NL SP: Old Faces In New Places

It’s no secret that I’m a big American League East fan. I root for the Rays, and generally enjoy being in competition with the Red Sox, Yankees, Jays, and Orioles. It’s just a better brand of baseball. With some hitter friendly ballparks and many of the best offenses in the game under one divisional umbrella it can prove a pretty tough for task for any pitcher. The two names I’m going to look at today have escaped the AL Beast and hopefully can find more fantasy value in the senior circuit.

We’ll start with someone who will always hold a special place in my baseball heart, Matt Garza. The special place Garza holds is due to his brilliance in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS, but that’s neither here nor there. He was shipped to the Cubs this off season for a bundle of prospects. While Garza has put together back to back seasons with 200+IP and a sub 4.00 ERA, looks can be deceiving. His FIP in those seasons were 4.17 and 4.42, and that’s with a fantastic Tampa Bay defense backing him up. Another benefit Garza received while with the Rays was Tropicana Field itself. It’s not generally thought of as a great pitcher’s park – even though most seasons it is – but the Trop does do a good job of keeping the ball in the field of play.

Garza has a tendency to give up the long ball away from the Trop as evidenced by his road HR/FB ratios of 12.3% and 11.3%, in contrast to 8.5% at home, over the past two seasons. His FB% has also increased every season since 2007. None of that information is good for a pitcher who will call Wrigley Field home this year. Getting away from the AL East automatically breathes life into Garza’s season, but consider his peripherals come draft day.

A return trip to the Bronx was likely the worst thing that could have happened to Javier Vazquez’s fantasy life. After a fantastic 2009 season for Atlanta in which he posted the highest K/9 and lowest FIP of his career, Vazquez was, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, completely and utterly useless for the Yankees in 2010. His K/9 fell to a 10 year worst of 6.92, his ERA ballooned to 5.32 and BB/9 was an unsightly 3.72. The culprit looks to be a big loss in velocity. Usually sitting at around 90-91 mph, Javy dipped into the 88 mph range and even dipped below that a bit before finishing at a 88.7 mph average. He’s always been more of a fly ball pitcher, and to succeed in doing that you have to miss bats. You’re not going to miss anything at 88 mph.

As Dave Cameron noted, when pitchers experience a decrease in their fastball velocity like Vazquez’s they do not get it back. Vazquez is no longer a young man; the miles he’s put on his arm over his excellent career look to be catching up to him. He’s worth a late, late round gamble in most leagues, as moving from Yankee Stadium to Sun Life Stadium will help any pitcher, but a return trip to the NL may not be enough to get Vazquez back on the right track.

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Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.

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