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From Mark Feinsand:
Posada said Vazquez has matured as a pitcher since they played together in 2004, giving the Yankees a much stronger rotation than the one that captured the World Series crown last November. While Vazquez was primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher six years ago, Posada now feels that the changeup and slider are on the same level, making it much more difficult for hitters to find a comfortable approach.
“It’s easy for me to call his game,” Posada said. “He has four outstanding pitches, so you can’t go wrong with any of them when you call it.”
A look at the data at Fangraphs confirms that Vazquez has in fact changed his approach since 2004.
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The percentage of pitches that Vazquez throws as fastballs has been trending downward for his entire career, and dipped below 50% for the first time in 2009. Being that his fastball got knocked around in his one season in NY (wFB/C, which is fastball runs above average per 100 FB, of -.84), this is a positive development. Vazquez did throw plenty of changeups in 2004, but Jorge is right in suggesting that the pitch improved in 2009, as Javy posted his best wCH/C of his career. Finally, as Jorge noted, Vazquez has added an effective slider, a pitch he barely used in New York and now uses as his primary breaking pitch.
Another area that might be interesting to track is Javy’s pitch selection when runners are on base. As Jay at Fack Youk chronicled earlier in the offseason, Vazquez has a lot of trouble pitching from the stretch, and seems to have innings snowball on him due to his failure to pitch well with runners on. It may be interesting to see whether Vazquez gets fastball-happy once runners are on, thereby becoming more predictable and more hittable. If that was in fact the case, the Yankees could help Javy fix the issue by forcing him to use all of his pitches in all situations.
Jorge Posada is accurate in stating that Javier Vazquez is a more complete pitcher now than he was in 2004. Hopefully he can help Javy utilize his improved repertoire to keep hitters off balance, and Javy can come closer to repeating 2009 than 2004.
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