A Closer Look at Jason Vargas

Whenever the topic of the Mariner’s pitching staff is brought up, naturally the talk turns to Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda.  Why shouldn’t it?  Arguably the best right handed pitcher in the game (I might be a little biased) and a potential ace in Pineda.  It’s the one area Mariner fans can look towards with pride regardless of how horrible our offense is.  The game is played with more than two starting pitchers however and over the past two seasons Jason Vargas has established himself as a solid major league arm.  But what is he?  With what we have in house Vargas should be penciled in as the number 3, behind Felix and Pineda, but does he belong there?  Let’s take a look at how Jason stacks up against other number 3 & 4 starters in the American League.

For this exercise I’ve picked 16 potential number 3 starters for next season and compared their 2 previous years production.  Former Rangers’ ace, C.J. Wilson will be included by the way. 

Over the previous two seasons Vargas has been worth 5 WAR which ranks 5th over that time frame behind C.J. Wilson (10.5), Justin Masterson (7.6), Ervin Santana (5.7) and Scott Baker (5.2) and just ahead of Clay Buchholz (4.9) and Matt Harrison (4.2).  It should be noted however Buchholz only made 14 starts last season before hitting the DL for the remainder and the season, and all of Harrison’s value came last season, his first as a full time starter. 

It will come as no surprise that Vargas ranks 14th out of 16 in terms of K/9 at 5.65, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t survive as a number 3 either.  His BB/9 of 2.58 ranks 4th, and he comes in smack dab in the middle in terms of WHIP at 1.28.  Anyone who has watched Jason pitch knows he’s a pitch to contact, let his defense and ball park help him out type of guy. 

But how does he stack up against American League  number 4 starting pitchers?  For this test I picked out 15 potential number 4’s around the league.  Ready, set, go.

Vargas’ WAR of 5 over the previous two seasons now only ranks behind Ervin Santana (5.7).  Thank you C.J. Wilson for bumping Santana down a spot.  Behind Vargas you have the young, right handed, Rick Porcello (4.7) and the often injured Jake Peavy (4.7) albeit 35 starts over the past two seasons. 

When we take a look at the K/9 we see Jason jump up a few spots to 11th just ahead of Wade Davis.  However when it comes to BB/9 he falls to 6th, with Josh Tomlin (1.51) and Brett Anderson (2.16) leading the way.  Vargas continues to stay in the middle of the pack when it comes to WHIP when compared in this grouping. 

With the pitchers currently rostered it’s almost a no-brainer to have Vargas as our number 3.  Splitting up the right handed Pineda and Beavan, Vargas’ value to the team gets a slight boost.

With all that said, in the future, possibly even sometime this season, I would like to see him pitching as a number 4.  This would all depend on Danny Hultzen’s development however, as he could potentially slot in between Felix and Pineda, with Vargas continuing to break up Pineda and Beavan, just moved down one spot.  But that’s a story for another spring or summer day.

  • Anonymous

    It’s nice to see somebody appreciate Vargas for a change. He shouldn’t be dismissed as just rotation fodder. He hasn’t embarrassed himself the past two seasons with the M’s. I for one was impressed when he added a “twist” to his windup for the last three starts he made last season, which improved his results noticeably. I think he may be better than expected during the next season. There is going to be some competition for rotation spots this spring. I like that.

    • Anonymous

      According to pitch f/x the last three starts, aka the “twist” starts, showed his greatest movement on his two seamer, and the best swinging strike rate on his change up!