The most maligned Yankee of 2010 is showing signs of redemption. With his commanding 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Javier Vazquez took one more in a recent set up steps towards emulating the pitcher that took the mound so successfully for the Atlanta Braves in 2009.
The season stats still aren't pretty. Even after registering seven innings on Monday, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out seven, Vazquez still holds a bloated 6.06 ERA and a rotational low 4-6 record.
But in his last 26 innings pitched (four starts and one relief appearance), Vazquez has sported a 2.76 ERA, allowing only eight runs on 18 hits and striking out 23 to only eight walks. His dominance over the lowly Orioles may be nothing to trumpet but his other appearances have come against the Tigers, Red Sox, Mets, and Twins, with only Minnesota giving him problems in that span.
Vazquez's recent stats somewhat mirror those of the pitcher Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman believed he was getting when he made the trade with Atlanta, surrendering the popular switch-hitting Melky Cabrera to give the 34-year-old pitcher a second run in New York. While his career has been a statistical roller coaster ride, the pitcher who has always held great peripherals, even in his rough years, was dominating in 2009. The default ace of the Atlanta staff, Javy posted career lows in ERA (2.87), WHIP (1.026) and H/9 (7.4). But throughout the entirety of April and half of May Vazquez was absolutely horrendous in 2010, getting blasted all over the ball park, never lasting more than 5 1/3 innings until he began his recent run of success against Detroit on May 12 (a game he lost but allowed only two runs in).
Vazquez ended April to a chorus of Bronx cheers. The media and the fans alike were quick to condemn the pitcher, believing him to be, at best, no better than he was in 2004 and, at worst, a disastrous mistake that needed to be traded or designated immediately. Typical New York hysteria, although not totally unwarranted given the inarguable stats. But after Tuesday night's start, it is time for the Yankee Universe to take a collective deep breath, step back, and give the talented Vazquez a chance to prove his worth in the New York rotation.
He'll never be the ace of the staff, but with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte, that was never the expectation. And with Phil Hughes' continuing evolution into an elite pitcher, Vazquez may not even need to be a great "4th" starter, ignoring where he technically pitches in the rotation.
Javy Vazquez may end up being the 5th best starter that the Yankees run out to the mound in 2010. But if he can keep up his recent proficiency — and history indicates he should on some level — Vazquez will be, without a doubt, the best 5th starter in the game and the Yankees will have the top rotation in all of baseball.