The first 13 games of the season were rough for first time Florida Marlins pitcher Javier Vazquez. He only made it through 6 innings 6 times, 7 innings once and never recorded and out past the 7th inning. His season high in strikeouts was 7 at this point in the season.
His 7.09 ERA coupled with 11 homeruns allowed, a .297/.366/.521 triple-slash allowed, and a 47/31 K/BB in 66 innings after his June 11th start against the Arizona Diamondbacks were worthy of being placed on waivers for the reason of his unconditional release. Most people pointed to Vazquez’s horrendous 2010 stats and threw the proverbial “I told you he would suck” lines out there.
Vazquez was finding it difficult to hit 90 mph on the radar gun with his 4-seam fastball and was pitching almost backwards, like a right-handed version of what we like to call a “crafty lefty.” Take a quick look at his pitch data up to the June 11th start:
With less than 50% fastball I would say that pitching backwards is pretty accurate. As you can see, he also did not has a fastball average more than 89 mph. Pitching like this there was no wonder he was getting pounded Vin Mazzaro style. A change had to be made like a pitching coach telling a rookie pitcher how the big leagues work. Only problem was that Vazquez was soon-to-be 35 years old.
But it would appear that Vazquez had not only a change in approach but a change in velocity. Check out his new approach once he ditched the backwards pitching:
Vazquez went from throwing 49.7% fastballs below 89 mph on average to throwing 64% at 91 mph on average. I am not sure if the jump in velocity was due to a change in mechanics but I’m sure it aided in him throwing his fastball 15% more than he did before.
Not only was there a change in approach and velocity but also in Vazquez’s performance. Since his disastrous start in Arizona on June 11th left his ERA at 7.09 and many wondering if Vazquez was done, he would not simply rebound but dominate the competition to the tune of a 2.21 ERA, 9 homeruns allowed, a .228/.263/.355 triple-slash allowed, and a remarkable 93/18 K/BB rate in 101.2 innings pitched.
Over his last 16 games he has made it through 6 innings 13 times including going through 7 innings 9 times. He has a 9 start streak of at least 6 innings completed and he has reached double digit strikeouts 3 times over his last 11 outings.
The new approach came at the right time for this now 35 year old starter who is staring at free agency this offseason.