% is 43.9%, this year it’s 51.4%, so I’ll make a guess that he’s throwing more 2-seamers/sinkers for quicker outs.

      AJ’ s K9 the last 2 years with Toronto was 9.56 and 9.39. I know he used to dominate the Yankees and TB, obviously he no longer faces the Yankees and TB is good now. Other than that, I’d say he just lacks control and instead of missing the zone, he’s staying too far in the zone.

      • Sleepykarl

        It seems as if AJ does throw a decent amount of two-seamers too. I was just curious why it seems like stud strike out guys seem to come here, lose some velocity, and strike out guys at a lower rate.

  • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

    The title of this post sounds like a missing Harry Potter book, for some reason.

  • Jerome S

    Is it possible for Javy to deal with the lost velocity? Greg Maddux was masterful with a fastball that rarely brushed 90. I’m not saying Javy’s that talented, but I believe that he might have the stuff to become a total control pitcher. Just a few bad outings, that’s all… right?

    • whozat

      Could he? Sure. Would it be better if he didn’t have to? Of course.

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      He probably does, he just has to get used to it. I’m hoping he can…but it took Moose a full season to get used to his loss of velocity.

      • kosmo

        Actually it took Mussina 3 years and a mouthful from Girardi about the benefits of pitching inside.

  • larryf

    What kind of fastball speed did Mosely have against the Red Sox on last series? We were talking Maddux-like control and movement. I think 88/89 is fast enough when the whole package is working.

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      It was mostly his 88-89. He did hit 90 at least a few times, though. But mostly 88-89, yeah.

  • Scout

    I had hoped when the Yankees acquired Vazquez last winter that they would offer him arbitration following the 2010 season, thereby making it likely they would secure draft choices as compensation. But when a pitcher himself admits that his arm may be used up from years of pitching, that becomes a red flag to other teams that might have offered him a multi-year deal. We can kiss those compensatory draft choices good-bye. And since the Yankees are likely to pursue Lee, Crawford, or both, they’ll be without at least a first-round draft choice in 2011. Unless, of ocurse, they do not re-sign Jeter or Mo. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/j_yankees j_Yankees

    By him coming out and saying its frustrating its a clear sign that its in his head now. He’s thinking about. If he doesn’t say anything we can speculate about him knowing his FB doesn’t have anything on it, etc etc,
    but now that he has said i worry about how he pitches because of it. Is he trying to compensate for the lack of velocity? Is he afraid to throw it now because he has nothing on it?

  • kosmo

    Good brainy pitchers find ways to succeed when their fastball is in decline.Is anyone taking into account Vasquez´ character? Good guy but one has to wonder if he has the edge ? Certainly he will not factor into the playoff rotation.
    The Yanks will have Pettitte back in less than 2 weeks.As someone suggested Nova or even Hirsh might give Javier a rest for a start or 2.

    • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com Steve H


    • Kevin in Delectable Princeton

      Like Derek Jeter, that guys got an edge!

  • Aj

    what are the chances Javy gets offered arbitration? that way the Yanks can et a pair of draft picks in a deep draft what do you guys think?