Saturday, September 3, 2011

Does Jason Vargas have a future in Seattle?

By Outsider Steve

Jason Vargas has been the biggest pitching riddle I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Vargas, a 6 foot 200 lb south paw from Southern California with a deceptively good arsenal of off-speed and breaking pitches. He is the prototypical left-handed pitcher most teams would love having in their rotations when he is on his game. But that is the problem, Vargas has rarely been effective as of late. As a matter of fact since July 6th, a 2-0 loss to Oakland, Vargas has posted an ERA of 6.49. That isn't just bad, that is John Halama/Dave Fleming bad. It's the type of work that gets pitchers released. Which is exactly what ended up being the end result for those two. Which could be in Vargas' future if he can't figure out how to locate his good stuff over his next five starts.

The second-half collapse isn't anything new for Jason Vargas. Not in the least. After starting the 2010 season 6-4 with a 3.22 ERA, Vargas then closed out the second-half by losing 7 of his last 8 decisions, and posting second-half numbers of 3-8, 4.50 ERA, 45 R /96 H, 51 K's /28 BB's, 10 HR's, in 91.2 IP. It wasn't the most ideal way to close a season, but remember, before going into the 2010 season, Jason Vargas had never logged more then 125 innings pitched at any level. So when the collapse began, it didn't exactly come as a surprise to anyone. The 2010 expectation all along for Jason Vargas was to learn how to be consistent pitcher, while logging meaningful innings at the big league level. And really even though his second-half struggles over shadowed his overall body of work, I believe did gain more value during the season then not.

That is what has made 2011 so puzzling to everyone who watches Jason Vargas pitch. Most were expecting Vargas to take the next step in his development ladder, much as Doug Fister ended up doing. But he hasn't. Not even close. And in all fairness his first half was exactly what we were looking for. 6-5 w/l, 3.58 ERA, 45 ER/104 H, 75 K's /30 BB's, 10 HR's in 113.1 IP. To go along with three complete game shutouts, and nine starts of 7 or more innings, and because of Vargas' first half numbers his value and responsibility began to rise with each solid outing. No longer was he a guy just cutting his teeth at the big league level. He was a valued member of the rotation, with a solid future as the third starter behind Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. Then on July 6th at Oakland, Vargas' second-half collapse began. And to be honest this collapse seemed to come out of nowhere. After throwing a complete game shutout against San Diego on July 1st, Vargas has gone 1-8, 6.49 ERA, 44 ER /82 H, 33 K's /24 BB's, 11 HR's in 61 IP. Vargas has only pitched into the 7th inning only three times during that span, while the Mariners are only 2-9 in the 11 games Vargas has started. Again over shadowing all his first-half numbers, and leaving the same questions needing answered again.

In two plus seasons in the starting rotation Jason Vargas has been the truth definition of an inconsistent pitcher. Yes, his first half's have gotten better, but his second half's also have gotten progressively worse. For a guy who is expecting to make more then 5 million dollars in arbitration this off-season, and who has already made close to 3 million dollars in his first two full seasons as a starter, he has got to be better then the 19-31 W/L, 4.64 ERA, 220 ER /469 H, 278 K's /132 BB's, 55 HR's in 458.2 inning of work he has given the Mariners up to this point. Eventually Vargas has to be able to put together a full season of consistent starts before he should/could be considered a reliable member of our rotation. Because up to this point, Vargas has been exactly what John Halama and Dave Fleming were at the beginning of their careers before their epic collapses ended their careers. Solid lefties who can get major league hitters out with control and assortment of cutters and off-speed pitches, but were unable to be consistent enough to put together complete seasons. Making it almost impossible to justify keeping them around. Let's hope for Vargas' sake that he can put together consistent outings through his last five starts. Because if he can't, there will not be a 2012 available for Vargas to turn it around. Nor should there be.

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