Now, has Javy become a master?

Even though most remember Javy Vazquez for giving up a huge grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of 2004 ALCS, we very likely have a different Javier this time around.

Javy had a solid first half of the season in 2004 with the Yanks and even made the All Star Team, which is actually meaningless, i.e. Jason Varitek ‘08. However, during the second half he was as inconsistent as Sensei John Kreese in bed, going 4-5 with a 6.92 ERA.

Coming off the best season of his career in 2009, one would not expect Javy to maintain the 2.87 ERA he posted against the Triple-A batters of the National League. However, examining his three seasons with the White Sox (2006-2008) should closer guesstimate how Javy will perform in the Boogie Down.

In each season in Chicago, Vazquez never posted a FIP higher than 3.86. In fact, his FIP has improved every season since he left NY, going from 4.78 in 2004 to the 2.77 he posted last year in ATL. He’s like the ugly girl in high school who showed up to the reunion extremely hot.

During his time in Chi-City, he averaged 6.45 innings per start, which is much more than we can say for our 4th starter last year (Joba – 5.04 innings per start). His K/BB, which was ridiculous last year at 5.41, should fall closer to his White Sox average of 3.57. He gave up HRs like they were going out of style in 2004 (1.50 HR/9), but he cut those down in Chicago to 1.10 HR/9. He even got it down to 0.82 in Hotlanta. Last season’s rate shouldn’t be completely ignored either. His HR/FB rate (10.1%) was fairly normal indicating that he wasn’t necessarily enjoying the benefits of a pitcher friendly park as his xFIP (2.82) also shows.

In fact, if you look at his White Sox performance, it’s not too far off from what most projection systems are forecasting for him.

Javy also features a slider now, a pitch he only threw 4.6% of the time in 2004. In 2005, that increased to 10%. His usage of the slider really took off in Chicago: 15.5% in 2006, 17.6% in 2007, 22.8% in 2008. From a results standpoint, the pitch has been an effective one for him. You also have to wonder if there’s any truth to the rumor that he was hurt during part of 2004. We say that because it looks like his fastball was smacked around that year, when it was a good pitch every year in Chicago. It also happened to be over 1 mph slower in NY.

In 2004, the pressure was on Vazquez to be the ace for the rotation. Now, he returns as the #4 starter with more success, tools, and experience at his disposal.