Why Javier Vazquez Is Baseball's Invisible Man

Javier Vazquez is just waiting to be the answer to a Jayson Stark trivia question. Flying under the radar for the better part of a decade, Vazquez is more known to the common baseball fan as the guy Ozzie Guillen called out for "not a big game pitcher" than he is for being an above average starter. I'll admit, I've taken Vazquez for granted as a just another good pitcher, but never thought of him as one of  the game's better and most consistent starters; I am rethinking that now.

Find out what Vazquez and Roy Halladay have in common after the jump...

Vazquez is having a fantastic 2009 with the Atlanta Braves although many people may not realize that outside of our internet basement community. With a 10-7 record, Vazquez has not grabbed many headlines, however, you can make a legit case for him being the NL's best pitcher not named Tim Lincecum. His 2.62 FIP is second best in the NL behind Lincecum's freakish 1.96, and third in the majors behind Lincecum and Zack Grienke (his xFIP is also second to Lincecum in the majors). His sensational K/BB of 5.34 is actually ahead of Lincecum and Grienke, and ranks third best in baseball behind Dan Haren and Roy Halladay. He is the only NL pitcher outside of Lincecum to rank in the top five in FIP, tRA, tRA*and xFIP.

While Javier Vazquez is his having arguably his best season in 2009, being really good is nothing new for him. He's always been a really good, but never quite great pitcher. The tools have always been there, but the overall results have not. His peripherals, however, have always been ace-like. In eight of the last 10 seasons, he has posted a sub 3.86 FIP or better. In fact, over the last decade, he has just one year with an FIP greater than 4.06. Of course, this was in 2004 as a member of the New York Yankees and Vazquez was actually named an All-Star. Since 2006, Vazquez has posted a WAR of 4.8 or higher in each of the last four seasons including a 5.0 already in 2009. I started to think, how many pitchers can say they've posted at least four and a half wins above replacement in each of the last four seasons?

Here are the 4.5 WAR starting pitchers for each of the last four seasons

2009

2008

2007

2006

Lincecum

Sabathia

Sabathia

J.Santana

Greinke

Halladay

Webb

Webb

Halladay

Lincecum

Beckett

Bonderman

Verlander

Lee

Peavy

Lackey

Vazquez

Haren

Halladay

Smoltz

Lee

Webb

Blanton

Oswalt

Beckett

E. Santana

Lackey

Halladay

Lester

Burnett

Smoltz

Schilling

Haren

Mussina

Bedard

Sabathia

Danks

Hudson

Harang

Lester

Kazmir

Mussina

Dempster

Escobar

Carpenter

Beckett

Vazquez

Millwood

Vazquez

Harang

Bedard

Meche

Haren

Vazquez

Cook

Oswalt

Wang

J. Santana

Santana

Escobar

Greinke

Pettitte

Lowe

Buerhle

Westbrook

Sheets

Jennings

Hamels

Billingsley

 

Repeat offenders are in bold. As you go down each season you'll see the bold names get fewer and fewer until we reach 2006 and only two names are left: Roy Halladay and Javier Vazquez. The streaks ends right there as Halladay narrowly missed 4.5 WAR in 2005; he posted a human-like 4.4. This is not to say Vazquez is as good as Halladay by any means, but it goes to show that being that good year to year like that is not easy. Despite these numbers, Vazquez is not among the games most revered names. And when he was traded this offseason, people hardly batted an eye.

Kenny Williams has made some decent moves recently, however, his trade of Vazquez remains questionable. Sure, Tyler Flowers looks to be like the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski, but Flowers was pretty much trade bait in the Braves system with Brian McCann at the back stop. Brett Lillibridge is a replacement level player and the other two players, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez, way too young to project. Of course, one season isn't enough to base a trade's grade on, but while the White Sox went out to buy a pitcher at the deadline, they could've had Vazquez all along.

The Braves will pay Vazquez a combined  $23 million dollars in 2009 and 2010. With his 5.0 WAR this season, Vazquez has already given them $22.6 million of production in return. If he can put up another 4.5+ WAR in 2010, and there's no reason to think he won't, he will probably double his salary with production. Despite being the owner of a 6.0 WAR season (2003), Vazquez has never really gotten much attention. As mentioned above he's been an all-star just once and has finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting as many times as Sky Kalkman, R.J, Anderson and myself; zero. Vazquez has always had the potential to pitch like an ace; this year he's doing it and I'm still afraid no one is noticing.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker