Braves One Year Wonder: Javier Vazquez

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Braves One Year Wonder, Javier Vazquez: How did he get here?

With the White Sox in 2008, Vazquez’s strikeout rate was a solid 8.6. His walk rate, 2.6. His FIP was a near full run less than his ERA of 4.67. Vazquez had also averaged over 200 innings per year for 8 years. The cost wasn’t cheap: Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez. However, only Tyler Flowers had any real long term impact at the MLB level and 2 of the 4 never reached the bigs. The trade was seen by nearly all of MLB as a landslide win for the Braves as Vazquez was believed to have ace stuff that was hidden due to a fluky high ERA. They were right.

Tim Hudson, Braves ace since being acquired in 2005, was on the shelf with the Tommy John bug and it was known he would miss most of 2009. In turn, Javier Vazquez was brought in to slot behind Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe in 2009 as the number 3 starter in a near fully rebuilt rotation with a back end of Kenshin Kawakami and Jojo Reyes (for a little while…at least long enough for the Braves to manipulate Tommy Hanson‘s arb-clock).

Braves One Year Wonder, Javier Vazquez

While the Braves revamped pitching staff wasn’t so revamped, as Derek Lowe was awful and Kenshin Kawakami was just bizarre, Javier Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens were both brilliant, pitching a combined 434.1 innings with a 2.74 ERA. Vazquez pitched 5 innings or more in every start in 2009, including 2 complete games, 4 he made it 8 innings, and 12 more where he pitched 7 full innings. Yes, more than 1/2 of his starts he pitched 7 innings or more.

He was especially dominant with strikeout stuff, carrying 3 serious plus pitches in a knee buckling curve, a disappearing sinker, and a fastball that looked as though it found extra life about 2/3 of the way to the plate. It was his 2nd best year of his career as he put up a 5.9 fWAR, a number that hasn’t been reached by any Braves pitcher since, and one would have to go all the way back to 2001 to find a pitcher that topped that performance: Greg Maddux.

Yankees: “Sorry, no Take-Backs”

Tim Hudson returned at the end of the 2009 season, pitched a handful of games, and was ready to take his place back at the top of the rotation. With money committed to both Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, and Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens filling out the rotation, the Braves decided to sell high on Vazquez, sending him to the Yankees (along with Boone Logan, who just so happened to be in the original deal with the White Sox) for Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino. With only one year of control, this was also seen as a landslide win for the Braves, but we as Braves fans know better. Melky…what a wanker. *spoiler*

Thanks for reading on Braves One Year Wonder, Javier Vazquez. Check out the rest of the Wankers and Wonders here!

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

16 thoughts on “Braves One Year Wonder: Javier Vazquez”

  1. JC’d

    JamesD84:

    April 21, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    Back to baseball (and basketball). Tfloyd’s question in the last thread about players who had success in both sports got me down some BRef rabbit holes. Dave DeBusschere had two seasons as a pitcher for the White Sox at ages 21 and 22, and I was sorry to see that BRef didn’t have similarity scores for his first season. 18 relief IP with 23 BB and a HB gets your attention, and not in a good way. Only 5 hits and a 2.00 ERA is interesting, though. There’s only one kind of pitcher I can imagine who could put up that combination of numbers, and especially put up that combination of numbers and be given the chance to pitch 24 games (10 starts) the next year. That’s got to be a Mauricio Cabrera, Juan Jaime line – close your eyes and throw really hard and hope the umpire guesses strike often enough. Nope – only 8 Ks in 18 IP. That’s got to be a record if you could figure out how to define it – lowest ERA*K/BB or something. Maybe you could multiply it by the under-.110 BABIP.

    DeBusschere seems to have actually been an ok strikeout pitcher, having gone 10-1, 2.49, 8.9 K/9 in A-ball the same season and having a couple of decent years in the PCL after his two years with the White Sox – 15-8 and 15-12, ERAs under 4 both years, 6.5 K/9 both years. He was decent his second year with the White Sox. That first try with the White Sox, though…

  2. Javier Vazquez retired from baseball at the age of 34 and pitched 30+ games 13 of 14 seasons and collected a 53.7 fWAR. Is he the most underrated pitcher of his era? We never hear his name in HoF talks and he’s at least a borderline candidate.

  3. Why did he retire? His last season: 3.69 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 32 GS, 192 IP, still making $7M per.

  4. He wanted to stay close to home and the fish were too cheap to pay him what he was worth. Leaving on your own terms has value too.

  5. @2, I’m not sure I would give him that lofty a title — his rWAR of 43.4 is nearly ten wins less than his fWAR of 53.7, and that’s because he has one of the higher discrepancies between ERA and WAR among modern starting pitchers. (Ricky Nolasco was higher; he hung up his cleats with 26.1 fWAR and 13.2 rWAR.)

    Vazquez had filthy stuff but, aside from 2009, he gave up more runs than you’d think he should’ve.

    In the rWAR charts, his career WAR is a hair higher than Kenny Rogers and two wins lower than Brad Radke, and to me, that’s a good comparison. At the end of the day, when assessing a final career rather than trying to predict future performance, I think RA9-WAR — which is how Fangraphs tags their WAR variant that’s more related to runscoring than FIP components — is more meaningful than fWAR. Javy Vazquez’s RA9-WAR is nearly identical to another guy who might have been one of the most underrated pitchers of his era:

    Kevin Millwood.

    I don’t think Vazquez is a borderline candidate, honestly. I think he had a clearly worse career than Roy Oswalt, and I think Oswalt pretty clearly falls just short. I think the borderline is right at Mark Buehrle, and I think Buehrle is probably never going to make it. (Kevin Brown probably should be in the Hall of Fame, for what it’s worth, and he’s comfortably above this standard.)

  6. Did anyone ever answer tfloyd’s question? If not, the answer was Tim Stoddard, who carried David Thompson and NC State to the 1974 national championship, and pitched for the ’79 Orioles. If so, well, you can never have too much Tim Stoddard content.

  7. I think the perception of Vazquez suffers from a reverse Yankee hype.

    He mostly played for low-profile teams and would fly under the radar in his best years with Montreal, CWS, and Atlanta. Then he was twice acquired by the media-dominating Yankees. He flopped both times, putting up the two worst years of his non-rookie career.

    The Shane Spencers of the world show modest competence in pinstripes and get their balls washed by Bob Costas. Really good players like Vazquez struggle for them and it overshadows their careers.

  8. @AAR

    I don’t this Javy is a HoFer, but he wasn’t even on the ballot in 1987, which is absurd.

    However, if he’d have pitched 3 more years at the quality he pitched his last year with the Marlins, he’d have gotten consideration.

    Also, consider this…if he’d have put up those numbers wearing a Yankees jersey for 14 years, would that alter opinions? I bet it would.

  9. @7 and @8, I think that’s partly true but only partly. Do you think David Wells or Kenny Rogers or Jimmy Key were borderline Hall of Famers? All had rWAR higher than Javy Vazquez and all had success in the Bronx. I’d argue that each of them is more underrated, more under-the-radar than Vazquez. Vazquez is an interesting case because his FIP was SO good that the late-2000s saber community identified him as underrated by ERA and so he became something of a flashpoint online; Wells and Rogers never had that kind of online community behind them. They were just classic consistent lefties who were less famous but scarcely less effective than Andy Pettitte (one guy who clearly became overrated due to his time in New York).

    And all of the pitchers in the above paragraph probably had worse careers than David Cone, who may himself have been one of the most underrated pitchers of his era. He spent nearly his entire career in New York, on both sides of the city, and somehow he never got as much hype as most of his teammates.

    UPDATE: Interestingly, Cone was worth one win more than Pettitte in rWAR and about a half-win less than him in RA9-WAR… but Pettitte was worth 12 wins more than him in fWAR. Again, you know where my analytic heart leans.

  10. @9 Rogers and Key in the Bronx were before my time, so I can’t argue there. And I agree with you about Vazquez’s status among the saber crowd at the time. I guess my point was more about the masses and ESPN/FOX/NBC jabrones. I hold the statheads to a higher standard. But I absolutely think that the “common” fans at the time held Wells, Cone, El Duque, Ted Lilly, etc in higher regard than they otherwise would have if they played in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh.

  11. I’m not sure about Ted Lilly, but I think you’re right about Duque, who hung his hat entirely on his New York postseason success.

    The thing is, I don’t think any of those meathead NBC/FOX/ESPN non-saber opinions actually have much to do with those guys’ current reputation and underratedness or overratedness. Who cares what Rob Dibble thought in 2009, you know what I mean?

  12. The only way the Braves vs. Dodgers/Red Sox punishment makes sense is that the owners think working around wage-suppression strategies is a bigger offense than cheating. Costing the owners money is worse than making a mockery of the sport.

    This is terrible. It makes slightly less of a fan.

  13. Rob, regarding the last thread. I was delayed in reading it. Congrats. Reggie’s home runs may have gone missing while he wore a Braves uniform, but it sounds like you started getting a few yourself.

  14. It is interesting that the Braves had pitchers during their run of ineptitude in the 70’s and 80’s that were one year wonders. They also had pitchers in the 90’s and 2000’s during their run of good fortune that were one year wonders.

    The difference seemed to be that they were counting on the guys in the 70s and 80s to be superstars for the long term. When they inevitably went bust, which they did over and over, they took the team with them for several years. It seemed like they weren’t expecting much more than a year from guys like Vazquez and this helped them be able to sell high or move on quickly.

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