Overheard on the radio while on the Long Island Expressway this weekend: If the playoffs started today, Javier Vazquez wouldn't be in the Yankees rotation. It probably goes without saying that it was said with anger and venom directed at the lost Yankees starter in the wake of Saturday's mess against the White Sox.
Apologies for not remembering exactly which one of New York's radio voices expressed this thought over the weekend, but that anger couldn't be more misplaced. Oh, he's been awful and it's hard to watch a guy pitch that poorly without hurling a string of profanities that would make Richard Pryor blush, it's just that it's hard to muster much anger for something that doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Even if Vazquez had been mediocre as he was during his first stint with the Yankees he wouldn't be given the honor of a postseason start because Phil Hughes has arrived. Seven shutout innings on Sunday pushed his ERA to 1.14, he's striking out nearly a batter an inning and, as he showed earlier last week against Baltimore, he's figured out how to succeed without having the best of his stuff at his disposal.
Hughes hasn't quite made Vazquez irrelevant, but he has made it a lot clearer that those choosing to obsess over Javy's every outing are simply choosing to get themselves upset about the one negative on a team that's got a boatload of positives. If you want something to be worried about, it's better to concern yourself with Curtis Granderson's injury and the dropoff to a Marcus Thames/Randy Winn platoon in the outfield.
For a sense of history, just remember what Chien-Ming Wang did at the start of the 2009 season and what Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre did in the second half. None pitched well and Wang reached Vazquezian levels of incompetence. It wound up mattering not at all. And last year's team didn't have anyone pitching as well as Hughes in the fourth slot.
That said, getting Vazquez right is something worth doing. Frankie Piliere, a former major league scout and FanHouse writer, penned a compelling column about mechanical concerns. Identifying them may be easier than fixing them, but it's a good place to start the process. Skipping Javy's next start and working on those issues makes sense because patience is a virtue available with the fifth starter on a team that's 14-4 in games started by the other four guys.
You can disagree and make Vazquez the focal point of the Yankees season if you like. You can even suggest trading him to the Mets, if you're into wasting people's time or a newspaper's ink. You're going to have a hard time convincing anyone actually watching this team, though.