Jason Vargas of the Seattle Mariners pitched the first shutout of this career Friday night.* His two prior outings, however were less than successful as he allowed eleven runs in 7 2/3 innings.
*Vargas pitched nine shutout innings on May 12th of this year, but the game went into extra innings and he was not credited with a shutout.
In his starts of May 23-29, Vargas failed to spin his cutter very differently than his four-seam fastball:
The fastball is in green and the cutter in yellow. The spin is so close, some of the cutters were classified as fastballs by the PITCHf/x algorithm. With little difference in movement and less velocity, batters went 3 for 7 against the cutter and 12 for 35 against the fastball.
Looking at the same spin chart from June 3rd, Vargas made two changes:
First, notice that the cutter shows complete separation from the fastball. The spin between the two pitches is very different. Batters went 0 for 2 on the cutter. More importantly, notice the fastball now exhibits two centers of mass, lighter, faster pitch with more vertical break and a darker, slower pitch with more horizontal break. That latter pitch is a two-seam fastball, something he didn't throw in his two previous starts. Batters went two for 17 against those two fastballs. So Vargas added a pitch and improved the spin on his cutter. He went from two fastballs that were tough to distinguish to three fastball that moved very differently, and found great success.