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Yanks' No. 4 starter could be No. 1

12/24/2009

Catching up after a couple of days out of touch, and was surprised by the Yankees trading for Javier Vazquez, who did not pitch well in his previous stint with the club. First thing I did was look for It's About the Money (Stupid)'s take ...

    Yanks fans might remember Javy serving up a nail-in-the-coffin grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS. They'd be better off remembering that he's struck out 1,027 batters over the last five years since he left. As well as pitching at least 198 innings every year since 1999 when he started only 26 games in Montreal.

    With that, let's go back to 2004 and take a deeper look at Vaz's monthly splits as clearly there was something wrong with him in the second half (Mark Feinsand claims that Vazquez was indeed hurt in the 2nd half of 2004, although Tyler Kepner, back in 2008, said that Vaz wasn't hurt at all and it was simply mechanics.

    --snip--

    For Melky Cabrera and two prospects (one who is really highly regarded), this is a steal for the Yanks. Yet, it's being said that the Braves got more from the Yanks in this deal than the Phillies got for Cliff Lee ... which made me chuckle.

    As of now, this trade means two things:

    1. What budget limit of $185 million?

    2. Gardner becomes the starting left fielder (or, if the Yanks were aggressive: they'd consider Gardner in center and Granderson in left)

    Will the Yanks completely blow up their budget and go after Holliday now? Who knows?

    Try to forget 2004. I am trying like mad. Recognize the benefits of this trade and be happy as a Yanks fan.

Vazquez's single season as a Yankee was widely seen as a failure, and it was a failure despite his 14-10 record. So I was surprised to discover that Vazquez's only All-Star season was 2004. And yes, that happened because Vazquez actually pitched quite well before the All-Star Game: 10-5, 3.56 ERA, 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But a switch didn't get flipped during the All-Star break. Vazquez pitched fairly well for another few weeks. On August 6, he ran his record to 13-6 (and still had a 4.12 ERA). What ruined his season were his last nine starts, when he went 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA. And he got blasted in his three postseason outings, too.

But whether it was an injury or mechanics or just a spot of bad luck, the point is that there's little evidence to suggest that Vazquez struggled because he couldn't handle pitching in New York. If that was the case, wouldn't it have showed up before August?

Vazquez will not duplicate his 2009 performance in 2010. He was one of the three or four best pitchers in the National League, and probably won't be one of the 10 best pitchers in the American League. But of course he doesn't need to be. Instead he'll probably be the best No. 4 starter in the majors, which is all the Yankees need him to be. Happy, as a Yanks fan? I would be deliriously ecstatic.