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Javier Vazquez: A Different Pitcher (Again)

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Javier Vazquez seems to have come strong from his second half of 2004 disaster in New York. Eric Neel, in a recent column, said the following:

We don't know why Vazquez has turned it around, but we know he was a terrific pitcher in Montreal, a mightily struggling pitcher in the second half of last year in New York, and now what looks like a pretty terrific pitcher again in Phoenix.

There could be a dozen reasons for that, but if, if, he's a guy who took a shot at the big city and figured out he likes it better in a smaller, more laid-back market, what's wrong with that? In fact, isn't there a whole lot right with that? Isn't there something nice about a guy's finding the sweet spot, the ideal combination of opportunity and environment, such that he can perform at his very best?

I agree with Eric Neel's column wholeheartedly, but I wanted to use this post as an excuse to further the argument in regards to the "dozen reasons". I only plan on presenting one of these, and that is his usage patterns as a member of the Montreal Expos:

Pitches/Games Started
1998 - 89.8
1999 - 95.4
2000 - 105.9
2001 - 105.4
2002 - 104.2
2003 - 110.0
2004 - 100.3
2005 - 94.6

2004 was in New York, and 2005 is obviously in Arizona, his current team. The rest of the seasons are in Montreal.

Here are his Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) from those same years. The way I'm listing the difference in the parentheses, negative is good for Javy and positive is bad:

1998 - 8358 (-900319 from leader)
1999 - N/A
2000 - 160216 (-279842 from leader; 14th overall)
2001 - N/A
2002 - N/A
2003 - 280742 (1st overall)
2004 - 33909 (-322541 from leader; 55th overall)

In 2001 and 2002 the PAP system does not seem to be available, so I cannot get the numbers from those years. But luckily in 2003 the system was used, and Javier Vazquez finished first overall in the major leagues in Pitcher Abuse Points. Averaging 110.0 pitches per start took its toll on Vazquez in 2004 it would see, as he seemed to tire and lose his ability to get hitters out as the year went on.

Pre All-Star 2004
GS: 18
IP: 118.7
ERA: 3.56
K: 95
BB: 32
BAA: .233
K/9: 7.20
K/BB: 2.97
BB/9: 2.43

Post All-Star
GS: 14
IP: 79.1
ERA: 6.92
K:55
BB: 28
BAA: .286
K/9: 6.24
K/BB: 1.96
BB/9: 3.18

It basically looks as if Vazquez lost that one strikeout per nine he had over, as well as adding almost another walk in per nine. I'm not sure one strikeout per nine less accounts for all of his problems, but my thinking is that the lost strikeout rate is part of the issue of fatigue that plagued him throughout the second half. Let's take a look at this year's numbers to see what improvement has been made:

2005 Vazquez
GS: 9
IP: 58
ERA: 4.03
K: 56
BB: 8
BAA: .272
K/9: 8.69
K/BB: 7.00
BB/9: 1.24

Two strikeouts per nine innings and then some added on to his total from the second half of 2004. Let's take a look at one more figure before I close this off, to see if his struggles were slightly exaggerated:

2004 Pre-All Star BABIP
.271

2004 Post-All Star BABIP
.318

2005 BABIP
.355

Vazquez's BABIP is way up there so far this year; my guess is his low walk rate so far this year (uncharacteristic with the rest of his career of 2.46 BB/9). That makes me nervous for him because I feel like when the walks start coming it will be all over for him. Let's see if his BABIP is a matter of his pitches getting smoked still or if his defense is to blame:

Arizona Diamondbacks 2005 Defensive Efficieny
0.6782; 14th in NL

Vazquez's high BABIP score is most likely the result of his defense (especially if your a Voros McCracken fan) and if his walk rate can be maintained until their defense can improve, insanity should not ensue. Of course, if his walk rates returns to normal, and his strikeout rate falls to 2004 pre-All Star levels, Vazquez might find himself in a bit of trouble.