Javier Vazquez’s Redemption Song

by Eno Sarris //  

He was done. Finished. His fastball lost two miles per hour in one year and he lost the plate at the same time. Even the fact that he was in the American League East only slightly mitigated the fact that the 35-year-old Javier Vazquez looked like burnt toast.

Maybe we labeled him too soon.

Of course, early this year it looked like he was still done. In the first month of the season, Vazquez was still averaging under 90 MPH on his fastball, and he even dipped as low as 87 MPH in his third start of the year. He had a 6.39 ERA in April, and a 5.67 ERA in May. After another ERA over five in June, his fantasy ownership sagged to a career low.

And then.. a day after he gave up seven runs in three and 2/3 innings… something happened. Take a look at his velocity chart for the year:

Would you look at that. His velocity is back to pre-2010 levels even. He’s been averaging 91.8 MPH since his 13th start. Look at what it did for his results:

First 13 starts: 7.09 ERA in 66 innings, with 45 strikeouts and 31 walks. 

Since: 2.35 ERA in 95 2/3 innings, with 86 strikeouts and 16 walks. 

That’s pretty stark. He’s been vintage Vazquez since June 11, and his velocity is a big part of this.

It’s not all poops and whistles, though. In the last three months, he’s allowed line drive rates over 24%, and 19% is average. That’s a lot of squared-up balls, and yet his BABIP for that time period was only .276. He’s also stranded more runners than the league average in those three months. Luck swung back with him once he had the gas again.

He still has his old flaws, too. As a pitcher that gets his whiffs high in the zone, he’s a fly-ball guy that has been prone to bouts of gopheritis. Only once since 2002 has he managed to allow less than one home run per nine innings. Florida suppresses home runs, but only a little — StatCorner.com has it as 1% below average for home runs by left-handed batters and 5% below for righty batters.

It’s best to still be careful with Vazquez. Even with his old velocity back, his old flaws can make him a bad start in homer-happy ballparks. Considering his recent cryptic remarks about retirement, he’s not a good keeper in any fantasy format, either. But it’s clear that he’s got his gas back and can be a useful role player for any fantasy team down the stretch.

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

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