Javier Vazquez‘s problems this year have been well documented – his velocity is down, his performance isn’t good, and he’s been less than what New York hoped when they acquired him. However, hidden by the downturn of their newest starter is the fact that two other Yankee starters have also seen pretty dramatic drops in their strikeout rates this year, and are also different pitchers now than they were when the Yankees acquired them – CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
Take a look at the three graphs below.
From top to bottom, those are the K/9 rates for Burnett, Sabathia, and Vazquez. If you’re not sure when they joined the Yankees, just look for the year in which their strikeout rate tumbles. In all three cases, the players have become far more contact oriented upon arriving in New York, and for Burnett and Sabathia, its continued on for a second year.
This isn’t to say all three are the same. Sabathia has traded strikeouts for groundballs, as he’s posting the best GB% of his career, so his overall effectiveness hasn’t changed much. While he’s a different pitcher this year, he’s not demonstrably worse. The same cannot be said of Burnett or Vazquez, who have both failed to adjust to their inability to miss bats, and are having seasons far worse than their most recent ones.
There is one commonality between them, though – all three are using their fastball a little bit more often than last year. Sabathia has gone from 61.6% to 64.5%, Burnett from 65.9% to 70.7%, and Vazquez from 49.9% to 53.4%. These are not major changes, but they’re different enough across the board that, combined with the lack of strikeouts from all three, it may be time for the Yankees front office to sit down with their pitching coaches and say “hey, what exactly are you telling these guys?”
It could just be a coincidence. It might not have anything to do with what these guys are being taught. But if I worked for the Yankees, I’d certainly want to make sure that there wasn’t something going on at the field level that was changing all these high priced pitchers that we kept bringing in, and in several cases, making them worse.
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