Javier Vazquez through five starts, Part 2
By Michael Jong
Yesteday I discussed Javier Vazquez‘s performance over the last few weeks of his 2011 season. I attacked Vazquez’s season in terms of his performance versus right-handers only, but it seems like his split versus righties just is not as awful as his play versus left-handers has been this season. This seems to be a problem that has extended to the 2010 season with the New York Yankees as well, so it may be worth mentioning.
To that end, I decided to take a look at the same information that I doled out yesterday with regards to Vazquez’s pitches this season against righties again today, this time versus lefties. First, we’ll start once again with the basic information about each of his 213 pitches to lefties.
|Pitch||Usage%||Velocity (mph)||Horizontal (in)||Vertical (in)|
|Sinker (Column AI / SI)||18.3||88.3||-4.1||-5.5|
Immediately here we have something of interest. If you’ll recall from the previous article’s chart, some of the fastballs I graphed on that chart were in the lower left hand quadrant of the horizontal versus vertical movement graph. There were a lot more of those pitchers thrown to lefties than to righties, necessitating a change in classification. Clearly these pitches were different than Vazquez’s fastball offering, which breaks in a positive direction vertically as most fastballs do. I tentatively labeled this pitch a “sinker” for lack of a better term. The pitch was thrown 18.3 percent of the time versus lefty batters for a total of 39 pitches. As you can see, the pitch broke less away from lefties than his typical changeup and fastball (the chart shown above is viewed from the catcher’s point of view, so negative horizontal movement moves into right-handers and away from left-handers) but has an obvious downward sink.
So how was Vazquez placing those pitches, and how did hitters respond?
This table appears very telling about the problems Vazquez has had against lefties. The biggest difficulty he’s had seems to be with spotting his pitches in the zone, a fact that lines up very well with his massive control difficulties against lefties. Fewer than 50 percent of his pitches are ending up in the zone, and for a pitcher who made much of his living as a guy who pounded the strike zone, that is not a successful situation. The watch rate (rate of pitches taken that are in the strike zone) is very low for a strike-throwing starter as well, continuing the trend of bad location versus lefties. Lefties are swinging and chasing at a similar rate as righties, but they are making a bit more contact than their righty brethren.
It seems that the biggest problem seen here is a complete inability to locate pitches in the zone for some reason, as indicated by the large decrease in zone% and watch%. How have lefties fared when they’ve put the ball in play?
This table perfectly illustrates the second problem Vazquez has had against lefties: when they do make contact and put the ball in play, it is traveling far. All four of Vasquez’s home runs allowed have come off of lefty bats, and a number of other big hits have as well. All in all, hitters have slugged .786 (!) so far this season when making contact. None of the individual pitch splits are all that significant, as there were so few of them ending up in play, but in 42 balls in play against lefties so far this season, not only was Vazquez bombed in terms of slugging, but he wasn’t able to induce a ground ball rate that would prevent that. Instead, there were many more line drives and fly balls that landed in play for hits or left the stadium for round-trippers.
It may still be too early to tell, but these stats have at least confirmed a few things that Vazquez’s FanGraphs player page told us about his 2011 season:
1) He cannot locate his pitches in the strike zone versus lefties, while his location versus righties remains decent.
2) Vazquez’s stuff is no longer swing-and-miss, as evidenced by a clear lack of whiffs in his repertoire.
3) When lefties have put the ball in play, they have scorched him.
I’d like to give him five more starts before comparing him through ten games in 2009 and in 2010, seasons which were complete opposites of each other. Suffice to say, however, that without any clear indicators of “bad luck” in the sabermetric sense, Vazquez has been just awful this season, and if these pitch statistics serve as a good indicator of performance going forward, the Marlins may have to shut down this experiment fairly quickly.