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« Slow and Steady | Main | "Old Player Skills" »

Javier Vazquez's Declining Fastball

Among a recently, Javier Vazquez caught my eye. I had a small obsession with studying the progress of Javy last year. On one hand, he had such a good 2009 that some believed he was going to be a top-end rotation guy for the Yankees. On the other, he never really cut it in his first tour of duty in New York (although lingering injuries supposedly hurt his 2004 second half), so many were also skeptical.

Vazquez ultimately failed to produce a quality season as a starter in 2010. The debate between Scott Pianowski and Andy Behrens centered on whether Vazquez would get some of that velocity on his fastball back. I’d argue that, A) it’s fairly essential for Vazquez to get more than a little extra life back on his fastball, especially for his secondary pitches, like his changeup, to be effective; and B) it’s doubtful that he will see that necessary increase in fastball velocity this season.

Javier Vazquez Fastball '08-'10
As the average velocity on Vazquez’s fastball decreased each year (91.7, 91.1, 88.7), the contact rate increased accordingly. As seasons progress, pitchers often build up arm strength, which often adds a little life to their fastball; you can see that the velocity on Vazquez’s 2009 fastball increased over the season. The complete opposite occurred the following year. Instead, his fastball declined right from the start, and batters were making significantly more contact against him.

Javier Vazquez Fastball '08-'10
The expected run value on Javy's fastball has suffered a great deal from the drop in velocity over the past few years. Again, I think it's possible Vazquez could be successful this year if he gets some velocity back. And pitching in the NL again will likely help him a great deal. But it just doesn’t seem likely that he’s suddenly going to add 2-3 mph on his fastball this season given the steady decline we’ve seen.

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