Nats Won’t Regret This Swing and Miss

Javier Vazquez signed a 1-year deal with the Marlins this weekend, and maybe people in Nats town are disappointed. Not because we have to face him, but because they think he should be on the Nats. They need starting pitching, and there is a lack of that in free agency this season, which made Vazquez more appealing. And there was talk that they Nats were pursuing a deal with him, although it may not have ever gotten into the serious phase. But he had a terrible year last year, and it wasn’t just because he “couldn’t handle the pressure” of New York.

His fastball was just plain horrible this year. Thom Loverro said that a Yankees source told him Vazquez’s velocity was up and down all year, and hit the mid-90s in the summer. Well, that may have happened, but over the course of the season, the fastball was down way more than it was up. Buster Olney had a great post on this today, showing that it had gone from a low-90s to a high 80s fastball from 2009 to 2010. He also threw fewer fastballs in the strike zone, got fewer swings and misses, and walked quite a bit higher percentage of hitters.

Here’s the fastball velocity data Olney presented:

This is not indicative of an up and down fastball to me. This is a significant drop in velocity, and Vazquez wasn’t able to adjust to it. Now, this isn’t to say that he won’t be able to, as many successful pitchers have lost velocity and redefined their approach. But that may be a multi-year task, and there is something working against Vazquez.

He was never truly a great pitcher, who now, with diminished velocity, must work more on guile and pitch better. He was a decent pitcher who struck out a ton of guys but also gave up a bunch of homers. He may not be the kind of guy who can adjust. Then again, maybe it was all about mechanics or a nagging injury and he’ll get that consistent 91 mph speed again.

Either way, I think the Nats shouldn’t be too disappointed in missing him. They aren’t 1 pitcher away from success, and a short term deal with him may have just allowed him to leave for more money next year.

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