Javier Vazquez a Fantasy Bounceback? Deja Vu All Over Again

by Eno Sarris // 

Maybe there’s something in the water in New York. Javier Vazquez certainly doesn’t like something about the city, because both of his attempts at wearing the pinstripes went poorly.

Consider this: Only twice in the decade did Vazquez strike out fewer than 6.99 batters per nine, and only twice did he walk more than 2.7 batters per nine. Both of those times were with the Yankees, in his worst two seasons (2004 and 2010). Over his career, those numbers are 8.07 and 2.42 per nine respectively, so his failure to meet those benchmarks is significant.

Much has rightly been made about the drop in fastball velocity that Vazquez suffered last year. His fastball and slider both lost about two miles per hour, and the difference between his fastball and changeup dipped under 10 MPH for the first time. The strange thing? The last time his fastball averaged under 91 MPH, it was in a Yankee uniform. Perhaps the stadium gun is a little slow, or the pundits have it right and he Just Can’t Pitch in New York. [Edit: Mike Fast from Baseball Prospectus points out that the gun in New York runs about 0.7 miles per hour slow, so some of the drop is thereby explained. Vazquez may be declining, but it isn’t as drastic as it seems.]

Now it sounds like the Florida Marlins are looking into Vazquez, and it’s not surprising that the feeling is mutual. Not only will the righty be getting out of New York, but he’s always been a flyballer and has had a problem with home runs (1.2 HR/9 career, 1.83 in 2010, 39% groundballs career), so the move to Florida should help. Last year, the stadium had a 95 park factor for home runs for right-handers (99 for lefties), and ESPN’s park factor has averaged a .931 over the last three years. The park in Florida should help Vazquez suppress home runs by 5-7%, it seems.

In 2004, Vazquez left New York after losing oomph on his fastball and suffering from wonky control. He went to the National League and refound his game in Arizona. Because of a more drastic loss of oomph in 2010, Vazquez may need to go to a nicer park in the weaker league to find success this time. The good news is that Florida is just that park. Vazquez looks like a fantasy sleeper all over again.

For more on Javier Vazquez and other possible fantasy rebounds, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office.

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