Is Javier Vazquez Hall Of Fame Material?

It's an interesting question to ask. On the surface, Javier Vazquez seems like the most unclutch pitcher in the world. His ERA has been below 4.40 only once in the past five seasons and he is notorious for pitching poorly when the game matters most. If Win-Loss records meant anything (which they do not), his five year 63-61 mark would be nothing to talk about.

But that's where all my "criticism" of Javi ends. If you look beneath the situational numbers, you find one of baseball's premier pitchers. Over the past five seasons (1041.1 IP), Javier Vazquez has struck out 939 batters (8.12 K/9) and walked a mere 273 (2.39 BB/9). Even with his high 1.25 HR/9 rate over that five year period, Vasquez still managed to post a FIP just below 4 (3.99), despite playing 4 of those 5 seasons at baseball's most home run friendly parks. If you remove Vasquez's disastrous 2004 campaign from this analysis and we look at the four year period from 2005-2008, we find even more to love about Ozzie's whipping boy.

At HR friendly US Cellular and Chase Field between 2004 and 2008, Javier Vazquez struck out 789, walked 213 and only gave up 112 long balls in 843.1 IP. That's good for a 8.42 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, and remarkable (given the circumstance that Javi is a flyball pitcher at two home run inflating parks) 1.19 HR/9 -- significant improvements on his already great peripherals from the five year analysis. Javi's FIP over this period is a very respectable 3.81.

So if Javi is so great, why were his numbers so terrible over this period of time? The answers are simple.

Vazquez's stint on the Yankees in 2004 was just a down year. Vazquez gave a then career high amount of bombs (33) in a career low amount of innings (198). Vazquez, who had just moved from the NL to the AL that season had to make adjustments and in doing so, his K/9 fell from 9.40 per nine in 2003 to a career low 6.82 per nine in 2004. His walk rate, though not terrible, spiked to a career high 2.73 per nine. Following his down year on the Yankees, Vazquez adjusted and his peripherals returned to normal. His K/9 rose and BB/9 fell to match his career rates and would remain pretty consistent from 2005-2008. However, as Vazquez spent a lot of time in both Chase Field and US Cellular Field, he was still susceptible to the long ball. In 2005, Javier Vazquez topped his home run mark from 2004 with 35 bombs allowed, but did so in 18 extra innings of work. When Vazquez was traded from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox, he not only made the transition from the NL to the AL again (this time, Javi would make the necessary adjustments and his peripherals would remain constant), he moved to one of the worst defensive teams in all of baseball. With the notable exception of Joe Crede, who saw limited playing time due to back injury complications from 2006-2008, and Orlando Cabrera, who only played for the team for one season, the entire White Sox infield and outfield have not only been one of the most below average defensive teams in baseball, but also one of the least efficient at converting balls-in-play into outs. In 2007 and 2008, the White Sox respectively ranked 23rd and 20th in defensive efficiency. If not for Orlando Cabrera last season, the White Sox would have ranked even lower in 2008. Furthermore, in 2006 and 2008, Javier Vazquez's BABIPs were .321 and .328, both career high marks.

Some combination of bad luck, poor defense and home run inflating parks have resulted in a stigma being placed upon Javier Vazquez in both real life and fantasy baseball. His K/9 and BB/9 (and thus K/BB) rates have been top of the league since 2000. In fact, since 2000, the only players who have better control (K/BB) rates than Vazquez are Jake Peavy, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. Pretty exclusive company.

Currently, 33 year old Javi has 11 seasons and 200 strikeouts to his name. Since 2000, Javi has managed to pitch 200+ innings in every seasons except 2004 (where he tossed 198 innings). If -- and with pitchers, this is a big if -- Vazquez can pitch another five seasons in the big leagues and maintain the same ratios he did last season (at offense inflating US Cellular Field), Vazquez will be able to reach the exclusive 3000 strikeout mark by the age of 38. If -- again, a BIG if -- he can pitch at this rate for ten seasons, he will reasonably be able to reach the 4,000 K plateau, something that only four other pitchers have ever been able to do.

Javier Vazquez may not have a sexy win total or ERA, but his ratios suggest that he's hall of fame material thus far into his career. If he reaches the 3,000 strikeout mark (let alone the 4,000 K mark), Javi should be a lock to get in by the time his career ends. If Vazquez were to pitch until he was 41 and eclipse the 3,000 K mark at age 38, he could easily pass Greg Maddux for 10th place on the all-time strikeouts list. Fuck Wins, Fuck ERA. Sub-poor offensive teams like the 1999-2003 Expos and 2007 White Sox have prevented Vazquez from racking up elite win totals, while poor defensive teams like the 2005 Diamondbacks and 2007-2008 White Sox have inflated his ERA. Javi deserves a spot in Cooperstown so far.

Now that Vazquez has moved from a offense-friendly park in the AL to an offense-neutral park in the NL, his numbers should only improve going as his K/9 increases/maintains and HR/9 declines. Expect big things from Vazquez going forward.


The 'Bright' One said...

curt schilling has 200 wins, 3000 strikeouts, 3.06 FIP, best K/BB in the history of baseball, and one of the best records in playoff history. If he's a question for the hall, how the fuck will vazquez get in?

Combine this post with your call to 670 last night and that is a lot of suckiness

David ''MVP'' Eckstein said...

what? Cmon!

That Kevin Gregg analogy was great. I thought I was a shoe-in to win tickets to Friday's Cubs-Cards game

David ''MVP'' Eckstein said...

Btw, the analogy was watching Kevin Gregg pitch in the ninth inning is like watching the third Lord Of The Rings movie. 3 hours later, the plot is basically over and you want the movie to end, but it won't and when you think it's over, there's more. Plus, like the third LOTR movie, Kevin Gregg is entirely overrated and gets undeserved praise, in this case a closers job where LOTR won the 2005 best picture Oscar. All in all, like the third LOTR movie, Kevin Gregg is decent, but nothing to wet your pants over and rush into theaters to see.

David ''MVP'' Eckstein said...

And for the record, Javier Vasquez is the 19th most controlliest pitcher of all time with 1000 or more IP. His career 3.32 K/BB is slightly better than Randy Johnson (3.27) and slight worse than Gregg Maddux (3.37)

David ''MVP'' Eckstein said...

Oh, and he's top 15 all time among pitchers born after 1900, FYI

David ''MVP'' Eckstein said...

Javi pitched 6 innings of 12 strikeout, 1 walk, 1 home run baseball. Sadly, he gave up 3 ER...