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« Arguing the Strike Zone in the A's-Red Sox game | Main | Transforming Morton »

Vargas Adds a Pitch

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:

Jason Vargas, spin on fast pitches, May 23 & 29 2001.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:

Jason Vargas, spin on fast pitches, June 3, 2011.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.

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