After a disastrous start to the season, Javier Vazquez had a little spring vacation. He was skipped in the rotation, and finally returned against the Tigers in Detroit on May 12. He pitched well, going 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 ER, walking two and striking out six. Despite this, the Yankees opted to skip Vazquez again when they faced Boston. He appeared in relief, vulturing a win when the Yankees came back and walked off against the BEST CLOSAH EVAH (h/t NoMaas) on the 17th. Last night, he returned to the rotation at Citi Field against the Mets and pitched very well. Needing only seventy pitches to get through 6 innings, Vazquez allowed one hit, a bloop to center, and walked Alex Cora twice. He also struck out six. This was very good.
Vazquez threw seventy pitches last night, 46 for strikes. Despite this, he only managed to get five swinging strikes. Interestingly, these were all on the third strike of his first five strikeouts. He got swinging strikes on 3 fastballs, 1 changeup, and 1 slider. His sixth and last strikeout was against Gary Matthews Jr., who was caught looking at a 89 mph fastball on the outside corner. From a velocity standpoint, Javier was good but not great, still below his averages from 2009. As the chart from Brooks Baseball below demonstrates, he sat at 88 mph on his fastball and maxed out at 90.
[image title="JV Velo Chart 052110" size="full" id="18185" align="center" linkto="full" ]
Despite the good results, one concern about Vazquez’s performance was his command of his changeup. He threw 10 changeups last night, but only four went for strikes. As this chart from Joe Lefkowitz’s Pitch F(x) tool demonstrates, Vazquez missed consistently up and on the outer edge of the plate (assuming a RHB). Ideally, Vazquez will be commanding that changeup down in the zone and generate more swinging strikes. This may suggest that he’s still having a bit of trouble with his mechanics.
Vazquez left the game after the sixth inning after bruising his index finger on his right hand on an attempted bunt. It’s unclear whether Javier will miss his next start, but it Mike Axisa from River Ave Blues reported last night that he may use the extra day of rest on Monday and still take his next turn in the rotation on Thursday against the Twins. In Mike’s words, that would be awesome. While his injury is unfortunate, it’s not the worst type of injury from my perspective. I’d much rather see Vazquez injure himself batting than pitching. If he had pulled his hamstring or strained his back while throwing a fastball, then it would have raised a host of questions about whether his mechanics, which were allegedly out of whack earlier in the season, had caused some sort of change in the kinetic chain of his throwing motion, thereby placing additional stress on different parts of his body. Given enough rest, and assuming the injury is nothing more than a bruise, Vazquez should be able to make a return. When he does return, his ability to grip the ball well and affect spin on his breaking pitches will be something to watch.
It’s been a rough start for Vazquez this year. He was booed in his home debut, and despite two good starts in a row still has an ERA of 6.69. Questions about his command and his velocity still linger, but last night Vazquez mowed down the Mets and helped end the team’s losing streak, taking a big step towards becoming a solid fixture in the Yankees’ rotation.
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