Where They Are Now: Jason Vargas

Those who visited MetsToday last year may remember this topic.

I felt it appropriate to re-visit where Jason Vargas is today … and you’ll understand why shortly.

Although Seattle is a million miles away and on the Left Coast, it is still in the Major Leagues. The Mariners — which was a media favorite in the preseason — are having a disappointing season to say the least. The team is so bad that future HOFer Junior Griffey couldn’t even stay awake through an entire ballgame. Their record is 28-41, dead last in the AL West. By all accounts, it is a lost season.

So if a pitcher on that club has a winning record, he must be pretty OK, eh?

Enter Jason Vargas, who owns a 5-2 record, 2.88 ERA, and 1.11 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting .225 against him. He’s pitched 6 or more innings in 11 of his 13 starts. The statheads will be quick to point out that his BABIP is .245, so some “luck” has to do with his outstanding numbers this year. Because, after all, pitchers have absolutely no control over what happens to the ball after they let go of it — if a batter gets fooled on a changeup and bounces it to short, or if he gets sawed off on a fastball inside, the pitcher is merely “lucky” and had nothing to do with such outcomes.

Lucky or not, Vargas has better numbers than any current Met other than Mike Pelfrey — and it could be argued that he’s pitching as well as Big Pelf, particularly when you consider that Vargas faces a DH every outing.

Why does it matter that Vargas is pitching so well? Because many Mets fans have forgotten that Vargas was Mets property for a little over two full years (November 2006 – December 2008). He pitched in only two games as a Met — one so-so performance, one awful, both while he was less than 100%. Vargas suffered from multiple nagging injuries throughout his short tenure with the Mets. As a result, he never really had a chance to show his true potential, and the Mets shipped him to Seattle — seemingly as an afterthought — in the mega-deal for J.J. Putz.

At the time, I thought it was a mistake to let Vargas go, considering that the Mets were light in MLB-ready starting pitchers, Vargas was still relatively young, and they were probably selling low on him due to his injury history. Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for Vargas — a (straight-guy type) love affair that began when Vargas was with the Marlins, and solidified after I watched him up-close in spring training 2008. So maybe I’m biased.

But it’s frustrating to see Vargas doing so well for the Mariners right now, particularly when the Mets have been desperate to fill holes in their starting rotation. I know everyone thinks R.A. Dickey, Hisanori Takahashi, and Jon Niese are the bees knees, but imagine if the Mets had another starter as solid as Mike Pelfrey has been — and throwing from the south side of the rubber, to boot? I’d reckon this recent talk about trading for Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, etc., wouldn’t even exist.

On the bright side, at least the Mets still have Sean Green from that mega-deal. He should be back in the bullpen soon enough.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Jimmy D June 22, 2010 at 8:11 am
    By “Seattle are… dead last in the NL West” I assume you mean “dead last in the AL West”, right? Otherwise that’s one mighty big bit of news you snuck in there…
  2. Joe June 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm
    Yeah AL, thanks Jimmy D. I was trying to pull a Bud Selig and move the team to the NL.