Over the summer, I wrote a post discussing the idea that Javier Vazquez is the most disappointing pitcher in baseball. Sure, he has had success, and he always has exhibited great stuff and the potential to dominate, but something is missing. After eleven seasons in the big leagues, he has proven himself capable of being productive, but nowhere near the award-winning caliber of production that so many analysts saw in him for a while. His controllable skills and peripheral statistics are always very good, but they just do not seem to translate into extremely solid measures of run-prevention.
Consider this: from 2000-2008, there are only six starting pitchers who made at least 190 starts, with a K/9 above 8.0 and a BB/9 below 3.0, and Vazquez has the highest inclusive ERA of them all at 4.11. For good measure, the others are: Pedro Martinez (2.99), Randy Johnson (3.25), Jake Peavy (3.25), Roger Clemens (3.34), and Josh Beckett (3.78). Something tells me that Vazquez does not exactly belong in the same conversation as these other five all stars and/or future hall of famers. Regardless, the fact remains that he has always been able to strikeout plenty of batters, routinely fanning around, if not more than 200 a season, while vastly limiting his walks.
He has made 32+ starts for nine consecutive seasons, surpassing 200 innings in all but one of those years, when he amassed 198 innings with the Yankees in 2004. In fact, he leads the aforementioned six pitchers in innings pitched by a great margin, trails only Johnson in total strikeouts and complete games, and is virtually tied with Pedro with a 2.24 BB/9; Pedro’s was 2.16, so not much of a difference.
These controllable skills translate into very nice FIP marks throughout his career, but Javy’s ERA consistently exceeds his FIP. And, when his ERA is technically lower than the FIP, it is much closer to being the same than definitively better. This season was no different than many years past, as Vazquez started 33 games, threw for 208.1 innings, posted an 8.64 K/9 and 2.64 BB/9, with a 4.67 ERA and 3.74 FIP. Now, his BABIP rose to .328 this season, from .297 in 2007, which increased his WHIP to 1.32, the highest it has been since 1999. Couple that with a well below average strand rate of 68% and we see that he allowed many more baserunners and was not able to prevent them scoring at the league average rate.
He is generally about even when it comes to percentages of groundballs and flyballs, and he has not lost any velocity on his pitches. In fact, he has actually gained velocity on some offspeed deliveries. Javy’s WPA/LI pegs him at a bit over nine wins above average for his career, and since 2000, he has been above average in that regard in all but one season, which was not the 2004 season with the Yankees. Instead, the following season, his 2005 campaign with the Diamondbacks is considered below average via context-neutral wins.
Vazquez signed a three-year extension that will keep him under contract until 2010, earning $11.5 mm. This appears to be who he really is, and the potential tag should be all but gone by now, which is very disappointing given how durable and effective he seems capable of being. I asked before and I’ll reprise my question: is there any pitcher in recent history as frustrating and/or disappointing as Javier Vazquez? To clarify, I am talking about pitchers that have been virtually as durable as him and not frustrating in the sense that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have been frustrating and disappointing. Instead, someone who has been out there all the time, has the potential to dominate, still posts great peripherals, but just seems to be missing something from pushing him over the top.