Early in the season Javier Vazquez was just terrible. Whether it was his mechanics or nerves something was derailing his return to the Bronx. A little over two weeks ago though things started looking up. He held the Tigers, ranked 3rd in OBP in the AL, to just two runs over seven innings. He had a one batter, but impressive performance against the Red Sox striking out Kevin Youkilis. Then he topped if off by dominating the Mets for six innings.
At that point there was a group of fans really hoping that his best days were ahead of him and that he finally put his Pinstriped Demons to rest. After all, if he started pitching well and the Yankees had a legitimate five starters all clicking then they would really start to win some ball games.
Then there was the clunker last night in Minnesota, a pitcher’s park, where he gave up five runs in 5.2 innings. It wasn’t just one bad inning either last night, he allowed eight hits, walked three, and gave up a home run. His fastball was back down in the 89 MPH range and his secondary stuff lacked the bite it had in Citi Field.
This is getting frustrating. Despite what his critics say, he really does have a decent track record over the past 10 seasons. No, he is no ace starter, I think his 145-144 record proves that. He has been a workhorse though averaging 216 innings and 200 strikeouts a year. Bad pitchers just don’t do that.
It’s also not unreasonable to expect that same kind of performance this season. For a pitcher who has pitched as long as Vazquez has, he’s still relatively young at 33-years-old and is coming off the best season of his career. Also, many people have knocked what he’s done in the AL, but really his AL numbers are not that far off from his career norms. In three years with the White Sox from 2006-08 he had a 38-36 record and averaged 199 strikeouts per year. His ERA+ in those years was 106, not far off his 113 mark from 2000-09. So honestly his struggles in the AL are overblown.
He’s also had success in the Bronx at one point. Going into the all-star break, he was an All-Star by the way, he had a 10-5 record with a 3.56 over 118.2 innings. That’s a smaller sample size, but it isn’t that small as to say that it is impossible for him to pitch here.
It is clear that we are not expecting an ace here, but the Yankees did reacquire him this offseason thinking that they had a reasonable chance to get a pitcher who could toss 200 innings along with 200 strike outs. At this point Javquez looks nothing like that. During the Mets game he briefly flashed that ability, but we are a third of the way through the season at some point he’s going to have to bring some consistency to the table or at least come somewhere close to that. Watching a pitcher with a 6.86 ERA is not fun.
I still have not given up hope that he will turn it around, but that has become the worst part about this. The guy has the ability, how long can we watch him stink up the joint until the joke is on us? At some point Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin do become better options. I just hope it doesn’t come to that.