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Vazquez's velocity dips and strikeouts disappear

For the second consecutive start Javier Vazquez was taken out early. He threw 106 pitches in four innings and was removed after allowing two runs. He threw 4 1/3 innings in his previous start, a 6-3 loss to Boston.

While Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Tigers did not spiral out of control after Vazquez was lifted before the fifth inning, his start reflected a declining trend in his overall performance this season and has sent whispers of dead-arm issues.

This season has gone quite differently than last year for Vazquez.

Vazquez finished fourth in the NL CY Young voting last year after going 15-10 with a 2.87 for the Atlanta Braves. He was acquired by the Yankees this offseason for Melky Cabrera and it seemed certain that his second tour in pinstripes would go better than his first in 2004.

Such has not been the case—at all. He is 9-9 with an unflattering 4.89 ERA.

What is lacking most from the 2010 version of Vazquez are high strikeout totals. Vazquez had a career-high 9.77 strikeouts per nine innings last season and has a career-low 6.95 K/9 this year.

Vazquez recorded 15 starts last season in which he struck out eight or more batters. He has just two such starts this year.

Since departing from the Yankees in 2004, Vazquez honed his off-speed pitches, which accounted for his terrific strikeout numbers in recent years. His off-speed stuff is nullified, however, if it is only offset by a fastball struggling to reach 89 mph.

In the month of July, Vazquez averaged 88.9 mph on his fastball. In his first start of August, Vazquez topped out at 88.8 mph. He danced around similar velocities in Monday  night’s loss.

Courtesy of, here are the monthly averages for Vazquez's fastball velocity (in mph), starting in April 2008: 

4/08 -- 91.6
5/08 -- 92.1
6/08 -- 91.8
7/08 -- 91.8
8/08 -- 91.7
9/08 -- 92.1
4/09 -- 90.4
5/09 -- 91.2
6/09 -- 91.6
7/09 -- 91.4
8/09 -- 91.5
9/09 -- 91.2
4/10 -- 89.1
5/10 -- 89.2
6/10 -- 89.2
7/10 -- 88.9

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