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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 Montreal 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 Montreal Expos in the 1994 amateur draft. The same year, he began his professional career with the Montreal 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.

Montreal 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 Montreal 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 3/4 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”.