Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Javier Vazquez to the Braves

In trading for Javier Vazquez, the Atlanta Braves got exactly what they needed. After losing Mike Hampton to the Astros, Tim Hudson to Tommy John surgery, and potentially John Smoltz to free agency; the Braves needed a solid starter who the Braves could rely on to take the ball every fifth day. They needed someone to offer some stability for young pitchers Jair Jurrjens, Charlie Morton, and Jorge Campillo.

Javier Vazquez fits the description perfectly.

Since 2000, Vazquez has pitched at least 200 innings in every season except for one. Vazquez has always possessed fantastic stuff and consistently strikes out lots of hitters with a very impressive strikeout rate (200 K in 208 IP in 2008). Vazquez has all the makings of a dominant pitcher if he ever could put it all together.

And that's where the problem lies: Vazquez has never put it all together.

Since his days with the now defunct Montreal Expos, Vazquez has consistently underperformed despite his fantastic stuff. The Yankees traded for Vazquez thinking that he was their future ace, but by the end of the season, they were convinced that he could not pitch in New York. The White Sox traded for Vazquez in 2006 in one of Kenny Williams classic "buy low" attempts, but in three seasons with the Sox, Vazquez has produced two sub-.500 seasons. By the end of 2008, Manager Ozzie Guillen even dared Vazquez to pitch well in a big game. Needless to say, Vazquez floundered.

Furthermore, in four of the last five seasons, Vazquez's ERA has been above 4.40, which is awfully average for any pitcher. Just to put that into perspective, Paul Byrd and Edwin Jackson had better ERAs than Vazquez in 2008. I know ERA is not the best statistic to judge pitchers, but Vazquez should be much better than both of those pitchers based on his stuff.

If the Braves are depending on Vazquez to be an ace, they will be gravely disappointed. Vazquez has disappointed every team he has pitched on since the Expos because of his maddeningly inconsistent performance. Sure he'll take the ball every fifth day, but which Javier Vazquez are you going to get? Will it be the potential ace that every team craved back in 2003 or will it be the underachieving Vazquez that baseball people have come to expect?

At some point, teams are going to begin to shy away from Vazquez. Because underneath the phenomenal stuff and untapped potential is a guy who has been simply average throughout his career. And at 32 years old, what are the chances Javier Vazquez suddenly becomes the pitcher we all thought he'd be and is no longer just average? I say slim to none.
Because if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Once this deal becomes official, Mets fans should be thrilled. Vazquez is a good pitcher, but he is no Jake Peavy. This trade almost certainly eliminates the possibility of Peavy, a former CY Yonng award winner, landing in the NL East. I would much rather face Javier Vazquez than Jake Peavy; especially in crunch time.

(Note: Since the deal is not yeat finalized, I am going to hold off addressing the White Sox end of the deal until I know for sure whose involved.)

No comments: