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.
By Tommy Rancel //
After spending nine seasons in the American League, Jon Garland
is in year two of his National League West tour. The right-hander
signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2009 season, and was
traded mid-season to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Garland didn’t gather
much interest on the open market this off-season. He settled on a
one-year deal with another NL West team, the San Diego Padres, worth
slightly more than $5 million. In hindsight, it may have been the
smartest move of his career.
double-digit game winner in each season since 2002, Garland is already
halfway there in 2010. He goes into his next start with a 5-2 record in
nine starts. At first glance, his 2.38 ERA suggests a career season
thus far, but Garland has been the beneficiary of some good luck, and a
lot of home cooking.
Looking at FIP (fielding independent
pitching) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching), two
metrics that strip defense and luck from a pitcher’s performance,
Garland is pretty much the same pitcher he has always been. His 4.20
FIP is slightly lower than his career 4.70 FIP, but when we neutralize
his home run rate, his 2010 xFIP of 4.77 is actually slightly higher
than his career xFIP of 4.62.
Pitching in Petco Park has done
wonders for some of Garland’s numbers. The largest reason for his xFIP
being higher than normal is home run rate. In his career, Garland has
given up 1.10 home runs per nine innings (HR/9). Thanks to the spacious
dimensions of Petco – especially in right-center field – his HR/9 is
less than half that (0.51) thus far in 2010. In fact, he has not
allowed a home run in 25 innings at Petco; his HR/9 on the road is
In addition to a suppressed home run rate, Garland has
enjoyed a lower than normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in
San Diego. Overall, his 2010 BABIP of .262 is nearly 30 points less
than his .289 career number. Looking at the home/road splits again, his
home BABIP of .224 is far below his relatively normal road BABIP of
Because of the lower home run and hit rates, his home
ERA (1.08) is two and a half runs lower than his road ERA (3.54). That
said, Garland has arguably been a better pitcher on the road, even if
the superficial stats don’t show it. Away from Petco, he is striking
out more than seven batters per nine innings (K/9); at home, his K/9 is
a microscopic 2.88. In addition to more Ks on the road, he is walking
fewer batters in enemy territory. He has allowed 11 walks in 28 road
innings, while handing out 16 free passes in 25 home innings (5.79
Regression to the mean tells us that at some point
Garland will come back to earth, and revert to career norms across the
board. However, regression doesn’t take into account that Petco Park
has been one of the most unfriendly home run parks over the past three
seasons (last or second-to-last in home runs per game every season
If the Padres keep up their winning ways, Garland
is likely to continue his quest for a ninth straight double-digit wins
season. However, Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools warns us of some rough patches ahead.
system projects Garland to go 8-10 with a 4.18 ERA for the rest of the
season. If you can live with season-ending totals of 10-13 wins, a
league-average ERA, and little in terms of strikeouts, then Garland is
a safe play. However, if you have better talents at the head of your
rotation, you might want to consider selling high on Garland. Even
Petco Park can’t prop him up forever.
For more on Jon Garland and the surprising San Diego Padres, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.