May 11, 2010

Sabermetrician: Vazquez to start pitching better

Yankees fans will be calling for Javier Vazquez’s head if he doesn’t get it together tonight against the Tigers. He hasn’t made it through the sixth inning yet this year.

The Daily News reached out to a sabermetrician at Tufts University to figure out what is impeding Vazquez from returning to last year’s form.

A few years ago, [Andy] Andres had his Tufts class study the stats of baseball players who had come to New York from other cities.

“There was nothing there,” Andres said. “We couldn't find anything. I trust analysis. You can test the effect of New York City, of the intense media markets, of overbearing owners. And this (with Vazquez) is just statistical noise. Everybody has stinker games, even CC Sabathia, one of the top five pitchers in the game. You can't generalize too much.”

“Javier Vazquez is going to start pitching better,” Andres insists. “He has a track record.”

The fact that a sabermetrician thinks his bad stretch is going to end soon is very comforting.

Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger went in-depth on Vazquez’s two bullpen sessions last week.

The only difference is that the sessions have been more intense. During his bullpen at Yankee Stadium a week ago and a follow-up session at an empty Fenway Park on Saturday, Vazquez pitched close to game speed and added about 20 pitches to his workload.

But, in many ways, what Vazquez has done physically during his respite has been secondary.

Said Vazquez: “The break was more, I guess, (to help) mentally.”

Carig reported team director of mental conditioning Chad Bohling sat in on his bullpen Friday.

What to watch for tonight:

  • Velocity. Joe Girardi said he saw Vazquez reach 94 MPH. I don’t remember that happening.
  • Command. If you look at his last start, his command plagued him. He needs to keep his pitches, his changeup especially, down in the zone.
  • Mental game. Observe how agreeable he’ll be with his battery mate tonight. When a pitcher is struggling, sometimes it has to do with overthinking each pitch. Hopefully you won’t see him shake off too many pitches tonight.

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