As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.
Next up, Javier Vazquez as written by the Manchester Union Leader's Brian MacPherson, also of One if by Land
It's almost a knee-jerk reaction in Atlanta. Walk into your friendly neighborhood Publix and hang out in the produce aisle and mention the name "Javier Vazquez," and the reaction you get will be almost unanimous: Trade him. Trade him. Trade him. Trade him.
Well, OK, the Braves have a chance to go into next season with an overflowing starting rotation. Tommy Hanson is a stud. Jair Jurrjens is a stud. Tim Hudson has stud-like symptoms. Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe are st--, well, they're signed to lucrative deals through 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The Braves need a bat. The Braves have pitching to spare. Vazquez isn't young and isn't locked into a lengthy deal that ruins his trade value.
It only makes sense: Trade him.
But there are two issues with this:
- As Robert Moses Grove once said after descending from Mount ShibePark, thou shalt not ever have too much pitching. Thou also shalt covet thy neighbor's pitching even if thou shalt be blessed with too much pitching.
- Javier Vazquez was one of the best pitchers in the National League this season.
"I'm not going to play GM," third baseman Chipper Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm just going to give you my opinion on it: Javier Vazquez needs to be on this team next year. I think we'd all be disappointed if he wasn't."
Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright will dominate Cy Young voting this season, but if you believe in the idea that pitchers only can control walks, strikeouts and home runs, there wasn't a better pitcher in the National League this season than Vazquez.
No Senior Circuit pitcher other than Vazquez had more than 200 strikeouts this season while issuing fewer than 50 walks and surrendering fewer than 25 home runs. Not one. Not Carpenter, who struck out just 144. Not Lincecum, who walked 68. Not Wainwright, who walked 66.
Vazquez struck out 238 and walked just 44. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.41 was far and away better than any other pitcher in the National League - except Arizona's Dan Haren, who, incidentally, gave up 27 home runs.
In his career in the National League, Vazquez has a 4.02 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3.5. Combining Vazquez with Jurrjens and a full season from Hanson, the Braves could go into next season with the best starting rotation in the major leagues.
Frank Wren, it would behoove you to Heed the Advice of Chipper: If you have World Series aspirations next season, hang onto Javier Vazquez.
(Photo courtesy of Chris J. Nelson)