Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why I'm Rooting For Vazquez (Aside From The Obvious)

The fate of Javy Vazquez is certainly one of the more intriguing Yankee storylines coming into the 2010 season. We've discussed him in-depth multiple times here because he's about as polarizing a player as there is on the Yankees. In one camp, you have those who are encouraged by his record of above average performance and durability, along with his standout campaign in Atlanta in 2009. And in the other camp, you have those who cling to one half of a season that took place 5 years ago and one pitch thrown in that ALCS. Let's see where ESPN fantasy analyst Christopher Harris pitches his tent:
But the main reason I feel secure saying Vazquez won't repeat his 2009 season in 2010 is simple: I've seen this movie before. Vazquez has done this. In 2004, at age 28, Vazquez played a full season for the Yankees and did little to erase his reputation as a soft pitcher. Set free from the non-attention he enjoyed in six years as a Montreal Expo, he put together a blazing first half (10 wins, 3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) and an All-Star Game appearance as a Yankee, then went belly-up when the pennant race got tight, posting a 6.92 ERA and 1.49 WHIP after the break. Plus, he famously allowed Johnny Damon's Game 7 grand slam in the Red Sox's improbable playoff comeback. (Remember ol' gutsy Vazquez relieving ol' gutsy Kevin Brown, Yanks fans?) And after posting a sub-4.00 ERA his each of his final three seasons in Montreal, Vazquez would go on to post a 4.00-plus ERA in four of his next five with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and White Sox.
Did you see the movie about Vazquez with the Braves too? Because that one came out just last year and he was pretty damn good in it. That'd be like saying "Sure Brad Pitt was great in Inglorious Basterds, but do you remember how shitty he was in Oceans Twelve!?!" And Harris even concedes that the first half of that movie was pretty good.

Apparently, pitching in New York doesn't carry real pressure until after the All-Star break. Nevermind that Vazquez might have been pitching with an injured shoulder during that stretch, let's just assume it was the pennant race that sunk him because that fits the narrative. Kind of like neglecting the fact that Kevin Brown loaded the bases for Vazquez, and blaming the whole grand slam on Javy. He can't handle the pressure of October!
I think it's also the bright lights. Vazquez has a 10.34 career playoff ERA, and in his four career playoff appearances, has never posted an ERA better than 8.68 in a single game.
Single game ERAs? Four postseason appearances? Are you familiar with the concept of statistical significance, WriterBoy? How about confirmation bias?
Sure he was terrific in Atlanta, where it's mostly Bobby Cox's close friends and relatives watching home games.
Atlanta drew an average of 29,304 fans per game last year. Bobby Cox must have a huge family.

I'm not going to go through the process of explaining why it's foolish to predict how someone will perform based on the intangible pressures for playing for once franchise or another, because I've already done that. There are people who buy into rational analysis and people who just want to think with their gut.

Unfortunately, there will be never be a shortage of those who insist on labeling Vazquez as "soft" and take smug joy in predicting that he won't be able to perform in New York based on 14 starts and one pitch 5 full seasons ago. Because of that, he's one guy in particular that I'd love to see prove his doubters wrong. Not only for the benefit of the Yankees, but for the principles of objective analysis.

Morning Linkaround

Good morning, Fackers. Here are some items of interest while we wait for the all-important World Series rematch at 1:00.
I don't care if they're both from the northeastern part of Cincinnati, I don't like the fact that Paul O'Neill is giving Kevin Youkilis advice. However, the suggestion was for Youk not to start hitting until February 1st, so if he gets off to a cold start this season, maybe we owe Paulie one.

Our favorite lawyer-turned-blogger uses some of his legal expertise to talk about Governor Paterson's illegal acceptance of free World Series tickets from the Yankees. You can find a more in-depth conversation if you scroll through this thread as well.

Bobby Abreu finally sold his Condo on East 58th Street for $5.1M. El Como Dulce and his agent were initially reluctant to take a loss on the property, but the market for apartments in New York City that covered limited square footage in buildings over 35 years old had been on the decline.

Cliff Corcoran at Bronx Banter writes about a topic that we're all pretty sick of, but somehow finds a way to make it interesting. That's the mark of a good analyst who is also a good writer, folks.

Over at River Ave. Blues, Daniel R. Levitt authored a guest post about how the economics of the Great Depression changed baseball and gave the Yankees a competitive advantage. Before the late 1920's, a Major League team could only control players on their 40 man rosters, meaning their Major League 25 man and 15 minor leaguers. But Minor Leauge teams, hurting for capital, asked the Big League clubs for help. In return, the MLB teams demanded greater control of the players. Additionally, unlike the Steinbrenners now, Col. Jacob Ruppert had his brewing business to fall back on and the repeal of Prohibition gave him a steady stream of income that most other owners didn't have.

NoMaas interviewed Brett Gardner. Topics include Gardner's thumb, the departure of Melky Cabrera, bunting, his contact rate, sweet tea and stealing first base.

Chad Jennings continued his "5 Questions" series with hero of yesterdays game, Colin Curtis.

Marc Carig asked Bernie Williams how much he thinks about the Hall of Fame and the fact that other people around the league were using steroids when Bernie was ostensibly clean.

Joe Posnanski + FanGraphs = Really Interesting Stuff

Dave Cameron compared Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixiera and found that they are pretty similar players. However, Cameron also adds that A-Gone probably shouldn't hold his breath for 8 year and $180M with the Yankees out of the bidding.

Orel Hershiser is taking the place of Steve Phillips in the Sunday Night Baseball booth. Thank you, Brooke Hundley!

Tyler Kepner caught up with the one guy who didn't give Joe Mauer his first place vote for MVP. Keizo Konishi says that he voted for Miguel Cabrera because:
"If I took Cabrera out of the Tigers’ lineup, I thought it would be a very different team. If I did the same thing for the Twins, if I picked Mauer out of their lineup, they would still have a better lineup compared to the Tigers".
He also cited the fact that Cabrera's team went further into the World Baseball Classic (not a joke).

And finally, can you guess where this quote come from?
Poor Kevin Kernan. His suggestion here brought cause for some of the usual FJM Wannabes in the Yankees blogosphere to emerge from their ivory towers – constructed out of their alleged righteousness – gunning for him with torches and pitchforks.
Oh yes, poor Kevin Kernan. Can't a newspaper guy just mail in a hacky column without someone calling him out for it anymore? What happened to the good old days when sports writers didn't have to use fancy things like "numbers" or "logic" and you could just spout off racial stereotypes without consequence?