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Entries in Jason Vargas (3)

Thursday
Dec202012

Belt-High Pitches Hurting Jason Vargas

As a finesse, fly-ball lefty, Jason Vargas was a perfect fit for Seattle's Safeco Field. Vargas will still pitch in a plum environment after being traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales, considering that Angel Stadium kills right-handed power hitters and he'll have Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos covering the gaps behind him. However, Trout and Bourjos can only help Vargas if he keeps the ball out of the cheap seats. That has become a serious problem recently, as the former Long Beach State star has left more pitches over the middle of the plate.

Vargas' home run rate has climbed three years running, from 0.8 per nine innings pitched in 2010 to one per nine in 2011 and 1.4 HR/9 this past season. He coughed up 35 home runs in 2012, tying Phil Hughes for second-most among starting pitchers. Vargas got burned when he tossed belt-high pitches:

Location of Vargas' home runs allowed in 2012:

Vargas allowed 20 homers on pitches thrown to the vertical middle of the strike zone, a total topped only by New York's Ivan Nova (21). The lefty gave hitters more chances to tee off on belt-high pitches, too: He threw about 38% of his pitches to the middle of the plate, up from 36% in 2011 and 32% in 2010. For context, the three-year average for starting pitchers is slightly over 31%.

Safeco provided a safe haven for Vargas, who was highly successful at home during his M's career (3.34 ERA, 0.9 HR/9) but an also-ran on the road (4.85 ERA, 1.5 HR/9). L.A. is a great landing spot, with Angel Stadium suppressing home runs for righty batters by 20% compared to a neutral park (Safeco cuts righty homers by 30%) and Trout and Bourjos running down everything in play. That said, Vargas can't rely on Trout bringing back balls destined for the rocks every night. Great park and outfield defense aside, Vargas must sharpen his command to limit those long drives.

Monday
Aug292011

Changing Vargas

Pro Ball NW notes that Jason Vargas of the Seattle Mariners doesn't feel like he's pitching badly.  That's quite possible.  Sometimes batters simply hit good pitches.  With Jason, however, that's not the case.

Through July 20th, Jason sported a 3.94 ERA, with 125 hits allowed in 130 1/3 innings.  He was also keeping his change up down.

Jason Vargas, change up, 2011 season through July 20th.In that time, batters hit .270/.332/.456 against the fastball but .212/.268/.297 against the change.  The pitch is designed to fool batters, and it was working fine.

Starting on July 25th, Vargas holds a 6.46 ERA in seven starts, allowing 53 hits in 39 innings.  Note the difference in his change up:

Jason Vargas, change up, 2011 season since July 25th.Vargas puts more of his changes up in the strike zone, and more in the lower corner to the left-hand of the catcher, getting away from the area of his success.  In this period, batters are hitting .333/.406/.533 against the fastball and .292/.354/.431 against the change.  With his change up no longer fooling batters, his fastball becomes less effective as well.  He is pitching badly.

Saturday
Jun042011

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.