Tuesday, March 16, 2010

State of the Rotation: Vazquez vs. Lackey

Next I suppose we will move on to the imports for each team. Both the Yankees and the Red Sox brought in a veteran right-hander starter to shore up their rotation during the off-season. The Yankees traded for Javier Vazquez a second time when they sent Melky Cabrera and Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves.

Vazquez had a career year for the Braves in 2009. No doubt it was a combination of his ability and experience that he had finally gained as a 12-year veteran. Vazquez struck out 238 batters and was sixth in the senior circuit with a 2.87 ERA. While he is on the wrong side of 30, Vazquez has evolved as a starter, relying less on his fastball and using his offspeed pitches to step and then put away hitters, something he did not do as a young pitcher when he threw a majority of fastballs (I'm looking at you Joba...).

The biggest thing Vazquez can do is take the ball every five days and eat innings. He will also give New York a reliable fourth option come post season time. Some will think that Vazquez will revert to something between his 2004 numbers and last season, but I would imagine that Vazquez will be far better than his '04 numbers, considering they are by far his worst numbers since his second year in the bigs.

After being a pillar of the Angels rotation for the last seven seasons, John Lackey departed sunny California for New England and the Bosox. Lackey has had injury troubles over the past two seasons, including an elbow injury that kept him out of the rotation until mid-May. Still, as Lackey returned to the rotation he performed at an above average level with a 3.83 ERA. He also maintained his standard seven strike outs per nine innings. Lackey doesn't seem to do any one specific thing better than everybody, but he does most things better than most starters.

It is likely that Lackey will not lead the league in ERA again, but somehow I feel like his performance has been undervalued over the past five years. He always takes the ball and he always gives you everything he has and that is usually enough for him to win.

While Vazquez is definitely the upgrade the Yankees needed in the third spot in the rotation, he doesn't have the track record of Lackey. A lot of that is Lackey's big game experience, which Vazquez doesn't really have. Both teams solidified their rotations with veteran righties, but the Red Sox got the guy everyone knows can win Game 7 of the World Series. I give the three spot to Beantown and the battle stands at 2-1 Sox.


Joey said...

If money was a factor for either team (which it isn't) Vazquez is the better deal.

Peter said...

Definitely Vazquez has a lot less risk involved. Hopefully after this season the Yankees have established either Hughes or Chamberlain in the rotation so they can let Vazquez walk.