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Javier Car­los Vázquez (born July 25, 1976) is a for­mer Major League Base­ball start­ing pitch­er. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he pitched for the Flori­da Mar­lins (2011), Atlanta Braves (2009), Chica­go White Sox (2006–2008), Ari­zona Dia­mond­backs (2005), New York Yan­kees (2004, 2010) and Mon­tréal Expos (1998–2003). Vázquez was born in Ponce, Puer­to Rico.

Personal life

Vázquez is mar­ried to Kamille Vázquez. They have three chil­dren: Kami­la, Javier Josué, and Kar­i­ana. Vázquez claims that he dis­likes being the cen­ter of atten­tion out­side of the play­ing field and describes him­self as a ‘house man’ spend­ing his free time with his chil­dren. Vázquez is also inter­est­ed in art pieces espe­cial­ly the ones that are pro­duced by Puer­to Rican artists and he pos­sess­es paint­ings by Wichie Tor­res and Iván Rosario. He is a wine afi­ciona­do and is edu­cat­ing him­self about the dif­fer­ent class­es of wine in order to begin a pri­vate col­lec­tion. Vázquez has also expressed that he has always been inter­est­ed in char­i­ty work, this inter­est was fueled by his par­ents as he states that a Chris­t­ian upbring­ing and their sup­port when he began prac­tic­ing sports were part of this influence.

Professional career

Minor Leagues

Vázquez was a 5th round draft pick of the Mon­tréal Expos in the 1994 ama­teur draft. The same year, he began his pro­fes­sion­al career with the Mon­tréal Expos’s Rook­ie ball club in West Palm Beach, Flori­da, the GCL Expos. He struck out 56, walk­ing 15, in a team lead­ing 67 innings pitched. In 1995 he was pro­mot­ed to the class A Albany Pole­cats where in 102 innings he struck out 87 but also walk­ing 47. In 1996 with class A Del­mar­va Shore­birds he pitched 164.1 with a team lead­ing 173 strike­outs and 57 walks. The fol­low­ing year he start­ed with high A ball, West Palm Beach Expos, strik­ing out 100 and walk­ing 28 in 112 innings, before mov­ing up to Class AA Har­ris­burg Sen­a­tors where he struck out 47 and walked 12 in 42 innings.

Mon­tréal Expos (1998−2003)

Vázquez made his Major League debut for the Expos on April 3, 1998 pitch­ing five innings in the loss. He picked up his first win May 26 against the Ari­zona Dia­mond­backs. He fin­ished his rook­ie sea­sons start­ing 32 games, pitch­ing 172 innings and strik­ing out 139 batters.

In 1999, as part of a young Expos rota­tion of “twen­tysome­thing”, “tall”, “pow­er” pitch­ers Vázquez start­ed the sea­son as the team’s num­ber three pitch­er but, after being sent back to the minor leagues would miss a month and a half of the major league sea­son. He fin­ished the year with 26 starts, includ­ing his first career shut out Sep­tem­ber 14 against the Dodgers, 154 innings and 131 strike­outs caus­ing ESPN to write that he had “turn[ed] the cor­ner … dra­mat­i­cal­ly.” He was the los­ing pitch­er when David Cone, of the New York Yan­kees, pitched a per­fect game against the Expos on July 18, 1999.

In 2000, Vázquez had become the open­ing day start of the Expos. He was thought of as a promis­ing young pitch­er and pitched the team’s open­ing game on April 5 against the Los Ange­les Dodgers, strik­ing out five bat­ters in sev­en innings in an Expos win. The Expos would win his fol­low­ing three starts and eight of his first eleven leav­ing the Expos at 27–23 on June 1. In the wake of injuries to pitch­ers Matt Blank, Mike Thur­man and Hide­ki Irabu, Vázquez’s 2.79 ERA, good for fourth-best in the NL, was not­ed as a key part to their suc­cess. After a sweep of the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles and a win against the New York Yan­kees the Expos were at 31–23, 2nd behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, 3rd in the entire Nation­al League. His June sixth start, under pres­sure, Vázquez struck out 7 bat­ters in 6 innings but he also walked four and gave up a home run to Bernie Williams, the Expos lost and would go on to lose sev­en of their next nine leav­ing them at 33–31, eighth in the Nation­al League. The Expos would fin­ish 67–95 and Vázquez would pitch 217 innings, strik­ing out 196 while only walk­ing 61. He was invit­ed to play in the 2000 Japan­ese All-Star Series 2000.

By 2001, Vázquez had become the ace of the Expos pitch­ing staff thought of as a “bright young star and an All-Star for years to come.” On April sec­ond he opened the sea­son in Chica­go, pitch­ing five innings, strik­ing out five but walk­ing three against the Cubs. The Expos won a close game five to four. He pitched bet­ter the fol­low­ing start, the home open­er at Olympic Sta­di­um strik­ing out nine with­out issu­ing any walks in sev­en innings and would fin­ish the sea­son with 223 innings pitched, 208 strike­outs, while only walk­ing 44.

In 2002, Vázquez pitched a then career high 230 innings strik­ing out 179 bat­ters while walk­ing 49. Despite this he lost his arbi­tra­tion case fol­low­ing the sea­son and was award­ed $6 mil­lion rather than his request­ed $7.15 million.

In 2003, Vázquez pitched 230 innings strik­ing out a then career high 241 bat­ters while walk­ing 57. Regard­ed as one of the leagues top pitch­ers he sig­naled to then GM Omar Minaya that he might not resign with the Expos, a team then threat­ened with con­trac­tion. Lat­er when asked by the New York Times about his expe­ri­ence in Mon­tréal that year he said it was tough “being over there hav­ing no own­er. If you need­ed some­body the last cou­ple years when we were in the hunt, espe­cial­ly last year, we could­n’t get a play­er we need­ed.” The arti­cle went on to note that for finan­cial rea­sons the Expos not only could­n’t “obtain play­ers from oth­er teams who might have helped the Expos stay in the wild-card race, but the Expos also weren’t allowed to call up play­ers from the minor leagues.”

New York Yan­kees (2004)

On Decem­ber 16, 2003, the New York Yan­kees acquired Vázquez from the Expos in exchange for Nick John­son, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. He agreed to a four-year deal through the 2007 sea­son. Enter­ing the sea­son The Hard­ball Times pre­dict­ed him as their “con­sen­sus pick for the Cy Young”.

Fol­low­ing a strong start to the sea­son he was named a 2004 all-star.

Ari­zona Dia­mond­backs (2005)

Fol­low­ing a four walk, two strike­out per­for­mance and game sev­en loss to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 Amer­i­can League Cham­pi­onship Series, the Yan­kees sent Vázquez, Brad Halsey, and Dion­er Navar­ro, to the Ari­zona Dia­mond­backs in exchange for Randy John­son on Jan­u­ary 11, 2005. John­son, then a 10 time all-star, had won the Nation­al League Cy Young award each year from 1999 to 2002 and had fin­ished in sec­ond place in Cy Young vot­ing that year (strik­ing out a league high 290 bat­ters with only 44 walks in 245 innings.)

Ari­zon­a’s open­ing day starter, Vázquez struck out two with­out walk­ing any­one in a short­ened one inning start. In 33 starts over­all, he struck out 192 and walked 46 in 215 innings. In the month of May he pitched 46 innings, with­out walk­ing a sin­gle bat­ter. The stretch was bro­ken at 54 innings in the 5th inning of a June ninth start against Minnesota.

After pitch­ing the 2005 sea­son with Ari­zona, Vázquez for­mal­ly request­ed a trade from the team, ask­ing for a loca­tion which was “eas­i­er for his fam­i­ly in Puer­to Rico to visit.”

Chica­go White Sox (2006−2008)

On Decem­ber 20, 2005, Vázquez was trad­ed to the Chica­go White Sox for Orlan­do Hernán­dez, Luis Viz­caíno, and Chris Young. Dur­ing the 2007 sea­son he struck out 213 and walked 50 in 216 innings pitched.

Vázquez agreed to play for the Puer­to Rico Team in the 2006 World Base­ball Clas­sic, join­ing fel­low Puer­to Rican play­ers Car­los Del­ga­do, Car­los Bel­trán, Bernie Williams, amongst oth­ers rep­re­sent­ing the island in a team man­aged by St. Louis Car­di­nals third base coach Jose Oquendo.

In the 2007 sea­son, Vázquez exceed­ing the two hun­dred strike­outs mark marked the third time he had done this in his career with the oth­er two occa­sions being in 2001 and 2003. This sea­son was the sev­enth sea­son in his career where he had thrown at least two hun­dred innings. The only sea­son that he was not able to work this quan­ti­ty of innings was in 2004 when Joe Torre, then man­ag­er of the New York Yan­kees decid­ed to jump some turns in the team’s rota­tion. Vázquez cul­mi­nat­ed that year with 198 thrown innings. When asked about Javier’s per­for­mance dur­ing the sea­son in an inter­view, White Sox man­ag­er Ozzie Guil­lén not­ed that Vázquez had been throw­ing well for some time but the team had not been able to cap­i­tal­ize on this until it was too late in the sea­son, specif­i­cal­ly refer­ring to the team’s per­for­mance dur­ing the summer.

Atlanta Braves (2009)

On Decem­ber 4, 2008, Vázquez was trad­ed, along with Boone Logan, to the Atlanta Braves for minor league catch­er Tyler Flow­ers, short­stop Brent Lil­lib­ridge, third base­man Jon Gilmore and pitch­er San­tos Rodriguez. With the Braves in 2009, Vázquez had what was per­haps his most suc­cess­ful sea­son with 238 strike­outs and 44 walks in 219 innings. He also led the majors in sac­ri­fice hits, with 20.

Vázquez came in fourth place in the vot­ing for the 2009 NL Cy Young Award.

Sec­ond stint with the New York Yankees

On Decem­ber 22, 2009 the New York Yan­kees re-acquired Vázquez, this time from the Braves with LHP Boone Logan, in exchange for OF Melky Cabr­era, LHP Mike Dunn and pitch­ing prospect Aro­dys Viz­caíno. At this time he was thought of as “one of the top starters in all of base­ball” after what was thought of as being one of the best if not the best sta­tis­ti­cal sea­sons by a pitch­er in 2009.

On July 21, 2010 he became the third active pitch­er to beat all 30 MLB teams along with Bar­ry Zito and Jamie Moy­er. After strug­gling in August, the Yan­kees tem­porar­i­ly demot­ed Vázquez to the bullpen. In his final appear­ance of the sea­son, Vázquez came in in relief against the Rays and pro­ceed­ed to hit three bat­ters in a row (tying a big-league record), while the Rays went on to score two runs on no hits. Javier Vázquez fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son with a 10–10 win-loss record and an ERA of 5.32.

Due to his strug­gles in the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Yan­kees once again demot­ed Vázquez to the bullpen for him to be on the post­sea­son ros­ter. The Yan­kees won the 2010 ALDS against the Min­neso­ta Twins in 3 games, but lost to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS in 6 games. Vázquez was released after the sea­son was over.

Flori­da Mar­lins (2011)

Fol­low­ing the 2010 sea­son, he reached an agree­ment on a one-year $7 mil­lion con­tract with the Flori­da Mar­lins. The deal was final­ized on Decem­ber 2. He began the sea­son by going 3–6 with a 7.09 ERA through his first 13 games. After that, he went 10–5 with a 1.92 ERA the rest of the way, fin­ish­ing the sea­son with a com­plete game.

He made his first start for the Flori­da Mar­lins April 3 against the New York Mets strik­ing out one in a short­ened two inning start. His first inter­league start against Flori­da rival Tam­pa Bay he struck out sev­en bat­ters in sev­en innings while walk­ing two in a five to three win in what was called his “best start of the year.” Fol­low­ing this start he con­tin­ued to pitch well, strik­ing out 20 and walk­ing 5 (one inten­tion­al) in 19.2 innings in games at Los Ange­les, Ari­zona and Flori­da. At the end of the sea­son Vazquez had a 29 score­less inning streak, the longest in Mar­lins his­to­ry, dur­ing which he struck out 28 bat­ters while only walk­ing 4.

Pitch­ing style

Vazquez throws from a 34 arm slot with “good com­mand of a running/sinking fast­ball” that has, accord­ing to Fan­Graphs, over­all aver­aged 91 mph accord­ing to Josh Kalk of The Hard­ball Times was “over 93 mph on aver­age” in his peak. Kalk con­sid­ers this par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive con­sid­er­ing his arm angle not­ing that “nor­mal­ly pitch­ers who have a very low release point sac­ri­fice speed and ver­ti­cal move­ment for hor­i­zon­tal move­ment.” Kalk goes on to note that Vazquez’s fast­ball aver­ages nine inch­es of ver­ti­cal move­ment “thanks to an excep­tion­al­ly high spin rate on his fastball.”

He also throws a “tight” slid­er which has aver­aged 83 mph and “a big break­ing curve-ball” which has aver­aged 74 mph. His curve­ball is thought to be espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult to hit, in 2004 Sandy Alo­mar, Jr. called it the “best break­ing ball I’ve seen; Bert Blyleven does­n’t throw it bet­ter […] you don’t know where it’s going to land. He changes speeds with the break­ing ball. He throws it hard. He throws it at you. He knows how to set you up.” Kalk calls it a “slurvy curve with huge hor­i­zon­tal move­ment and lit­tle ver­ti­cal drop” not­ing that he “can add and sub­tract from a pitch that can like any­thing from one of his bet­ter slid­ers to a 65 mph beast with mas­sive hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal move­ment.” Poet Car­son Cis­tul­li once wrote that “Javier Vazquez’s curve­piece makes me a Bet­ter Man”

He fea­tures two types of change­ups “one that darts like a cut­ter and one that resem­bles a screw­ball”. Kalk notes an 11 mph dif­fer­ence between his fast­ball and change­up, Fan­Graphs a 10.5 mph aver­age for his career (90.9 mph com­pared to 80.4 mph).

Fast­ball velocity

Base­ball writer Dave Cameron writes in his piece “Javier Vazquez’s Fast­ball Is Prob­a­bly Not Com­ing Back” that begin­ning in 2010 Vazquez’s fast­ball dropped from 91 mph to 89 mph and that “giv­en his career work­load, I wouldn’t bet on Vazquez’s fast­ball ever com­ing back.” In May, 2011 the Mia­mi Her­ald not­ed that while Vazquez’s veloc­i­ty had been down “now it is reg­is­ter­ing in the low 90s. When one fast­ball snapped his glove Fri­day, Buck said he glanced up at the read­ing on the Dodger Sta­di­um score­board and saw 94.” In June, 2011 Joe Fris­aro con­firmed that his veloc­i­ty has “increased” and that Vazquez’s fast­ball was top­ping out “at a sea­son-high 94 mph”.

This was sta­tis­ti­cal­ly con­firmed in Sep­tem­ber by Eric Sei­d­man: “from June 11 until now, Vazquez threw his fast­ball 53 per­cent of the time, and the pitch aver­aged 91.1 mph, right in line with his career”.