Archive for Javier Vazquez

Sep
30

Requiem for a risky trade

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Javy wasn't having too many nice days in pinstripes this year. (Photo by Amanda Rykoff)

Yankee fans went to sleep on the night of December 21, 2009 with rumors swirling. We knew that the Yanks were on the verge of acquiring a starting pitcher, but we didn’t know, until the next morning at least, that Javier Vazquez would return to the Bronx. Even though our last meeting with Vazquez was an infamous one and we knew Brian Cashman was rolling the dice on a risky trade, we liked the deal.

And how could we not? For Melky Cabrera, an overrated player on the verge of making more money than he’s worth, the replaceable Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino, a live arm years away from making his Major League debut, the Yanks landed a lefty reliever and one of the top National League hurlers. Lest we forget with the bad taste of 2010 still in our mouths, Javier Vazquez won 15 games with a 2.87 ERA in 2009 with a 9.8 K/9 IP, a 1.8 BB/9 IP and just 20 home runs allowed in 219.1 innings. He deservedly finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.

What a difference a year makes. If last night was Javier Vazquez’s final appearance as a member of the New York Yankees, his season totals are abysmal. He’s 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and a FIP even higher than that. In 157.1 innings, he struck out 121, walked 65 and gave up 32 home runs. His home run rate more than doubled over 2009 while he lost over three strike outs and walked two more batters over nine innings. He hasn’t won a start since July 26.

Vazquez couldn’t have been much worse for the Yanks, and few pitchers have. In two seasons six years apart, Vazquez has gone 24-20 with a 5.09 ERA. His rate stats — strike outs, walks and home runs per 9 innings pitched — than compared with his career totals, and he again seems to have lost the ability to get men out. No pitcher in Yankee history has made as many starts as Vazquez while being so prolific at giving up the long ball, and only Sterling Hitchcock, Tim Leary and Andy Hawkins have as many innings pitched with higher ERAs than Javy.

For a brief spell in the middle of the season, it appeared as though Javy had figured it all out. After starting the season 1-4 with an 8.10 ERA in his first six games, Javy went 8-5 over his next 16 games with a 3.39 ERA. He allowed just 13 home runs over those 95.2 innings and kept runners off base. His last 10 appearances though have seen him allow 11 home runs in 38.2 innings while opponents are hitting a Robinson Cano-like .302/.387/.549 against him while walking 4.5 times per nine innings. Somewhere it all went wrong.

Maybe it’s Javy’s head or maybe it’s something else. Maybe he can’t pitch in New York as many would have you believe or maybe he’s just not physically up to the task any longer. It’s not unheard of for 34-year-olds with 2500 innings under their belt to fall off a clip, and I think Javy’s problem can be summed up in graph form.

His velocity, as we can see, has dipped significantly this year. During his time with the Braves, he threw in the low-to-mid 90s; with the Yankees, he’s barely cracked 89, let alone 90. He stopped being able to blow hitters away, and he stopped being able to mix his pitches effectively. It was a long hard fall.

So as Javy has likely thrown his last pitch in a Yankee uniform, Joel Sherman threw an obvious pitch into the mix this morning. The Yankees, he says, will not offer Javy arbitration. The Yanks swallowed hard and traded Arodys Vizcaino last winter because they hoped to turn Javy into a first-round draft pick. Now that Javy’s been worth below replacement level according to Fangraphs’ WAR, the team won’t be offering him and his $11.5 million salary arbitration, and they won’t recoup some of the cost it took to acquire him.

The inevitable question then concerns the trade. Was it a good one? Without the luxury of hindsight or a crystal ball, there’s no way to know that Javier Vazquez’s 2010 would be this bad, and the cost to acquire him is high only if Arodys pans out. I can’t fault the Yanks for trying in December, but no one should whitewash Javy’s poor finish. One thing is certain: I’ll be calling this the Boone Logan trade from now on.

Categories : Musings
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A few people will miss Javy Vazquez, but I’m sure the overwhelming majority were glad to see Joe Girardi come out of the dugout and remove him from the game for the final time in his Yankee career. Vazquez gave up hard-hit ball after hard-hit ball in his 4.2 innings of work, which resulted in seven Blue Jays runs. The bullpen would hold them down, but the offense couldn’t capitalize on a rally and ended up dropping their 10th game of the season against the Blue Jays 8-4.

Biggest hit: All those homers

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Entering the game Vazquez had allowed 29 home runs, giving him the highest HR/9 rate in the league among pitchers with 150 IP. That went up in a hurry. A night after he recorded the Blue Jays only run on a homer off CC Sabathia, Travis Snider took Vazquez deep in the Jays’ first at-bat. Vazquez gave up a number of hard-hit balls that inning, but did manage to escape without allowing another run. That would have to wait until the second.

With none on and two outs in the second John Buck whaled a low, outside pitch over the wall in right-center, giving the Jays a 2-0 lead. Then in the fifth, this time with two men on, Vazquez gave up another long fly, this one to Aaron Hill. That made the game 7-0. That is almost certainly the last pitch he’ll throw as a Yankee.

I know there are plenty of fans who revel in Javy’s failures in pinstripes, but I’m as saddened by the end of his second stint as I was at the first. After 2004 I was sure that he would bounce back with a solid 2005. Trading him for Randy Johnson, I thought, was not such a great idea. This time around I realize that he has to go. He’ll sign for cheap somewhere, and while in a way I’d like that to be with the Yankees, I realize the impossibility of the idea.

Biggest bummer: Swish kills the rally

The Yanks actually fought their way back into the game in the sixth inning, right after Royce Ring came in and ended the game-killing fifth. A-Rod led things off with his 30th homer of the season, which gave him his 14th 30 HR, 100 RBI season, and his 13th straight. After Brett Cecil plunked Robinson Cano and walked Austin Kearns the Yanks had a shot. Cervelli started the carousel, singling in Cano and moving Kearns to third.

The mighty Greg Golson followed with his own single, which set up the Yanks with first and second with one out and drove Cecil from the game. In came Jason Frasor, who gave up a single to Derek Jeter. Nick Swisher came to the plate as the tying run, and he was backed by Teixeira and Rodriguez. But Swisher swung at the first pitch and grounded it to Aaron Hill, who started an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

This, that, and the other

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)

Andrew Brackman? Anyone? Bueller?

Francisco Cervelli in September: .367/.512/.433 in 43 PA. BABIP: .440. Hot and cold, hot and cold.

Alex Rodriguez has 40 fewer PA than Miguel Cabrera but has driven in just three fewer runs. A-Rod might be having a sub-par season by his standards, but he’s still coming up with men on base (.300/.372/.571).

If Mark Teixeira catches A-Rod’s throw Joba’s appearance looks a lot better.

At this point, is Sergio Mitre a better option than Chad Gaudin for the postseason roster? Ideally they’d carry neither — in fact, I submit that Royce Ring is a better choice then both.

Box and graph

I coulda done without this one.

More at FanGraphs. Boxy thing here.

Up next

It’s an off-day as the team heads back stateside and into Boston. Andy Pettitte and Daisuke Matsuzaka do battle on Friday.

Categories : Game Stories
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Yep, you stink. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

You could see it happening. It was that ugly seventh inning of last night’s game, the inning when starter turned mop-up man Javy Vazquez fell completely off the rails. A walk then three consecutive hit batters to force in a run. That from a guy who had hit four batters in his first 149.2 innings of the season and has demonstrated good enough control to unintentionally walk just 2.1 batters per nine innings pitched this century. The game was basically lost by that point anyway, but in the big picture it was the moment that Vazquez lost any chance to ever pitch another meaningful inning in pinstripes. What happened in the last two innings was completely irrelevant, his fate had already been decided.

I wanted to like Javy, and I still do like him actually. He’s an extremely nice and self-deprecating guy, or at least he comes across that way in interviews, but that doesn’t count for anything on the mound. While I certainly appreciate that mid-season stretch when he was arguably the team’s best pitcher, he’s been basically unusable since mid-July. The Yanks tried tinkering with his mechanics, tried giving him extra rest, tried him in the bullpen, but the results just aren’t there any more. The stuff, to put it kindly, has deteriorated to junk, and he hasn’t been able to adjust to it yet.

That’s not to say that Javy is a lost cause forever, remember it took Mike Mussina a year or so to figure out how to pitch with his mid-80′s gas. But for the Yankees, that’s it, any chance Vazquez had at redeeming himself was washed away when that curveball hit Kelly Shoppach in the back to force in a run last night. There’s almost no chance of him making the postseason roster even as the “break glass in case of emergency” 11th reliever, there’s absolutely no chance of the Yanks offering him arbitration after the season even though he projects to be a Type-A free agent (by the skin of his teeth).

Sure, Vazquez will throw some garbage time innings when they’re resting the regulars next week, but if it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. He’s just too unreliable for a team trying to win a World Championship, and he won’t get another opportunity to prove himself. It’s kinda sad when you think about it, especially since the trade was pretty well-received at the time. The Yanks gave up so little for a guy that seemed certain to give them 200 innings of at least average pitching. Arodys Vizcaino had never pitched in a full season league, Mike Dunn is a usable bullpen piece but hardly a shutdown reliever, and Melky Cabrera was about to get super expensive ($3.1M salary this year [!!!], and just think, if the Melkman was still around, he’d have taken at-bats away from Brett Gardner). All three were easily replaceable, and effectively have been already.

Anyway, back to Vazquez. The anti-Javy crowd that maintain that he can’t handle New York will think they’re right when in reality it was just his stuff that betrayed him. The fastball velocity is gone, the breaking ball doesn’t bite anymore, and the changeup isn’t as effective as it used to be because the fastball isn’t there to back it up. It’s gone downhill so quickly that I can’t help but wonder if he’s hiding an injury. And if he is I guess it’s admirable, but he did himself nor his team any good by pitching through it.

If an offseason of rest manages to help him get healthy, some East Coast National League team is going to get a pretty sweet deal when they sign Javy for one year and about $4M this winter (my money’s on the Marlins, nice and close to his home in Puerto Rico) and he gives them bulk innings against lesser competition. Either way,  last night was almost certainly the last time he’ll ever pitch in the Bronx as a member of the Yankees, and ironically enough, there weren’t enough fans left at the park to boo him off the mound.

Categories : Musings
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Sep
23

The battle no one wants to win

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Who wants to join D-Rob in the bullpen this October? (Photo Credit: Flickr user notladj)

With a lineup of All Stars (plus Brett Gardner) and the starting rotation all but set (not necessarily the order), the Yankees don’t have too many decisions to make before the the playoffs begin. The core setup crew is set, so the only thing left to sort out is the spare relievers and the bench. The bench isn’t too big of a deal since those regulars will (should) play every inning in October, but the bullpen isn’t necessarily that easy.

Jack Curry tweeted last night that the team intends to carry an 11-man pitching staff in the playoffs, which is fine. They could probably get away with ten, but there’s certainly no need for a dozen in a short series. Nine of those 11 spots are accounted for: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Boone Logan. That leaves five guys fighting for those final two spots: Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Ivan Nova, Javy Vazquez, and Dustin Moseley. We should probably throw Royce Ring into that mix as well since a second lefty specialist would be far more useful than a second longman.

Joe Girardi‘s been riding Gaudin really hard the last two weeks (he’s appeared in six of the last twelve games), so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the righty is getting every opportunity to win one of those spots. Mitre has pitched twice in the past 26 days and as far as I know he didn’t even warm up in last night’s rainy game (in fairness, I suppose Girardi was holding him back in case he needs a longman tonight). One of those two times he pitched came in the last Sabathia-David Price game, and that was only after all the other bullpen options were used up. Moseley is far too hittable (10.7 H/9 career) and doesn’t miss nearly enough bats (4.3 K/9 this year) to warrant any kind of action in a playoff spot, so there’s no sense in even carrying him on the roster.

Javy, well at this point he shouldn’t be pitching any kind of meaningful innings. It’s not that he can’t handle the pressure or anything stupid like that, it’s just that his stuff has deteriorated so much that you can’t trust him to get outs with it. I know he’s pitched well in his few long relief outings late in the year, but I think there’s also too much of a stigma there to take him. That’s probably not fair to him, but it is what it is. The nothingball will be the scapegoat.

Given how well he’s pitched early in his outings, Nova’s going to get one of those last two bullpen spots almost by default, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s been extremely effective early in his outings (.563 OPS against the first time through the order, .731 the second, .952 the third) which suggests he could be effective in one or two inning relief stints. Perhaps he takes over the job as that trusty righty outside of the normal setup crew that Girardi is trying to force feed Gaudin. World Championship teams always have an unexpected reliever step up big in October (hellooo Damaso Marte), so maybe Nova’s that guy this year. We can dream.

In the end, I’d expect Nova and Gaudin to get those final two spots, though a case could be made for Ring as a second lefty (assuming he gets in some more games and pitches well over the next week-and-a-half, of course). Once the Yanks clinch a playoff spot, which will hopefully happen before everyone returns to work on Monday, don’t be surprised if they lift Nova from the rotation and have him pitch out of the bullpen two or three times in the final week of the season just to get acclimated to the role.

So far no one has really stepped up and grabbed one of those spots by the horns. They’re trying their best to give it to Gaudin, but he doesn’t seem to want it (13 baserunners, six runs, three homers in his last 5.2 IP). Mitre can’t even get into a regular season game, never mind a playoff spot, and every time Moseley pitches he shows why the Angels non-tendered him last season. In reality, whoever the Yanks ends up taking probably won’t see much action in the postseason and will be of little consequence, but stranger things have happened.

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Sep
21

The Forgotten Relievers

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(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

As predictable as it was, the trio of Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson have emerged as Joe Girardi‘s trusted righthanded setup crew over the last few weeks while Boone Logan has taken advantage of Damaso Marte‘s injury to become his go-to-lefty. With the Yankees still in the division race and a few wins away from clinching a playoff spot, he’s leaned heavily on those four plus Mariano Rivera in the late innings of close games. Heck, even Chad Gaudin seems to emerged as that next guy, the one who’s just outside of the regular setup crew that sees plenty of work in what we’ll call “various” situations.

It’s still September though, and the Yanks have a full arsenal of relievers on hand aside from those six mentioned above. They’ve called up three extra arms this month, and remember, they had a 13-man staff before that with Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The call-ups and spare long men haven’t seen much action at all (as you’d expect), so let’s recap where each of those guys stand…

Jon Albaladejo

The Triple-A relief ace hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 12th, which is when he worked the final 1.1 innings of a game in which the rest of the team was busy getting shut down by Cliff Lee and the Rangers. Since being recalled at the start of the month he’s appeared in four games, throwing three innings and allowing a pair of hits and a walk while striking out three. Those three baserunners each reached in his last appearance, so the three before that were pretty solid except for some hit by pitches. Albie seems to be the favorite among the extra, sparsely used relievers, probably because he has seniority.

Sergio Mitre

Girardi’s love affair with Mitre always seemed questionable at best, especially since their relationship dated back to their time in Florida and Serg never really did anything on the field with the Yanks to stand out. He last appeared in a game on Sept. 13th, when he gave up the walk-off homer to Reid Brignac, the only batter he faced. Prior to that he had appeared in just one game since August 27th, and two since August 20th, so that’s three total appearances in the last 32 days. Clearly, he’s just a “break glass in case of emergency” long man right now.

Dustin Moseley

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

To be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten that Moseley existed until Ben mentioned his name last night. The last time he pitched was his start in Texas against Lee, the same date as Albie’s last game, when he pitched admirably for six innings before turning back into Dustin Moseley in the seventh. His only other appearance this month came on Sept. 4th, which is when Girardi brought him in with runners on the corners and two outs against the Blue Jays only to watch him give up a double to Lyle Overbay to tie the game. You remember that, it was the mother of all second guess moves.

Royce Ring

Recalled last Wednesday, Ring has yet to appear in a game for the big league team. The lefty last pitched on Sept. 9th, when he faced two batters in Game Two of Triple-A Scranton’s playoff series with Columbus. He walked one and got the other to ground out. Ring is the definition of a LOOGY, so his appearances-to-innings pitched ratio is well below one this year. At some point Girardi will call on him to get a lefty out, maybe even tonight since Logan has faced multiple batters in each of the last two games.

Romulo Sanchez

Sanchez was promoted over the weekend and Girardi hasn’t called on him yet. Before that he was recovering from an apparently minor elbow injury that had him on the Triple-A disabled list, so he hasn’t pitched in an actual game since August 24th, his only outing in the last 32 days. For a guy that’s wild as it is, I can’t imagine that’s a good thing. Luckily he won’t be seeing any high leverage work anytime soon.

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Javy Vazquez

Oh Javy, how the mighty have fallen. It’s seems like ages ago that the righty posted a 2.75 ERA during an 11 start stretch from mid-May to mid-July, but now he’s so out of favor that he’s nothing more than a highly paid mop-up man. Vazquez hasn’t pitched since starting in Texas on Sept. 10th, when he allowed four runs in five innings of work. He has warmed up a few times since then, but Girardi seems completely disinterested in using him. Given his disappearing fastball and hit-me-breaking ball, can you blame him?

* * *

The Yanks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to just five, so any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses totaling that number will put the Yanks in the postseason for the 15th time in 16 years. Barring another epic slump, they’ll clinch that spot by the end of the weekend, giving Girardi a chance to rest his regulars and line up his rotation and all that. That’s when Albaladejo and Ring and Mitre will really start to see some action, and chances are Moseley and Vazquez will make some spots starts as they try to line up CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes for the ALDS.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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It’s not terribly surprising, but it’s good to know that Andy Pettitte‘s return to the starting rotation will officially happen this coming Sunday in Baltimore, the team announced. He will be limited to 90 pitches. Andy has been out since July 18th due to a groin strain, and his absence has been extremely noticeable. It’s good to be getting him back.

Meanwhile, the team also announced that A.J. Burnett will start Friday’s game and CC Sabathia will go on Saturday. Both Javy Vazquez and Dustin Moseley have been bounced from the rotation and will work in long relief. At this time last year, the Yanks were giving all of their guys extra days of rest in preparation for the playoffs, but there’s no such plan this year. Sabathia will start on his usual four days rest despite tomorrow’s off day, and that lines him up for a rematch with David Price next Thursday.

Categories : Asides, Pitching
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Sep
07

For Burnett, a longer leash

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Mediocre A.J., the lesser known of Burnett's various personalities, reared his head yesterday. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

A.J. Burnett is struggling. He’s struggling to find command; he’s struggling to find consistency; he’s struggling to find the strike zone; and he’s struggling to find wins. In fact, the Yankees are 4-13 over Burnett’s last 17 starts and 1-6 since the start of August. During that stretch, Burnett has a 6.58 ERA, and it’s just ugly all around.

Yet, Joe Girardi is still willing to show faith in Burnett because his stuff is there, lingering in the background. Yesterday, we saw that faith, through no fault of Burnett’s or Girardi’s, backfire in the 7th inning. A.J. was one out away from escaping the game without a loss, but the Orioles had a threat going. With Corey Patterson on second, Brian Roberts, one of the Orioles’ few offensive threats, came up with two hits on him already.

Roberts is a tough player to neutralize. Historically, he hits better from the left side against righties than he does as a right-handed batter against south paws, but he’s a tough out from either side of the plate. This year, he is OPSing .858 in limited duty. It’s easy to second-guess the decision to allow Burnett to face Roberts. After all, the Orioles’ second baseman had a bead on Burnett’s stuff, and A.J. had passed 100 pitches. The Yanks could have played the match-ups and used Boone Logan to turn Roberts around to his weaker side, but Girardi stuck with A.J.

The pitch Roberts hit into right field for the game-winning hit wasn’t a bad one. It was a curve-ball, down and in, that Roberts fought off. A good hitter can do that to a good pitcher, and Burnett, speaking of his inability to shut down the Orioles, was highly critical of himself after the game. “It’s not about my seventh. It’s my whole day in general. I take pride in shutdowns. I’ve said it six times already, sorry I keep repeating it, but nothing else happened today. I wasn’t able to shut them down when we scored.”

What struck me about the game, though, wasn’t the outcome or Roberts’ lucky hitting. It wasn’t Burnett’s inability to hold the Orioles, although that obviously played a role in the eventual outcome. Rather, it was Joe Girardi’s willingness to stick with Burnett passed the breaking point.

On Saturday, Girardi sparked a mini-controversy when he lifted Javier Vazquez from a two-run game with two runners on and two outs in the fifth. That move backfired as well when Dustin Moseley allowed the tying runs to score, and Vazquez was steamed that he couldn’t work out his own jam. Javy, recently returned from the rotation, clearly has a short leash while Girardi wants to get Burnett as much work as possible in an effort to iron out what plagues him. Joe Girardi: “I thought it was a good step forward. I thought his stuff was very good today. He didn’t really have his changeup today, but his curveball and his fastball were very good. He got in some situations that he wiggled his way out of — a first and second with nobody out and didn’t give up a run. He pitched pretty well,” the Yankee skipper said after the game.

So why the disparate treatment? On the one hand, the issue is about stuff. On days when Burnett has something resembling a good curveball, he’s always just one good pitch away from getting out of the inning. On days when Javier Vazquez is throwing 86 mile-an-hour meatballs, it seem as though only Lady Luck can help Javy through five or six innings.

On the other hand, though, these decisions are about trust and the Yanks’ future. Javier Vazquez is a one-and-done in New York City. They brought him in to give them length in the rotation when they knew they couldn’t sneak by on CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett and two young guys or replacement-type hurlers. At this point, he’s probably on the wrong side of the bubble and wouldn’t make the playoff roster. Burnett, though, has to be ready for the postseason. If the Yankees are going to advance, A.J. Burnett and his $16.5-million salary will be asked to pitch in some must-win situations, and Burnett has to have confidence in his stuff. Furthermore, Burnett is here through 2013, and the Yanks can’t start banishing him to the scrap heap quite yet.

So A.J. gets a longer leash than Javier Vazquez, and even though both decisions — a non-move on Monday and a move on Saturday — backfired on the Yanks, both were the right calls. Sometimes, the Brian Roberts of the world just end up beating that good curve ball.

Categories : Pitching
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Javier Vazquez will take a turn in the starting rotation, replacing Dustin Moseley on Saturday against the Blue Jays, Joe Girardi announced this afternoon. The decision came as little surprise as Moseley has gotten hit around over this last four outings while Vazquez has made two impressive bullpen appearances, flashing better stuff and velocity. Since beating Boston on August 8, Moseley is 2-1 but is averaging fewer than five innings a start. He’s walked 13 and struck out 11 while giving up five home runs en route to a 6.41 ERA. Meanwhile, since losing his rotation spot amidst a dead-arm period, Vazquez has thrown nine strong innings in relief. He’s allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight. We questioned whether Vazquez truly tweaked his mechanics or was experience the placebo effect of a new role role, but no matter the answer, the Yanks feel comfortable enough to move him back to the rotation after a two-week stint in the pen.

Categories : Asides, Pitching
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(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Due to a quirk of the postseason schedule, the Yankees played 15 games en route to a World Series title and used just three starting pitchers. They quickly dispatched the Twins, took advantage of a rain-out against the Angels, and pushed their rotation to the limit against the Phillies before capturing the crown in six games. Because of an elongated series schedule and too many days off, the Yankees got lucky, and Brian Cashman knew they would need more pitching depth to both reach the playoffs and win in 2010.

What Cashman didn’t want to do involved Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. He and the Yanks’ coaches seemingly had no desire to award two of the five starting spots to kids not yet 25, and after Joba faded down the stretch last year, the Yankees seemed more inclined to hand a starting position to Hughes while putting Chamberlain in the pen. They needed a fifth body to fill out the rotation, someone more reliable than Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre.

On the evening of December 21, Cashman struck. We heard rumors of a trade involving a big-name pitcher, and in the morning, that picture was revealed as none other than Javier Vazquez. In a trade involving Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaino and Boone Logan, the Yanks had found their starter. With a healthy skepticism of Vazquez’s previous tenure in the Bronx, we thought Cashman was taking a big gamble but ultimately saw the deal as a positive. The Yanks had a durable innings eater with a low-90s fastball coming off of a big season in Atlanta. If the stars aligned properly, Vazquez could be the aging pitcher willing to come back on a one-year deal. He would be the new Andy Pettitte. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned.

Vazquez’s first five starts were awful. He managed to win one of them but allowed 32 hits in 23 innings. He had an ERA of 9.78, had given up eight home runs and had walked 15. The Yankees then gave Vazquez some extra time off, and he rebounded in turn. From May 12 through July 10, he was arguably the Yanks best pitcher. Due to a lack of run support, he went just 6-4 but sported an ERA of 2.75. He allowed just seven home runs in 72 innings and limited opponents to a .183/.254/.315 triple slash line. All was right with the pitching world.

But then, after the All Star Break, the wheels fell off. In the second half, Vazquez is 2-2 with a 6.69 ERA/7.15 FIP. He allowed 11 home runs in 35 innings and walked 15 off of 23 strike outs. More alarming than the results were his stuff. His velocity — well below his 2009 levels — dipped to the low-to-mid 80s and hasn’t rebounded. He reported a dead-arm period a few weeks ago and has been average 85 with his fastball. Javy is only 34, and yet we’re witness to a Mike Mussina circa 2007 decline in stuff.

After his last outing in which he gave up three home runs and eight hits in three innings against a poor Mariners team, the Yankees ousted Vazquez from the rotation. For now, Ivan Nova will start, and Javy will be available in the bullpen for an indeterminate amount of time as his tries to rebuild arm strength. At some point, because Dustin Moseley can’t carry the Yanks and because Phil Hughes, now suddenly vital to the Yanks’ October chances, has an innings limit, Vazquez will be called upon to start in September. It seems however that the Yanks will stick him on the mound only begrudgingly. Right now, Javy probably wouldn’t make the postseason roster.

So then, with a month left in the season, was Cashman’s Vazquez gamble a success or a failure? Javy hasn’t been the pitcher the Yanks thought they were acquiring in terms of stuff and durability, and they’re now back where they were last September with some retreads filling out rotation spots. Yet, the Yanks didn’t give up much. Melky Cabrera, earning over $3 million, is struggling in Atlanta. While Vazquez has a -0.1 WAR, Melky is sporting a -0.5 mark. Michael Dunn is a non-factor, and, in fact, Boone Logan is a better version of Dunn. Arodys Vizcaino threw 80 innings and then injured his elbow. He has a high ceiling but is far away from reaching it. He might make the Yanks miss him; he might make the Yanks forget him.

We could call the trade a wash because the Bombers can afford Vazquez’s salary, but part of what made the deal so alluring was Javy’s Type A status. He’s still hanging onto that by a thread, but it’s hard to imagine the Yanks would offer him arbitration. He could very well accept if the Yanks are to offer it, and considering his rapid decline this year, I don’t see another team picking up Javy while sacrificing the draft picks. So then, this deal appears to hinge on Boone Logan and Arodys Vizcaino. Who would have expected that?

With a month and the playoffs remaining, I hesitate to say Javy’s been a true bust; after all, those 12 starts between May and July were a life-saver for the Yanks. But he’s been a true disappointment, and as he’s become one of the last men on the pitching staff, I can only wonder if Cashman would have made the same move had his crystal ball shown him this future.

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Fresh off of his strong start against the Blue Jays, Ivan Nova will take the ball against the White Sox on Sunday instead of Javier Vazquez. Joe Girardi said that Vazquez will be skipped this weekend but will be available out of the bullpen. After a strong May and June, Vazquez has struggled lately. He is 2-2 over his last seven starts but with a 6.69 ERA over 35 innings. He’s allowed 11 home runs over that span, and more alarming than the results have been his stuff. His fastballs were down to the mid-to-low 80s, and his breaking pitches had nothing on them.

Vazquez had complained about a dead arm period two weeks ago, and it seems as though the right-hander has yet to regain his arm strength. Nova’s presence allows the club to give Javy some extra rest in advance of a September stretch drive. The team has not yet announced the rotation beyond this weekend, and we don’t know for how long Javy’s rotation spot will remain in limbo. It sounds however as though Nova, barring a collapse, will remain a rotation option for the remainder of the season. After all, Phil Hughes‘ innings limit will come into play shortly as well.

Categories : Asides, Pitching
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