Alike many of you, I’m extremely disappointed with Javier Vazquez’s performance last night. After two really good starts against the Tigers and Mets, he had a real clunker against the Twins (5 2/3 innings, five runs). His command was awful and he paid for mistakes he left over the plate. Let’s take a look at why he was successful in his start two weeks ago in Detroit and why he struggled last night..

Get Your Arm UP, Javy. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

First of all, here is his strike zone plot from last night. Take a look at it and see if you notice two obvious trends that I picked up upon.

  • Trend #1, There’s a whole lotta turquoise in the middle of the zone.
  • Trend #2, There’s isn’t a lotta orange outside of the zone.

Of the 64 strikes Vazquez threw last night, 41 of them were in the middle of the zone. If you watched the game, you saw the Twins smack six straight hard hit balls off Vazquez during the 2nd inning. Vazquez was bailed out by some great defensive plays, including Mark Teixeira snagging Alexi Casilla’s hard hit ground ball, turning it into a double play. Needless to say, but he and the rest of the Yankee pitching staff for that matter, are lucky to have a Gold Glove first baseman playing behind them. Anyway, back to the point.

Technically, Vazquez got only one hitter to swing a pitch outside of the zone. That’s not too good. Vazquez relies so much on his slider to get hitters out. He was missing with it all night. Hitters sat back at on his 89 MPH fastball and had some fun.

Now, let’s compare that graph to this one, his best start of the season. Vazquez threw seven innings of two run ball against the Tigers two weeks ago…notice the difference?

This one is muuuuuuch better. Notice the five swings and misses on pitches out of the zone. For those of you keeping score at your computer, Vazquez had only four swinging strikes against the Twins. He had 15 against the Tigers. Vazquez only gave up two runs in this start, both on balls low in the zone. One run came from a Magglio Ordonez RBI ground out and the other was an RBI-single from rookie, Brennan Boesch.

Only 25 of Vazquez’s 66 strikes were in the middle of the zone. He moved the ball around in the zone. He didn’t give up any big flies. Notice, no clutter within the zone. I’ll take this zone home and put it on my wall any day.

So it’s pretty obvious that location is a huge issue for him. So how do we correct location issues? Hm. Hm. Hm.???

The Dreaded:     ARM ANGLE

Release Point vs. Tigers

Release Point Vs. Twins

A small drop in a pitcher’s release point can cause a world of harm. That’s apparent with Vazquez. Sometimes, he goes into almost a full three-quarter delivery and he’ll get smacked around. Notice on Graph 1 (and even in one case on Graph 2) that when he stays on top of the ball, he gets more swings and misses. A lower release point gives the hitters more time to recognize the pitch and subsequently capitalize on mistakes.

I’m sure the Yankees know about this issue and have been working with Javy to get it resolved. The three-quarter drop down looks like more of a bad habit Javy will not only have to physically correct, but mentally correct as well. I’m confident he can fix this issue and give us more Detroit-esqe strike-plot zones.

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