Vazquez still struggling mechanically
Javier Vazquez’s season has obviously not gone well, with the right-hander struggling in basically every start he has had to date (even his one win against Oakland). While many have been quick to blame Vazquez’s raw stuff, saying that it is just not good enough to set down American League hitters, and particularly the AL East hitters, there is a more tangible culprit for the woes—poor mechanics. As stated by manager Joe Girardi after Vazquez’s recent outing against his former team, the White Sox, “Mechanics are a tricky thing,” and, so far, problems with mechanics – i.e., delivery – have truly plagued the embattled Vazquez (he himself discussed it following his latest ineffective effort, as well).
But, what is wrong exactly? Is it his upper half or his lower half? While it is difficult for me to explain the issues in detail, as I am not an expert in such matters, Frankie Piliere, a former scout with the Texas Rangers turned FanHouse scribe, is and provided a nuanced and comprehensive take on Vazquez’s mechanical struggles over the weekend.
Here’s a bit from the read:
The way he’s delivering the ball, he’s throwing against his front leg, rather than driving over the top of it and getting on top of the baseball. Again, Vazquez always has and more than likely always will collapse on his back leg and drift toward the plate. But, recently it’s just gotten away from him. Because he’s unable to drive over that front leg and get on top, he’s forced to rotate around his torso and shoulders, creating more of a side-to-side effect than a downhill effect.
What that turn of his shoulders does to the pitch after it leaves his hand is what’s directly leading to all those mistake fastballs and rolling curveballs over the fat part of the plate. As his front side drifts toward the plate, his lead shoulder is going with it and opening up much too early. The impact of that is a nearly squared up upper body facing home plate, making it almost impossible for Vazquez to get the extension he needs to get the ball to the outside corner against righties, and the inside corner on lefties.
With that front shoulder wide open, he’s getting around his pitches rather than on top, causing the ball to repeatedly leak way back toward the middle of the plate. Not to mention, he’s giving the hitters a very good look at the ball and his pitches are coming in on a flat plane. Pitchers need that good downward angle to stay out of the middle of the plate, and get the bite on the breaking ball and sinking fastball.
Granted, it is a long read, but I think the main takeaway, from a general point of view, is that Vazquez, when he is right (mechanically), has good stuff. He has the ability to be good, and that ability is not dependent upon being in the National League or the American League. If the Yankees can help him correct the delivery problems that he is currently struggling with – Piliere even connects the mechanical issues to Vazquez’s velocity issues – then we could see a very effective pitcher emerge. It is similar to A.J. Burnett, who, like Vazquez, has a lot of talent and great raw stuff. When he turns into “Bad A.J.,” however, it is mainly the result of poor mechanics. Due to delivery issues, Vazquez is stuck being “Bad Javy” right now, but at the end of the day, it is correctable (a “Good Javy” exists).
Photo by the AP