Tag Archives: Javier Vazquez

Players to Watch: N.L. East

Let’s end our week with an eye towards the Right Coast and the N.L. teams that inhabit it. You know the drill.

NL West
NL Central

Starting, as we so normally do, at the top with the Phillies. Let’s go with t3h 4 @ce$! shall we? No. The obvious choice here is Dominic Brown. He’s the Phillies’ top prospect and is the likely replacement for the departed Jayson Werth. Brown struggled in a brief 70 PA stint in the bigs last year, wOBAing just .259 and striking out 38.7% of the time. Brown will be 23 when the season starts and won’t be 24 until September so time is still on his side. Can he cash in on his big prospect status in 2011 or will fans think he’s not WERTH it?!

Atlanta Braves: No more Bobby Cox. That phrase alone is enough to shake my baseball-self to its core. I haven’t known a time in my baseball-life that doesn’t include Bobby Cox. Not seeing him waddle out of the dugout to unleash a vociferous diatribe on an umpire at all in 2011 will leave at least the tiniest of holes in me. No, I’m not saying we should watch new manager Fredi Gonzalez. Dan Uggla‘s going to be on a new team for the first time in his career. Jason Heyward is just an absolute monster. Chipper Jones is going into his (supposed) last season as a pro. But, no, I won’t be paying (a disproportionate amount of) attention to those guys. No, instead, I’m going to be focused on one of my favorite non-Yankee players: Brian McCann. He’s had a wOBA of at least .359 in each of the past three seasons (though it is worth noting his IsoP is falling while his K% is rising, despite a career high BB% last year). Because of Joe Mauer, McCann flies a bit under the radar and I think more attention should be paid to him. I hope he continues his solid run in 2011.

Florida Marlins: Consider me an apologist, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Javier Vazquez. Yeah his 2010 was just awful, but I never stopped rooting for the guy. Now that he’s off the Yankees and on a team that will impact the Yankees in pretty much no way, I’ll be rooting even harder for him. I don’t think I need to rehash just how bad 2010 was for Javy, but I’m hoping for a bounce back in a big way. I’m not going to hold my breath, given the drop in velocity, but moving back to the N.L. should help Javy just a bit.

New York Mets: Carlos Beltran. This dude gets such a bad rap from just about every Mets fan I know, and I can’t figure out why. 2005 was bad, yes, but in ’06-’08, his lowest wOBA was .375 and his lowest fWAR was 3.1 and that was in half a season in 2008 before he got hurt. Even after major surgery, Beltran still managed a .332 wOBA and a .173 IsoP in 2010. His value may take a hit this year because he won’t be playing center field anymore, but he’s been a great bat for the Mets in his time there. If he can stay healthy and resume some of his great hitting, the Mets could actually score some runs in 2011.

Washington Nationals: Like always, Ryan Zimmerman. I don’t think people get how good this dude is. He took a bit of a downturn in 2008, but aside from that, he’s been great. He’s had back to back seasons of at least 6.7 fWAR (6.7 in ’09, 7.2 in ’10) and he won’t turn 27 until September. He’s just about to enter the prime of his career and he’s already raking. Let’s sit back and enjoy the show.

Message to Yankee fans: Redirect the vitriol (a preemptive strike at crazy comments)

Earlier today, Larry contemplated the unlikely possibility of a third reunion between Nick Johnson and the Yankees. Now I’m fairly certain that my pal is going to take some flack for this, so I’ve thrown together a quick piece rant imploring our readership to consider musings such as this objectively, before proceeding to tear my fellow writer a new one.

Anyway, the formula is simple:

Nick Johnson at a very discounted rate equates to inexpensive-quality OBP. Inexpensive-quality OBP outweighs both the potentiality of player frailty and feeble production of some of the current alternatives (i.e., Ramiro Pena).

Now, given our site’s emphasis on data-driven analytics, it’s easy to understand why we would endorse guys such as Johnson, or Javier Vazquez, or even, wait for it, Carl Pavano (part deux). If the numbers crunch and an organizational need is met, we typically buy in.

However, much of the New York fanbase is a tad more cynical (to put it kindly). Why bother with a guy like Johnson? He basically requires surgery every time he sneezes. Why bother with a guy like Vazquez, or Zack Greinke (even though he’s not a free agent)? They can’t handle the exorbitant pressure inherent with the Bronx. Why bother with a guy like Carl Pavano? He’s less valuable than a [insert noun here].

See where I’m going with this? There’s always a vague explanation composed of intangible points proving why someone will inevitably flounder. And dammit, Brian Cashman (the root of all bad decisions) always seems to ignore all our passion-derived-predictively-accurate-angst, instead choosing the path of not-so-crafty-but-definitely-nonsensical-BS-free-agent-signing. Right? Right.

Here’s the plight. While the masses would explode if Carl resurfaced in pinstripes, the truth is he makes sense as a rotation solution to some degree. He’s simply better than the current options, and better players tend to produce better results. As much as I hated Pavano’s excuses for not playing the last time around, when I look at his numbers the past two seasons with the Twins I understand why he earned that second year from Minnesota’s front office. Maybe they’re that stupid/naive/foolish, etc., or perhaps good pitching options are, in actuality, quite thin these days. In other words, his skill set holds definitive value on the market to the extent that he was probably the best pitcher not named Cliff Lee who was available. Attach a pretend name to Carl’s stats (such as Marl Savano) and he’s suddenly not so bad!

Consider Focus on the stats. Put aside “grit” or “heart” or “clubhouse presence” and just look at the results. Now weigh one set of results against another; by dehumanizing the game just a tiny bit, we can develop a much greater appreciation for Cashman’s approach and responsibility as general manager.

We all know that New York’s greatest asset is their cash. A cheap alternative such as Nick Johnson — who wouldn’t cost future draft picks or top prospects and is on a minor league incentive based deal — means almost nothing to the organization. If Eric Chavez or Mark Prior flops this spring, who cares? Seriously. They’re cut and the team moves on to the next scrub one. If lightning in a bottle is to be found, the Yankees get a huge return on the investment — such was the case with Marcus Thames.

Anyway, if you completely disagree with me, feel free to leave your two cents. I look forward to verbally jousting.

The Worst Players in Baseball, Part II (pitcher edition)

Last week, Mike wrote an entertaining segment on baseball’s worst position players over the past five seasons. I figured I’d contribute to this de-motivational, anti-productive, albeit slightly hilarious if not fairly whimsical line of thinking by comparing the worst starting pitchers in similar fashion. Before breaking down the contributions of our “champions-of-nothing,” let’s just take a moment to discuss the criteria utilized in assigning this inglorious prestige.

For the sake of comparison, I’ve considered only starting pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched (or approximately 20 or more games started). While this method eliminates historically “ideal” candidates such as the Shawn Chacons or Sidney Ponsons of the world, it keeps spot starters from skewing the otherwise perfectly terrible results of otherwise perfectly terrible contenders.

2006 | Scott Elarton, Kansas City Royals: Elarton posted an atrocious 5.34 ERA, 6.76 FIP, and a 6.24 xFIP. If those numbers weren’t wretched enough, his stat line was also highlighted by so-bad-they-can’t-possibly-be-real-can-they rates stats: 3.85 K/9, 4.08 BB/9, and 2.04 HR/9 (26 HR surrendered, sound familiar?).

Unsurprisingly, nearly his entire pitch arsenal was rated “ineffective” (-5.9 wFB, -3.3 wSL, 0.6 wCB, -5.5 wCH). Perhaps the most excruciating facet of this lopsided arrangement with the Royals was the fact that they were paying approximately $4M for Elarton’s services when his -0.8 fWAR suggested he was worth about $-3.6M. Unfortunately for Scott, he hasn’t been allowed to see the light of day in professional baseball ever since. Since his unsuccessful 2006 stint, he has journeyed through several franchises’ AAA squads.

2007 | Mike Bacsik, Washington Nationals: This monster proved to be a vital cog in the Nationals’ attempt-to-get-worse-annually machine. Over the course of 106.2 innings pitched, Bacsik hurled (a rather ironically fitting description) to the tune of a 5.57 ERA, 6.42 FIP, and a 5.43 xFIP (good for a -1.1 fWAR valued at a $-4.3M). His appalling 3.46 K/9 was “bolstered” by a 2.11 HR/9 ratio.

Needless to say, one common trait discovered among each of his pitches (-7.4 wFB, -5.2 wCB, -7.3 wCH) was the fact that none were particularly capable of deceiving anyone. Since then, Bacsik has suffered the same fate as Elarton; that is to say, he’s become another soulless ballplayer condemned to aimlessly roam the vast abyss of minor league baseball. On to the next one.

2008 | Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburg Pirates: In my eyes, Gorzelanny’s 2008 campaign epitomizes the debacle that is the Pirates — feeble and without hope. In 2008, he impressed the National League with a 6.66 ERA, 6.35 FIP, and a 5.84 xFIP (-1.0 fWAR valued at $-4.5M). To his credit, of the players being recognized within this article, he did boast the second-best K/9 ratio (5.72/9).

Unfortunately, he also offered a Farnsworthian (that’s right, I’m turning Farnsworth’s ineptitude as a pitcher into an adjective) BB/9 rate (5.98/9) as well, which also happens to be the worst of the group. Between the opposing hitters’ gaudy .293/.392/.517 (.909 OPS) triple slash and Gorzelanny’s -1.7 WPA, the Pirates’ chance of survival was, quite frankly, minimal. Interestingly enough, this tale doesn’t have a completely somber ending. Gorzelanny actually pitched fairly well for the Cubs in 2010, posting a 4.09 ERA, 3.92 FIP, 4.49 xFIP, and 2.3 WAR over 136.1 innings, and was recently traded to — drumroll, please — the Nationals.

2009 | Braden Looper, Milwaukee Brewers: This one was strange at first. At surface value, Braden didn’t seem half bad; he pitched 194.2 innings and concluded the season with a 14-7 record. Yet Looper simultaneously generated a 5.22 ERA, 5.74 FIP, 4.87 xFIP and a -0.9 fWAR. Thankfully, Baseball-Reference provides some insight. Looper pitched in 10 games where his team scored three to five runs. He pitched in 17(!) games in which the Brewers scored six or more runs.

In other words, his positive W-L record is indicative of massive team support which basically mirrors the crappy-pitcher-can-still-succeed-with-sufficient-offense-theorem employed by the Yankees in the later half of the past decade. He threw three primary pitches (-14.2 wFB, -13.7 wSL, 2.8 wSF), and two of them registered as abominable. Evidently, the Brewers (or anyone else for that matter) didn’t see Looper fit to pitch in 2010.

2010 | Ryan Rowland-Smith, Seattle Mariners: Surprise; I bet you didn’t see that coming (except for you, JGS). Rowland-Smith posted a 6.93 ERA, 6.77 FIP, 6.02 xFIP, and a -1.7 fWAR. His 3.64 K/9 and 3.64 BB/9 rates were identical (never a good sign) and he allowed 2.13 HR/9. He didn’t have one pitch that rated positively (-24.2 wFB, third-worst in baseball; -1.6 wSL; -5.1 wCB; -2.3 wCB) and his 1.69 WHIP was perpetually suggestive of disaster. Given the lack of offensive production supplied by the Mariners, it’s of little surprise he ended the season (and perhaps his Major League career) with a 1-10 W-L record.

2010 “Honorable Mentions” are awarded to Scott Kazmir (5.94 ERA, 5.83 FIP, 5.62 xFIP, -0.8 fWAR in 150 IP) and our very own Javier Vazquez (5.56 ERA, 5.72 FIP, 4.93 xFIP, -0.3 fWAR in 144 IP). These fine gentlemen combined for a tota
l salary of $19.5M while providing negative $3.8M in value. I suspect the return on investment here would have made Bernie Madoff proud.

Here’s to hoping the Yankee faithful doesn’t have to witness a second consecutive season where one of our team’s starters vie for this miserable title. If you’re a “glass half full” kind of fan, I suppose you can take solace in knowing Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova will be hard-pressed to “outperform” this sorry lot. Of course, maintaining the status quo in this realm isn’t particularly appealing either.

On the Arbitration Offers (Or Lack Thereof)

Yesterday, the Yankees declined to offer arbitration to all of their free agents (Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Lance Berkman, and Kerry Wood) except for Javier Vazquez.

We can quite easily say that offering to Vazquez was the riskiest thing the Yankees could have done. He had, by far, the worst year of the five and made a good chunk of change. Had he accepted, the Yankees probably would’ve been on the hook for a good deal of money and a (probably) unproductive player. But, Vazquez and the Yankees had an agreement, and Vazquez turned down arbitration. So, he’ll give the Yankees a sandwich pick when he signs elsewhere. This may be the best thing Javy’s done for the Yankees in 2010 (yes that’s hyperbole).

Not offering to Wood and Berkman makes a bit of sense. Wood made a lot of money and the risk of acceptance was far too big for the reward. Seeing as how Berkman wanted his option to be declined, offering him arbitration would seem less risky, but the Yankees played it safe. It’s better to be weary of the dollar, I guess.

I can’t say, though, that I expected no offers of arbitration to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. At the end of the day, I think they’ll both end up with multi-year contracts with the Yankees so arbitration may have been superfluous. Still, I think they should’ve offered it to both players.

On the off chance that Jeter and Rivera had accepted arbitration, this would ultimately help the Yankees. While it would likely mean a massive pay day for each player, the commitment on the Yankees’ end would’ve been just one year. With aging relievers and aging shortstops, the shorter the deal, the better.

Even a decline of arbitration from either (or both) player(s) could’ve helped the Yankees. Both Rivera and Jeter likely have very little leverage on the open market. Both are pricing themselves very highly, probably too highly for any team but the Yankees. If JeVera declined arbitration, draft pick compensation would be attached. This, IMO, makes the players even more unattractive to non-Yankee teams. It may not hurt Rivera as much since he’s still performing at an elite level, but it would definitely hurt Jeter. Jeter is an aging player at a premium position–one he doesn’t field all that well–who is entering his decline phase. For the money Jeter wants and the loss of a draft pick, I don’t think any teams are willing to go that high.

Michael Kay has argued a Jeter-related point that is contrary to mine. He thinks the Yankees shouldn’t have offered Jeter arbitration because if he accepted, he’d be making a ton of money. He then posits that if Jeter has a good bounce back year, he’ll demand even more money after the 2011 season. Here’s how I see it.

Like I’ve said, I’m willing to give Jeter the money and not the years. I’d rather overpay him grossly for one year than for multiple years. My other reason is a bit cold hearted. Say the Yankees DID offer Jeter arbitration and he DID accept. Let’s just throw a number out there and say his salary for 2011 would be $23MM (I think Kay suggested this). Let’s also assume that he bounces back and hits to his career averages. Obviously, this would put the leverage on Jeter’s side. If all that were to happen, I think the Yankees could just let Jeter walk.

Let’s think about it. They will (again) have paid Jeter handsomely. He will have gotten his 3,000th hit. The Yankees could easily say that Jeter’s time as a Yankee is up.

I felt a bit dirty typing that, but it could’ve happened. Anyway, it doesn’t matter all that much since the Yankees didn’t actually offer Jeter arbitration. I’m surprised they didn’t offer it to him or Rivera and I’m very surprised that they did offer it to Vazquez (of course, before I knew of their arrangement).

News Day: Pettitte, Arbitration Decisions, MVP, Cashman (Update)

Today was a day loaded with news, so let’s dive right in.

1) Ken Davidoff is reporting that Andy Pettitte is leaning towards a return to the Yankees in 2011. This is fantastic news, as it makes the Yankees a bit less reliant on signing Cliff Lee and means that they are likely to be at least as good in the rotation this coming year as they were last season.

2) The Yankees are going to offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Javy Vazquez, but not Derek Jeter. The Jeter decision likely stems from a fear that he would accept it and make 18-22 million dollars next year, although it may have just been a good faith effort to show Jeter that they are committed to reaching a long-term agreement with him and do not want to unnecessarily injure his bargaining position. Javy has already agreed to decline arbitration, meaning the club will gain a supplemental draft pick once he signs with another club. Finally, the Wood decision was the most surprising, but the logic behind it is fairly sound. The market for relievers has been set at an insanely high level, so there is a chance that Wood rejects the offer to sign a long-term deal. If he accepts, the Yankees have an asset, either in the form of a good set-up man, or as a potential closer inked to a one year deal who would be an attractive trade chip. We have no word on Lance Berkman yet, but I doubt the team offers him arbitration. The market for him has failed to materialize, and I would expect him to accept the offer if it was made.

UPDATE: The Yankees did not offer arbitration to Wood. I think this illustrates the fact that the Yankees do in fact have a budget, and cannot simply give every player what they want or “deserve.” The possibility of being “stuck” with Wood for one year at 10-12 million dollars was too great for the Yankees to chance offering him arbitration.

3) Robinson Cano finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting behind Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera, which is exactly where I had him on my imaginary ballot. He did not receive any first place votes but received the most second place and most third place votes. It was an excellent season and I am glad to see that he was recognized.

4) The Yankees and Derek Jeter continued to negotiate through the press, and Brian Cashman had some fairly strong words today:

“We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account,” Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”


“I was certainly surprised,” Cashman said in regards to Close’s use of the word baffled. “There’s nothing baffling about our position. We have actually gone directly face to face with Casey and Derek and been very honest and direct. They know exactly where we sit.”


“We believe that Derek Jeter is the best person to play shortstop for this franchise moving forward,” Cashman said. “Do we want to lose Derek Jeter? No. Do we want to treat Derek Jeter fair? Absolutely. Do we want to be treated fair at the same time? No question about it.”


Asked if there was any chance the negotiation could fall apart and Jeter could somehow wind up in a different uniform next year, Cashman said, “Not from us. We would like Derek Jeter to be a Yankee and we’re making our best efforts to keep that in play. But it takes two.”

I agree with every last word that Cashman said, and it is gratifying to see that the GM is on the same wavelength as much of the fan base on this issue. However, nothing was gained by making these comments publicly, and it is time for the Yankee brass to stop talking about this. All the talking does is entrench Jeter in his position, as he will look awful if he concedes now and takes the Yankees initial offer. I still thinks this gets done, probably for 3 years and 54-57 million, but both sides need to stop negotiating in the press and start hammering out a deal that is fair for the club while allowing Derek to save face.

Offer Arbitration to Vazquez?

"...another year in pinstripes?"

The Yanks have until Tuesday, November 23rd to offer arbitration to their free agents. I would expect them to offer it to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, given that the Yanks would absolutely love for them to accept 1 year deals. I’d think they won’t offer to Andy Pettitte, knowing he only wants to play for the Yanks and thinking they can do better by negotiating with Andy than they can with an arbitrator. Most of the rest of their other free agents (Berkman, Wood, Johnson, Kearns) are either too old and/or overpaid to offer arbitration to, fearing they’d accept and do much better in arbitration negotiating from their base salary. As a rule, older players that don’t figure to get multi-year offers elsewhere will typically do better in arbitration than they will as free agents.

But lately the hot stove has been buzzing with interest for Javier Vazquez. First, we heard the Braves would like to bring him back with the strong 2009 campaign he had in Atlanta. Next we heard the Rockies consider him a plan B if they don’t re-sign Jorge De Larosa. The Dodgers have kicked the tires on Javy. More recently, the Marlins have expressed a strong interest and even sent their manager Edwin Rodriguez to see him. Upon hearing this development, the Nats are now ready to make Vazquez a formal offer as soon as next week according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Expect the formal offers to be made after Tuesday, nobody wants to make the Yankees decision any easier and/or give up a draft pick if they don’t have to. But don’t think the Yanks aren’t watching these developments very closely and taking them into consideration in whether or not to offer Javy arbitration.

Chances are the Marlins are just bargain hunting, and the Braves may be as well. The Dodgers have a habit of kicking the tires on all sorts of players, sometimes I think Ned Colletti is just helping out a local beat writer more than he he serious about pursuing some players. Mike Axisa of MLBTR broke down Vazquez’s free agent stock and concluded that the most likely scenario is a one-year incentive laden ‘show me’ deal where he has to prove last year was a just a fluke. But the Nats are in a different position than most teams. It’s a bad club in a tough division, they generally have to overpay to get players to play there, especially those that have other options. Javy and his agent know this, that’s why they have already flirted with the Nats, knowing that making them a realistic option tells his other suitors that they’ll have to step up with a multi-year offer in order to land him. They’ve also flirted with the Marlins, and we seem to have an NL East bidding war starting where the Braves, Marlins and Nats are all after the same player.

So far this off season, some of the contracts handed out have to raise an eyebrow or two. 3 years/16.5 for Joakim Benoit and 3 years/$18 mil for John Buck makes you think this could be one of those years where there’s lots of dollars chasing very little talent. We all know the pitching market is thin after Cliff Lee. After Jorge DelaRosa, it’s even thinner. At that point you’re deciding between Vazquez and the Kevin Correia, Carl Pavano, Kevin Millwood and the Jon Garlands of the world. All of a sudden, Javy doesn’t look all that bad and may even have some upside in the right setting.

Lets return to the general rule on offering arb. Do you think someone will offer Javy multiple years in this market? I do, and therefore he’s one of the pending Yankee free agents who I’d offer arbitration to. I also suspect that Javier’s experience in New York was so unpleasant, where he lost his spot in the rotation twice and the manager clearly had no faith in him, that if this is in any way a close call, his bias will be toward pitching elsewhere next year and will lean towards declining arbitration. Javier Vazquez is a Type B free agent, the Yanks will be eligible for a sandwich pick no matter where he signs. Let’s hope he signs with the Nats.

2010 Season in Review: Javier Vazquez

The late ’90s Yankee dynasty was awash in pitching. Whether it was David Cone, David Wells, Orlando Hernandez, Andy Pettitte, or Roger Clemens, from 1996 to 2000 the Yankee rotation was stacked with excellent starting pitchers who excelled in the postseason. Unfortunately, only one of those players was homegrown. The rest were imported, and therefore old. As Larry pointed out on Monday, by the time the 2004 season began the once mighty pitching staff had crumbled away, mostly due to age, and in the case of Pettitte, bad business decisions.

This also exposed the basic risk of importing any players, pitchers or otherwise. Sometimes you sign El Duque for $12 million. Other times you trade Nick Johnson for Javier Vazquez. It may all seem like ancient history to Yankee fans, but back in 2004 Home Run Javy was a 27-year-old stud who had reeled off four consecutive strong seasons in Montreal. Hurt or otherwise, Javy had a terrible second half in pinstripes in his debut Yankee season that culminated in serving up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, and he was promptly run out of town with a choker label on his forehead.

Most Yankee fans were content to forget about Vazquez after he was gone. Vazquez, on the other hand, went back to being a reliable pitcher. In the five seasons between 2005 and 2009 Javy never posted an ERA+ lower than 98 and broke 200 innings pitched each season. In 2009, Javy pitched 219.1 innings of 143 ERA+ baseball in Atlanta, his best season ever.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have never stopped needing pitching since 2003. Try as the team might to add or draft talented pitchers, the Bombers have perennially been one or two arms short. In 2009, the team overcame that to win the World Series, but a repeat trip seemed unlikely if the team couldn’t add another starter, preferably a proven innings eater who could take pressure off the bullpen. John Lackey was the best free agent available. He was too expensive, but Vazquez was available for very little in trade. The rest is history, and a table of season splits not suitable for the faint-hearted:

Vazquez’ season has a clear u-shape. He was miserable out of the gate. He pitched as bad in April as a pitcher can, giving up too many walks, hits, runs, doubles, homers, everything. Then, he actually got better. His numbers were poor but not terrible in May, while in June and July it actually looked as is if Vazquez was going to overcome his execrable start and put together an reasonable season. Then, the wheels fell off in August and September. Javy was far worse in August than he was in May, and he was almost as bad in September as he was in April. The net effect was an awful season of two good months sandwiched between four awful months.

2010 was arguably Javy’s worst professional season since 1998, when Vazquez was a 22-year-old rookie. His ERA of 5.32 was his worst since 1998. His ERA+ of 80 was replacement level, and his worst since 1998. His WHIP of 1.398 was not his worst since 1998, only his worst since 2000. His strikeout rate of 6.9 (believe it or not Vazquez is a strikeout pitcher) was also not his worst since 1998, but it was close, being his worst since 2000. Most importantly, his innings total, the primary reason the Yankees traded for him, was a measly 157.1, the first time he didn’t pitch at least 198 innings since 1999. In sum, Javy was awful, bad for a bWAR of 0.0 and you have to go all the way back to his cup-of-coffee seasons to find a time when he was this comparably terrible.

Javy throws four pitches: a fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup. According to Fangraphs each of those pitches rated above average in 2009, at 12.7, 3.0, 17.2 and 10.7 runs above average, respectively. In 2010, however, each pitch regressed to rating below average. Seriously. Each pitch. His fastball fell to -3.5, his slider to -4.0, his curve to -3.6 and his change to -0.7. The man went from having four plus pitches to four negative pitches in one season. You can’t make this stuff up.

The sports media suggested the problem was Javy’s lack of velocity. There may be truth to this. Not only did Javy go through a dead arm period in August, but his fastball and slider lost noticeable velocity (his other two pitches had the same speed). His fastball went from averaging 91.1 mph to 88.7 mph and his slider went from 83.9 mph to 82.5 mph.

This may have been enough to make Vazquez more vulnerable. He never had plus velocity stuff to begin with, but he managed to strike a lot of batters out. To do this, at least from what I observed in 2010, he needs horizontal movement on his pitches and he must keep them down in the zone. The drop in speed may have been responsible for Vazquez losing his swing-and-miss stuff. At the very least, whether or not it was because he lost speed, he definitely lost the swing-and-miss stuff. His contact rates were up across the board, both in the zone and out. A loss of velocity is as good an explanation for this as any other.

Baseball prognosticators often ask if a specific player has what it takes to make it in New York playing for the Yankees. The assumption is that the perfect storm of the New York media and the intensity of playing in the Bronx’s win-at-all-costs pressure cooker is more than specific players can handle, players like Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez (from 2004 to 2008), and, most notoriously, Javier Vazquez.

I’ve always maintained this was nonsense. These are professional athletes who faced far more pressure breaking into the Major Leagues than they do once they’re established enough to get on the Yankees’ radar. Johnson was old. A-Rod was never actually a choker. But Vazquez? We may be about to find out. Javy is a free agent. He’s also earned about $80 million in his career. If he is willing to sign for a one-year, cheap deal — which is all he’ll be offered — he may pitch again in the Majors. At only 34 years old, Vazquez shouldn’t be done physically. If he regains form pitching away from the five boroughs then we may know for certain if some players — specifically the Javier Vazquezes of the world — just can’t cut it in the Bronx.

Defending Brian Cashman’s offseason moves

The Yankees held their end-of-season press conference yesterday. From Cliff Lee to Derek Jeter, most of the conference’s subject matter was to be expected. One thing surprised me, though. Brian Cashman confessed that he felt he had a poor offseason heading into 2010. The results of Cashman’s efforts may have been subpar, but let me state it clearly: Brian Cashman and the Yankees had an excellent offseason between 2009 and 2010. Cashman is confusing inputs with outputs.

At worst, Cashman was too self-deprecating in the press conference, but it was wiser to say he’d had a bad offseason than to get into the nuances of why it was actually a good offseason. Cashman can’t come out and explain that without sounding defensive or petulant. Fortunately, I can.

The 2009 Yankees were a fantastic team, but they had to overcome obvious weaknesses to win the World Series. First and foremost, the team needed pitching. It took a scheduling fluke to allow the team to start only three pitchers throughout October, and even then it was big gamble heading into the World Series. The team also needed to sign or replace aging free agents Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. The Yankees therefore needed to address at least three key positions in the 2009 offseason, something that is never an easy proposition.

Despite this, Cashman filled those slots, and he filled them with players who were above-average (at the time). First, he traded for Curtis Granderson. Granderson may not have promised to produce as much offense as Johnny Damon — the player he was effectively replacing — but he was younger, better defensively, cheaper, and a proven offensive contributor in his own right. The move may not have been popular with the fans, but from an organizational perspective it was a no-brainer, particularly since the team was less and less convinced Austin Jackson would be able to produce at as high a level as it felt Granderson could.

After that, Cashman signed Nick Johnson to play DH. Johnson wasn’t the team’s first option, but Matsui had already signed with Anaheim and negotiations with Damon were proving fruitless. Rather than delay further, the Yankees made a move to sign a player with a history of getting on base at an incredible rate, something with outsized value in the Yankees’ lineup of heavy hitters. Johnson did have a history of injuries, but he’d come off a 133-game season in 2009, had no known injuries at the time of the signing, and wasn’t expected to play the field, something that should have helped reduce his risk of injury. Johnson was a higher-risk option at DH than other players, but he had the potential to be productive, for less money than the alternatives.

Finally, Cashman traded a bag of balls named Melky Cabrera, a high-upside prospect in Arodys Vizcaino and reliever Mike Dunn for Javier Vazquez. Yankee fans lose sight of how good Vazquez had been season after season in every uniform but pinstripes. Home Run Javy pitched more than 200 innings every single year from 2005 to 2009, and posted an ERA+ between 98 and 143 each year. He was coming off his best season ever, and had finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. Melky Cabrera sucks. You make that trade every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The Yankees were getting an average to above-average starter for a below-average center fielder and a prospect that might pan out, but might not. It had all the makings of a great deal.

The reality, therefore, is that Cashman had an excellent offseason heading into 2010. He needed to fill three core positions, and placed above-average players at each one for low cost, getting younger in the process. It was entirely possible, in fact probable, that the Yankees would not have been able to fill all three positions. Instead, Cashman filled them wisely.

Unfortunately, to the extent that Cashman was placing bets, two-thirds of those bets came up snake-eyes. After a disappointing start — magnified by a much-better-than-expected debut season by Austin Jackson — Granderson ended the season as arguably the second-most potent bat in the Yankee lineup, and as long as whatever adjustments Kevin Long made to Grandy’s swing vs. lefties continues, the trade should continue to pay dividends for the Yankees. In the end Curtis had a higher wOBA than Jackson (.346 versus .333) and demonstrated adaptability down the stretch.

The other two bets backfired tremendously, to varying degrees of predictability. Johnson’s injury was right out of the “should-have-seen-that-coming” department, while Vazquez’s total implosion was predictable only to the most cynical Yankee fans. Heading into the season Cashman probably assumed the worst case for Johnson was 115-125 games, while the worst case for Home Run Javy was something like 190 innings and a 4.50 ERA. On the first day of the season either of the two outcomes described in the preceding sentence would have been considered disappointments. Now, they would be welcomed improvements. That, however, is an output problem, not an input problem, certainly not reflective of a bad offseason.

There are no excuses to be made for the 2010 season. The Yankees won 95 games and came two wins shy of going to their second consecutive World Series. That kind of season is an unmitigated success that most fans (see: Rangers, Texas) rarely experience. To the extent that explanations for the Yankees’ failure must be provided the blame lays s
quarely with the execution. The team had a penchant for mass-slumping, and stopped pitching from September onwards. Brian Cashman is responsible for none of this. He made excellent moves this past offseason. Some of them were higher risk than others, but more than anything else the moves didn’t work out due to excessive bad luck.

A busy news day: Lee, Jeter, Rivera, Joba, Montero, Pettitte, Crawford, Werth, Greinke, Dunn and more

Apologies for not being further out in front of all of the news that broke today, but our friends at RAB have already done yeomen’s work in covering everything that came out of the end-of-season press conference held by Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi at the Stadium today, so be sure to check that out (as if you haven’t already).

You’ve likely already heard about Dave Eiland getting the boot and Andy Pettitte pitching through injury in the playoffs, but Cashman also talks about the Yankees’ not having an answer for the Rangers despite steamrolling the Twins; Girardi asserts that Joba Chamberlain is a bullpen guy now and forever (groan); both men say the Yankee are obviously interested in Cliff Lee without actually saying it; Cashman stays coy about Jesus Montero joining the Bigs next season; Cashman essentially confirms that he’ll be way overpaying for Derek Jeter‘s and Mariano Rivera‘s services; and in perhaps the most interesting tidbit, Cash admits last winter wasn’t his best, although I’d beg to differ. If you read this blog you undoubtedly know I was a staunch Nick Johnson advocate, and no one figured Javier Vazquez would become the worst pitcher in baseball. Interestingly, Cash reveals that Nick the Stick was actually Plan C, and that the team originally hoped to work something out with Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui as DH.

Over at IATMS, Jason has a thorough rundown of Jon Heyman’s latest piece, in which Heyman (and Jason) delves into a lot of the aforementioned matters a bit deeper, while also positing the oft-mentioned Zack Greinke as a trade target (though as RAB recently discussed, between a no-trade clause that includes New York, anxiety issues and the fact that it would cost a king’s ransom of players, a Greinke acquisition doesn’t seem very likely), mentioning Yankeeist favorite Adam Dunn as a potential DH acquisition — though again noting that Dunn is still stubbornly insisting to anyone who will listen that he wants to remain in the field — and also pondering whether the Yankees make a run at Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth if they (God forbid) can’t sign Lee.

All in all quite a bit of news to digest for a Monday, and rest assured we’ll be comprehensively attacking all of these issues in the coming weeks.