Vazquez's value stays same after trade
For the fourth time in the past six winters, the right-hander is on the move, and for the fourth time, he'll switch leagues. (Perhaps "human pingpong ball" would be a more apt description.) Vazquez lands in Atlanta this time, headed along with Boone Logan in a trade for prospects including Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
But the truth is, Vazquez was no pushover in his White Sox days in spite of the challenging circumstances. He registered 22 wins, a 4.16 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 8.38 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 48 starts at home from 2006 through '08. A look at his lifetime numbers demonstrates that he always has been a stronger pitcher at home than on the road, regardless of his home ballpark, as evidenced by an ERA more than a half-run higher and a WHIP more than one-tenth of a point higher in road games. U.S. Cellular wasn't the problem with Vazquez. Fact is, 11 years of service already have proven he's simply no better than the pitcher who toed the mound in each of the past four or five years.
In addition, Turner Field isn't the pitching-friendly ballpark everyone thinks it is. Our Park Factors page shows it was actually hitter-friendly in 2008, although a scan through the past half-decade or so suggests it's a neutral venue, or perhaps favors pitchers ever so slightly. Vazquez might not so often be victim of the untimely three-run home run in Atlanta as he was in his days in Arizona or Chicago, but that's about the only benefit he really receives with the change in ballparks.
Any gain that Vazquez earns with the migration to the NL or Atlanta's ballpark is neutralized by a drop-off in potential run support, anyway. The White Sox averaged 4.98 runs per game with a .780 team OPS this past season, while the Braves managed 4.65 and .753 numbers, and that was with Mark Teixeira on the roster for half the season. Barring a big free-agent addition, Vazquez might need to win more games on his own.
Expect another typical Vazquez year in 2009: 12 to 14 wins, an ERA around 4.00 if not a bit north of that, and a healthy strikeout total in the 200s range. Mixed-league owners will welcome a pitcher like Vazquez into the fray in the middle rounds, but he's not the type you want leading your staff. He's depth, not a top-25 capable arm.
Of the White Sox's haul, Flowers is the most prominent prospect in the group. Tabbed by Jason Grey recently as his most impressive hitter of the Arizona Fall League, the catcher led the AFL in home runs (12) and slugging percentage (.973), raising his prospect stock immensely. At
22 and fresh out of Class A ball, Flowers isn't yet
big league ready, but he's on the fast track. The primary question about his future is whether he'll remain behind the plate by the time he arrives in about a year or two. Keeper-league owners would be well served to keep his name tucked away in 2009 drafts.
Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball, football and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.