Open Thread: The problems with Javy

A fourth-inning sight all too familiar to Yankee fans. AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

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.

* * *
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.

Granderson ‘probably’ heading to DL with left groin strain

Update (5:25 p.m.): Joe Girardi has announced that Granderson will “probably” be placed on the DL. We don’t yet know the severity of the strain or the likely replacement. Jon Weber had a very good Spring Training, and Greg Golson remains an option as well.

Update (4:10 p.m.): Granderson suffered a left groin strain and is headed for an MRI. Generally not good.

3:47 p.m.: Curtis Granderson left the sixth inning of today’s game with some kind of lower body injury. He pulled up lame going first to third on a single, and may have stepped on the bag awkwardly goings around second. He was replaced by Randy Winn. There’s no word on how serious the injury is, but we’ll be sure to update this post when he know more. Obviously, losing Grandy for any length of time would suck.

Game 23: Shot at redemption

Photo Credit: Christine Cotter, AP

Javy Vazquez makes his second start at home this afternoon, and he’s surely going to get booed at every opportunity. It’s just the way it is, regardless of how you feel about it. The only thing he can do is pitch well enough to win, and the White Sox with their .313 team wOBA are a good opponent to do that against.

With the lefty John Danks on the mound, here’s the lineup…

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Posada, C – hooray for a healthy starting catcher
Thames, DH – can’t keep him out of the lineup with how he’s hitting lefties, but it’s good to keep him out of the field
Granderson, CF
Gardner, LF

And on the mound, Javier Carlos Vazquez.

Game starts at 1:05pm ET today, and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.

When objective reporting goes wrong

As we wait for the second game of the Yanks-ChiSox series, I thought it was worth pointing out this piece of nonsense. Daily News reporter Kevin Deutsch apparently rolled into Citizen’s Bank Park last night for the Mets-Phillies series wearing Mets gear, and taunting Phillies’ fans. Chants of “FIRST PLACE METS,” and “”Phillies suck” were delivered not far from the city’s famed LOVE sculpture.

And people wonder why the newspaper industry is on life support. Facts and objective reporting have been benched in favor of brash over the top accusations and discernible bias. Deutsch is not part of the team, he’s a reporter covering the team. Apparently he’s also a Mets’ fan, which is perfectly fine, but his job description is to report facts and not taunt opposing fans. Report the news, don’t be the news.

His article ends with “First place never felt so good,” which is both sad and laughable. You know who was in first place last year on May 1st? The Blue Jays, White Sox, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Dodgers. Exactly two of those teams were in first place at the end of the year. Enjoy first place while it lasts Mr. Deutsch, there’s only 86% of the season left to play.

Jeter captains Yanks to come-from-behind win

For just the seventh time this season, the Yankees played a game in front of their fans at home, where they’re virtually unbeatable. They’re 63-19 in the Bronx dating back to last May, and have already taken five of six at home this season. They tacked on another win Friday night, but it took a little of that comeback magic we saw so much of in 2009.

Photo Credit: Henny Ray Abrams, AP

Biggest Hit: Derek Jeter‘s triple

The first six-plus innings of Friday’s game brought the Yankees and White Sox right back to where they started, tied. Freddy Garcia had mostly stifled the Yanks over the first six frames, and he gave way to hard throwing southpaw Matt Thorton in the 7th. After Curtis Granderson went down swinging, backup catcher turned temporary starter Frankie Cervelli took an 0-2 fastball off the elbow to give the Yankees a much needed baserunner. Brett Gardner followed him up with a single (more on that later), bringing the Jeter to the plate with a chance to give the Yankees their first lead of the night.

It was clear from the start that if Thorton was going to get beat, he was going to get beat with his best pitch, the old numero uno. Fourteen of his first 16 pitches were fastballs, but he couldn’t spot the first two to Jeter and set him up with a 2-0 count. The Yankee captain fouled off the next two pitches, one of which landed just to the right of the foul line deep in the rightfield corner. Another fastball came on the 2-2 count, and Jeter again drove it to right field, except it was clear this one was going to stay fair. The only question was whether or not infielder turned outfielder Jayson Nix was going to get a glove on it. He dove, he missed, and the ball rolled to the wall. Cervelli scored, Gardner was right behind him, and Jeter slid into third safely, giving the Yankees the lead with two innings to go.

Photo Credit: Henny Ray Abrams, AP

Honorable Mention: Jeter’s homer

Of course, Jeter’s triple wouldn’t have meant much if he hadn’t taken matters into his own hands two innings earlier by homering off the the ChiSox starter. Garcia had set down 13 Yankees in a row before Gardner slapped a worm-burning single through the 3.5 hole with two outs in the 5th. The speedster was apparently in Garcia’s head, because he made four throws to first before throwing two pitches to Jeter. With a 1-1 count, Garcia hung a curveball right out over the middle of the plate, and Jeter just waited on it before driving the pitch out to left-center. It’s not often we see the Captain pull the ball for power, but if you’re going to hang a curveball that badly, almost anyone call pull it with authority.

Garcia had been on a roll after allowing a pair of runs in the first, and it looked like we were headed for one of those frustrating nights when the vaunted Yankee offense gets shut down by a guy well past his expiration date. Thankfully Jeter’s heroics got his team back in the game, as he finished just a double shy of the cycle. He accounted for 50.5% of the win by himself, mostly thanks to the two hits we’ve already discussed.

Biggest Out: Nick Swisher‘s double play

After falling into a three run hole before they even came to the plate, the Yankees showed some fight in the bottom of the 1st by pushing two runs across with just one out. The molten hot Robinson Cano stood at first while the previously slumping Alex Rodriguez occupied third, meaning that all Nick Swisher had to do to tie the game was hit a moderately deep fly ball. Garcia missed with his first two pitches to set Swish up 2-0, but he fouled off a fastball that may or may not have been ball three. The fourth pitch of the at-bat was a changeup down, and the Yanks’ rightfielder beat it into the ground toward first. Paul Konerko scooped it up, stepped on first, and fired to second to get Cano for an inning-ending 3-6 double play.

It was only the 1st inning, but the double play decreased the Yankees’ chances of winning by nearly 12%.

The Pen Is Alright

Photo Credit: Henny Ray Abrams, AP

Outside of Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ bullpen has been hit or miss this season, mostly missing of late. They needed to get at least six outs from the relief crew before Rivera even became a factor.

Al Aceves relieved starter Andy Pettitte, who battled valiantly while allowing four runs in six innings, and he made quick work of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham before Alex Rios looped a soft single to left. After the former Jay stole second, Aceves intentionally walked Konerko before escaping the inning when A-Rod snared Carlos Quentin’s screamer to the hot corner. Damaso Marte nearly walked Mark Teahen to lead off the 8th after the Yanks took the lead, but he eventually got him to ground out to second. Joba Chamberlain recorded two weak ground outs on five total pitches to hand the ball off to The Sandman.

Outside of the blooper by Rios, the Yankee bullpen was rock solid on Friday, which is what we became accustomed to seeing in the second half last year. Aceves bridged the gap from starter to setup man, and Rivera was his usual self in the 9th. PitchFX had five of Mo’s pitches at 91, eight at 92, and seven at 93, which is more velocity than we’ve seen out of him since before his shoulder surgery prior to last season.

Happy Moments

Gardner’s 7th inning at-bat against Thorton was a thing of beauty. Thorton can bring the heat, averaging 95+ over the last few years, but Gardner fouled off two fastballs as part of an eight pitch at-bat before singling back up the middle. If the ChiSox lefty had overpowered the Yanks’ leftfielder on three or four pitches, no one would have been too surprised. Instead, he battled and helped set up the eventually winning runs.

Other than than, it was pleasing to see A-Rod get out of his 0-for-19 skid with a double in the 1st, and Cano continues to smoke the ball, even if a few of the balls he put in play ended up in fielder’s gloves.

Annoying Moments

The guy in the Yankee jersey and his buddy to his left make this picture worth it. (Photo Credit: Henny Ray Abrams, AP)

There was actually quite a bit that bothered me in this game, more so than a usual win. That whole top of the 1st inning for example. Two bloop singles and then that dude in front row tries to catch Konerko’s homer with his jacket and ends up getting in Swisher’s way. Swish may not have caught it, but he was close enough to at least try to make a play on it. And who the hell tries to catch a ball with their jacket? Be a man and use your hands. A jacket? Even using your hat is weak, but a jacket? Dude, take that nonsense to CitiField.

Oh, and Konerko too. Not just the homer, but he also turned that nice inning ending 3-6 double play in the 1st, then robbed Granderson of his first hit in what seems like an eternity with the leaping grab in the 2nd. Don’t even get me started with Garcia retiring 13 in a row with his 85 mph nothingball.

Pettitte walking Juan Pierre when he was trying to sacrifice bunt, on five pitches no less. That’s inexcusable, and Andy knows it. And the non-call on Donny Lucy running out of the base line later in that inning also ground my gears. If you’re a believer in predetermined outcomes, it cost the Yanks a run.

WPA Graph

A little more jumpy than I normally like, but at least they won. Individual player breakdowns are available at FanGraphs’ box score.

Up Next

Same two teams tomorrow at 1:05pm ET. Javy Vazquez‘s pursuit of redemption in front of the home fans continues against John Danks.

Romine stays hot after a day of rest

Triple-A Scranton (5-4 win over Louisville)
Kevin Russo, 2B & David Winfree, DH: both 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – Russo doubled
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K – it was an always fun inside the parker
Juan Miranda, 1B, Jon Weber, RF & Reegie Corona, SS: all 1 for 3 – Miranda drew a walk, scored a run & K’ed … Weber K’ed twice … Corona doubled, scored a run & K’ed
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R – he allowed four stolen bases, but at least he threw out two others
Robby Hammock, 3B: 2 for 3, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K – first time he’s played in ten days
Dustin Moseley: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5-4 GB/FB – 46 of 75 pitches were strikes (61.3%) … first start back from his forearm injury … Kevin Whelan was put on the phantom DL to make room on the roster
John Van Benschoten: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 3-1 GB/FB – 20 of his 32 pitches were strikes (62.5%)
Royce Ring: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 3 K, 0-1 GB/FB – 10 of his 14 pitches were strikes (71.4%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 18 of his 30 pitches were strikes (60%)

[Read more…]

Game 22: Home again

If only the starts lined up right: Andy Pettitte debuted 15 years ago yesterday.

Photo credit: John Dunn/AP

Freddy Garcia has gotten off to a horrible start in 2009. He pitched a Pavano-esque 129 innings from 2007 through 2009. Last season he came back last August with the White Sox after failing to catch on with the Mets earlier in the season, and actually pitched fairly well. His 56 innings mostly came in September, not the best month on which to base an analysis.

This season he’s off to a slow start, a 5.82 ERA in 17 innings spanning three starts. Walks and home runs have killed him. The Yankees do two things exceedingly well. They take walks, and they hit home runs. It sounds like a perfect combination for a night of baseball in the Bronx. Only problem is, it has the makings of a reverse lock.

Garcia, now 35, put together a solid career with the Mariners and White Sox. From his rookie season, 1999, through 2006 he missed the 200-inning mark just once. He had a 113 ERA+ during that span, 16th highest among pitchers with more than 1,400 innings pitched. His opponent tonight, Andy Pettitte, had a 117 ERA+ during that span, 13th overall.

In his career Garcia has faced the Yankees 10 times, pitching 68.1 innings and allowing 34 runs, 32 earned, for an ERA of 4.21. One of those instances came last season, when the Yankees got to Garcia for three runs in six innings. Before that he hadn’t faced them since 2006. The team is quite a bit different now.

Pettitte has faced the White Sox 23 times in his career, not including the 2005 World Series. He’s had his good games and his bad, allowing 75 runs, 67 earned, in 139 innings. His last outing came last year, when he struck out eight White Sox and walked none in 6.1 innings.

Posada’s out of the lineup again, though he says he’s fine. Girardi said he could use him tomorrow or Sunday. I might be worried if he doesn’t.


1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Johnson, DH
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Nick Swisher, RF
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Francisco Cervelli, C
9. Brett Gardner, LF

And on the mound, number forty-six, Andy Pettitte.