Javy Vazquez by the numbers

Just some stuff I came across regarding Javier Vazquez today…

Payroll implications

By my back of the napkin calculation, the Yankees were at around $197 million in payroll before the Vazquez trade. This included estimated arbitration raises to Melky Cabrera, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre, plus filling out the roster with reserve clause players. Given all the talk about the Yankees’ 2010 budget, it didn’t appear they had room to make a big move. That is, unless the budget number is a bit higher than $200 million. That seems to be the case.

I could go through and make a calculation of the new payroll, but since this is an informal look at the numbers, I’m taking a different approach. Let’s compare what the Yankees shed this off-season to what they picked up.

Off the books
Johnny Damon – $13 million
Hideki Matsui – $13 million
Andy Pettitte – ~$10.5 million
Xavier Nady: $6.5 million
Chien-Ming Wang: $5 million
Brian Bruney: $1.25 million
Melky Cabrera: $1.4 million
Jose Molina: $2.125 million

Total: $52.775 million

Javy Vazquez: $11.5 million
Curtis Granderson: $5.5 million
Nick Johnson: $5.5 million
Andy Pettitte: $11.75 million

Total: $34.25 million

Derek Jeter: $1 million
CC Sabathia: $8.8 million (not sure how he showed up on the OD payroll, though)
Robinson Cano: $3 million
Nick Swisher: $1.45 million
Damaso Marte: $0.25 million

Total: $14.5 million

The additions and raises add up to $48.75 million, or just over $4 million in savings. That money will cover the arbitration cases for Gaudin and Mitre, and if the Yankees do trade Gaudin it would cover just about everything. So if the Yankees do intend to sign a left fielder, they’ll go over 2009 payroll by a little bit. But, if CC’s full salary (the ~$15 million salary plus signing bonus) did count against the OD payroll (I think it did), then the Yanks have some wiggle room. Not Matt Holliday wiggle room, but a little at least.

Quality of opponents faced

I’m not sure what we can take from Baseball Prospectus’s quality of batters faced statistics, but it’ll be an interesting look in any case. Clearly, with the pitcher in the nine hole Vazquez faced easier competition in the National League in 2009. But by how much?

Javy’s best American League season came in 2007 with the White Sox. Over 216.2 innings he pitched to a 3.74 ERA, posting 8.85 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, and a 3.80 FIP. Those are excellent numbers by any standard — though his 1.20 HR/9 mark is a bit concerning (though partly a product of the Sox ballpark). That year, he faced opponents who combined for a .270/.339/.418 line. Not too shabby.

Last year, when he finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, Vazquez faced batters who hit a combined .254/.328/.403. They’re a bit worse, as expected, since the nine hole is consistently filled by a pitcher. Stilll, it’s good to know that he can do it against better opponents, too. For comparison, in his 2008 season in Chicago he faced batters who hit .263/.337/.412, so they were slightly worse than the hitters he faced in 2007, but he fared worse.

Confused yet?

Batted ball data

When trying to account for an uncharacteristically good or bad season from a player, I like to check out their batted ball data to see if there is any significant shift. There appears to be one for Vazquez in 2009. He increased his ground ball percentage, which is always welcome, but more importantly he drastically reduced his fly ball percentage. He had been in the low 40% range for most of his career, but in 2009 he brought it all the way down to 34.8 percent. That’s quite excellent for a player who has a home run to fly ball rate of over 10 percent for his career. Javy is home run prone, but if he keeps the ball out of the air he’ll fare much, much better in that regard.

Plate discipline

Another stat from Vazquez’s FanGraphs page: opponents had a tough time making contact with pitches outside the strike zone. In 2009 Vazquez threw more pitches outside the zone than at any point in his career. Yet he still posted the best walk rate since 2001. The key: opponents just couldn’t hit those pitches. Does it mean Vazquez found something on his breaking and off-speed pitches that eluded him before? I’m not quite sure. It’s an interesting phenomenon, for sure.

Not only did Vazquez throw more pitches out of the zone in 2009 than he had before in his career, but opposing hitters swung at them less frequently than in years past. Even with those two factors, hitters just couldn’t make as much contact on those pitches. That’s something I’ll definitely be looking for when Javy takes the mound this season.

First half of 2004

Many fans can’t forgive Javy for his 2004 meltdown. It started at the All-Star break, and extended all the way through the playoffs. But don’t let that discount what he did early in the season. Through 18 starts, Javy averaged almost 6.2 innings per start, posting a 3:1 K/BB ratio and allowing just 47 runs through 118.2 innings.

By the Decade: Better off with him

On a busy day in the Yankee Universe, we continue our look at the Yankees By the Decade with a stop at the Hot Corner. For the last six seasons, A-Rod has owned that position, and he is clearly the third baseman of the decade. It’s not even close.

A. Rodriguez 3227 971 158 5 229 692 482 49 75 721 89 .301 .401 .566
Scott Brosius 895 231 45 2 29 112 78 3 7 156 27 .258 .320 .410
Robin Ventura 716 181 29 0 35 128 124 7 2 152 22 .253 .362 .440
Aaron Boone 189 48 13 0 6 31 11 0 3 30 7 .254 .302 .418
E. Wilson 117 27 4 2 2 15 5 0 0 18 2 .231 .258 .350
Todd Zeile 91 18 4 0 3 13 12 0 0 16 2 .198 .286 .341
Ron Coomer 83 27 4 0 2 9 2 0 0 12 5 .325 .341 .446
Clay Bellinger 81 17 2 1 4 14 2 0 4 20 0 .210 .261 .407
Cody Ransom 74 15 8 1 0 8 7 0 0 24 3 .203 .272 .338
W. Betemit 66 17 7 0 1 6 1 0 0 12 2 .258 .269 .409
Luis Sojo 62 11 2 0 0 7 3 0 1 8 1 .177 .227 .210
Miguel Cairo 54 11 3 1 0 5 4 0 0 12 1 .204 .259 .296
M. Ensberg 54 10 0 0 0 3 4 0 0 14 1 .185 .241 .185
Ramiro Pena 47 12 1 0 0 4 3 0 0 8 1 .255 .300 .277
A. Soriano 26 4 1 0 2 2 1 0 0 9 0 .154 .185 .423
Andy Phillips 25 4 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 7 1 .160 .192 .160
Jerry Hairston 25 9 2 0 0 5 5 0 1 3 1 .360 .484 .440
Nick Green 25 8 2 0 1 1 0 0 1 9 0 .320 .346 .520
Angel Berroa 20 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 6 1 .100 .143 .150
A. Gonzalez 17 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 .118 .167 .118
Eric Hinske 14 3 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 4 2 .214 .312 .214
Totals 5908 1628 286 12 314 1058 748 59 95 1242 169 .276 .362 .487

To get a sense of just how good A-Rod has been at third base, let’s look at some comparative numbers. For the table above, I used players who had played at least ten games at third base. Thus, Gary Sheffield’s brief 2004 cameo at the Hot Corner and other similarly misguided experiments from the past decade are not covered here. As it stands, A-Rod enjoyed 54.6 percent of the Yanks’ third base at-bats and around 55.8 percent of all plate appearances. My, how he delivered.

In those at-bats, A-Rod was responsible for 72.9 percent of all Yankee third base home runs, 64.4 percent of the walks and 83 percent of the intentional walks. He accounted for 65.4 percent of all third base RBIs, and without his stunning .301/.401/.566 line, Yankee third basemen hit .245/.313/.393. He simply towers above anyone else including old fan favorite Scott Brosius and 2003 hero Aaron Boone.

What is amazing though about this decade of A-Rod is how tumultuous it has been. It began with a near-trade to the Red Sox in late 2003 that fell apart over Boston’s reluctance to pony up the dough. After the proposed Manny-for-Alex swap fell through, the Yankees swooped in and landed A-Rod and his contract for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. The Yanks were the only team that could afford A-Rod’s astronomical salary, and they gave up nothing too great in return.

For A-Rod, it was a tough adjustment to New York. He had a down-for-him year in 2004, hitting just 36 home runs with a line of .286/.375/.512. He was great in the ALDS against the Twins and then vanished, along with the rest of the team, in Games 4-7 against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Much as Javier Vazquez was dismissed from New York for his role in the collapse, A-Rod too bore the brunt of the blame, most notably for his slap play in Game 6.

He responded nicely in 2005 and won the first of his two Bronx MVP awards. He hit .321/.421/.610 with 48 home runs and 130 RBIs. Again, though, his post-season numbers were bad. In the ALDS, he went just 2 for 15. The following postseason, he went 1 for 14 in the Division Series, was dropped to eighth in the batting order and drew himself the Choker label.

In 2007, Good A-Rod showed up again, but the fans were wary. On the verge of opting out of his contract, A-Rod hit 54 home runs, drove in 156 and did nothing in October. As the Red Sox were about to win the World Series, he opted out of his contract, and the Yankees vowed never to deal with him again. Three weeks later, he was back in pinstripes for a record deal worth up to $305 million over ten years. The press hated him, and the fans were skeptical.

This past year, the fans finally embraced A-Rod. He notched his 12th straight year with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs by blasting two and driving in seven on the final day of the season, and his hot hitting carried over into the playoffs. Against the Twins, Angels and Phillies, A-Rod hit .365/.500/.808 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. As a decade begun with Scotty Bro and celebrated by Aaron Boone came to a close, Yankee fans had finally come to accept A-Rod as he should be, as the third base as the decade and as the team’s offensive star.

Despite early-season articles, despite sports writer consternation, the Yankees are truly better off with Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez. Make no mistake about it.

Minor Notes: Montero, Prospect Lists, Draft

Got some minor league notes to pass along…

  • As I’m sure you’ve already heard, farm director Mark Newman confirmed that Jesus Montero and Austin Romine will start the year in Triple-A and Double-A, respectively. Montero’s bat is definitely ready for the jump, though his glove isn’t, so that will be a big challenge for him. Romine’s ready for Trenton, he probably was in August.
  • Kevin Goldstein ran down his top eleven Yankee prospects, with Montero topping the list as the team’s only five star prospect. Since departed Arodys Vizcaino was the team’s only four star prospect, and they’re followed by a slew of three star guys. Trust me, trading Arodys stings, but remember that he’s a 19-year old that has yet to play in a full season league. He’s just a lotto ticket.
  • Coincidentally, Marc Hulet at FanGraphs posted his list of the Yanks top ten Yankee prospects, and had Vizcaino fourth behind Montero, Romine, and Zach McAllister. He also had Mike Dunn rated 6th, which is about as high as you’ll see him on any list. I like Mike Dunn, but sheesh, not that much.
  • Meanwhile, Hulet is also running through his annual review of each team’s recent drafts, and hit the Yankees yesterday. If you’re looking for the quick recap of the last four drafts, then I highly recommend it, Marc does a great job. Five members of the Yanks’ 2006 draft class have already reached the big leagues, and three others are legitimately on the door step. Quite a haul.
  • The Yanks signed outfielder Javier Herrera to a minor league deal. Baseball America rated him the sixth best prospect in Oakland’s system as recently as 2007, though he had Tommy John surgery and never quite figured it out. He’s a career .282-.358-.468 hitter in the minors, though he has just 15 plate appearances above Double-A. Decent little gamble.

Damon, Bay, Holliday still too expensive for Yanks

With the trade of Melky Cabrera this morning, the Yanks are short a Major League outfielder. Although many assumed that Melky would be the starting left fielder with Johnny Damon‘s departure, the Yankees seemed willing to go into Spring Training with the position up for grabs. Now, though, it falls into Brett Gardner‘s lap. As some clamor for a better solution for left field, the Yanks are standing pat for now. The Yanks would reportedly prefer to spend around $5-$6 on a left fielder, and according to Mark Feinsand and Joel Sherman, the price tags on Johnny Damon, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay remain too steep for the Bombers. As Joe wrote last night, if the price is right on Mark DeRosa, he could be a good fit.

Prospect Profile: J.R. Murphy

J.R. Murphy

J.R. Murphy | C

Raised in Bradenton, Florida, John Ryan Murphy was a bit of a late bloomer. He missed his junior season of high school with a knee injury that required surgery, and didn’t make much of a name for himself until he starred in various showcase events the summer before his senior year. During his senior year at the prestigious IMG Academy, Murphy led the 31-1-0 Panthers in games played (31), batting average (.627), on-base percentage (.686), slugging percentage (1.235),  runs scored (56), hits (64), doubles (17), homers (11), and runs batted in (66) while striking out only four times in 104 at-bats. The Panthers played in four tournaments throughout the season, and Murphy was named MVP of all four.

[Read more…]

Yanks may try to move Gaudin or Mitre

With Javier Vazquez back in the fold and the Yanks enjoying a glut of Major League starters, the team may look to capitalize on this depth. According to Joel Sherman (via Twitter), the Yanks will probably try to move Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre before the end of Spring Training. Either righthander would be a fine fit for a team looking for some back-end help for its starting rotation, and the Yanks see these two pitchers as seventh or eighth, respectively, on their starting pitching depth charts. It’s possible that the team would turn to Alfredo Aceves over Mitre as well.

On the basis of quality, Gaudin would command more interest and a higher return, but he will be owed nearly $4 million in 2010. Mitre should re-sign for around $1.5 million and would be a more attractive target for some cost-conscious teams. Less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Mitre struggled to find any consistency with the Yanks in 2009 while Gaudin was adequate as a long reliever and spot starter.

When Last We Met: Javier Vazquez

When Javier Vazquez makes his first start of the season for the Yanks in April, it could very well be against the last team he faced in the Bronx. If the Yankees fit him into the third slot in the rotation, he will pitch against the Red Sox in Boston on April 7. More likely than not, though, the Yankees will give the ball to Andy Pettitte for that start, and Vazquez will pitch against the Rays in Tampa Bay over the weekend.

For Yankee fans, just the idea of Javier Vazquez and the Red Sox is enough to give us nightmares. While not the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the ALCS, Vazquez was on the mound when Johnny Damon hit a grand slam that effectively nailed shut the coffin on the Yankees that year. A few weeks later, Vazquez was unceremoniously dumped on Arizona for an aging Randy Johnson. Unfairly or not, Vazquez took the fall for a team-wide collapse and has since been demonized in the minds of Yankee fans since then.

What we forget though is Javier Vazquez’s All Star-worthy first half of 2004. Through his first 18 starts, Vazquez went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He struck out 81 in 104.2 innings and sported a 3.12 K/BB ratio. In the second half, though, everything fell apart for the right-hander. He went 5-6 with a 5.79 ERA and found himself pitching in relief in the playoffs. He got the Game 3 win in Boston but was hardly stellar in the Yanks’ 19-8 trouncing of the Red Sox.

After that playoff series, Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro and cash went west while Randy Johnson came East, and Vazquez has since flourished into what he was before the Bronx: a durable strike-out pitcher who can give a team quality innings from the middle of the rotation. He earned himself some Cy Young votes over the last few years and pitched well in the AL Central and NL East. In his 162 starts over four years, he has a 4.09 ERA and a 110 ERA+. He has struck out 1027 in 1062.2 innings while walking just 257 for a fantastic 4.00 K/BB ratio.

Vazquez won’t have an easy go of it with the fans at first in the Bronx. He’s going to have to earn his stripes again and push away the memories of a bad second half. Rumors of shoulder problems swirled around him in 2004, but those rumblings have been dispelled. He simply could not get his mechanics in line for a handful of starts during the second half of the season.

The Yanks never wanted to and probably should never have traded Vazquez, and now Javy and the Yankees get a second chance. Hopefully, it will end on a better note than Vazquez’s last pinstriped appearance. He won’t be expected to front the staff and will face far less pressure to deliver for the World Series champs. With this trade, either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes will spend at least part of the season as a reliever, and the Yanks rotation and bullpen are stronger because of it. And so as the AL arms race continues, Javier Vazquez will reenter the fray.