Although Javier Vazquez's second stint in Yankee pinstripes has gone just about as well as his first tour of duty in the Bronx, he still has a reasonable opportunity to prove his value and earn a role with the team for the post-season.
We all know that the Yankees are not going to run a pitcher out there to start crucial playoff games that they've had to skip numerous times throughout the year, but as a long-man out of the pen, he may still hold some worth.
That thought process may have come crashing violently to earth last night however, after he authored a rather embarrassing new chapter in the story of his dismal experiences as a Yankee.
Tasked with keeping the game reasonably close last night, after CC Sabathia had just handed over a 3-1 Yankee lead, and then Joba came in and doused the flames with gasoline, Javy entered the game in the top of the seventh inning. If not for the horrid pitching display that had preceded him, his performance might have been even more heavily scrutinized, but CC and Joba had already combined to create an utter disaster that Vazquez only added to.
Upon entering the game, Vazquez would face Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, Willy Aybar and Kelly Shoppach, some fine big-leaguers, but certainly not the meat of the order for Tampa. Javy proceeded to pitch to them like they were Murderers' Row, seemingly terrified of the strike zone.
After working a full-count to Zobrist, he walked him on the sixth pitch, an inauspicious harbinger of his coming meltdown. Desmond Jennings, a promising prospect, yet only possessing 18 career major-league plate appearances, was hit with a pitch on a 2-2 count. Next, utility-man Willy Aybar was also hit by a pitch on another two-strike count. With the bases now loaded, Vazquez then hit Kelly Shoppach with the first pitch of the at-bat, forcing in a run.
That's right, Javy Vazquez now can find himself among the legends of the game, tying a major league record by hitting three consecutive batters. Most pitchers would have been pulled instantly, but considering the situation and suddenly hopeless nature of the game, Vazquez was left on the mound to finish the game and weather his brush with historical infamy in as dignified a manner as possible.
The next batter, newly-minted Yankee-killer Dan Johnson, would smoke a liner to deep right, bringing in another run, then chronically under-achieving B.J. Upton was walked on four straight pitches to again load the bases.
Thankfully, the carnage ended there, and Javy remained to pitch a scoreless ninth, but truthfully, none of that matters, the story had already been written by that point. Javier Vazquez had already provided all the requisite evidence to justify leaving him off the post-season roster.
Need more? Well, I can handle that request, with ease.
Assuming the Yankees don't lose every game for the rest of the season and allow Boston to slip into the post-season in their stead, the Bronx Bombers are headed to the playoffs to defend their 2009 World Series title.
Barring a similarly unlikely set-back for either Texas or Tampa Bay, the three AL teams the Yankees would potentially face in their run to the World Series would be the Twins, Rangers and Rays.
Since the Yankees couldn't possibly face the Rays in the ALDS, their first-round opponents would be either Texas or Minnesota. In two starts against Texas this year, Javy has managed only 9.1 innings, allowing 10 runs for a 9.64 ERA. Over those 9.1 innings, he allowed 14 hits, 4 walks and 1 hit batter for a 1.93 WHIP. The Rangers' batting average against him was .333. He doesn't appear useful in any capacity against Texas.
If the Yankees were to face Minnesota first, maybe he could find work against the Twins? In only one start against Minnesota this year, Javy lasted 5.2 innings, serving up 8 hits, 3 more walks and 5 earned runs for a 7.94 ERA and a 1.94 WHIP. The Twins hit .364 against him, slugged a whopping .773, and amassed an impressive 1.180 OPS. Of the eight hits he allowed, four were doubles, one was a triple and one a home-run. Batting practice, literally.
Say the Yankees are fortunate enough to advance to the ALCS and potentially face the Rays there. In four outings against Tampa, two of them being starts, Javy threw 16 innings, allowing 14 runs for a 7.88 ERA. In those outings, he allowed 20 hits, 6 walks and 3 hit batters for a 1.63 WHIP. The Rays hit .317 against him, also totaling a .958 OPS. I fail to see where he may be of use against them either.
It pains me to kick a man when he's down, especially a Yankee, I know he's trying his best, but wearing only pinstriped glasses and denying the obvious doesn't help a thing.
Javier Vazquez may hold value down the road, if the Yankees can fight their way through a crowded American League field to reach the World Series. He has proven that he can pitch in the National League, as last season's fourth place Cy Young finish can attest to. Also this season, during inter-league match-ups, Javy went 2-1 in four starts against NL foes, posting a 2.88 ERA and a sparkling 0.92 WHIP. Clearly, he has the ability to pitch against NL teams, but that has rarely translated to American League success.
The other problem is that it is highly difficult to bench a guy for several weeks, basically telling him he's unwanted, then expecting him to be able to perform when called upon in the World Series. Damaged confidence and accumulated rust tend to hamper pitching performances, and the Yankees can hardly afford more of the same from Javy in October.
Due to his veteran status and rather generous contract, the Yankees may still try to squeeze some value from him if they are able to and include him on the post-season roster, I won't be terribly surprised if they do. However, being there for an emergency and actually pitching in the playoffs, against teams that have eaten him alive in 2010 are vastly different prospects. His most recent meltdown may serve to relegate him to spectator-only status along with you and I.