Vargas or Pelfrey?

Jason Vargas pitching for the Mets at Shea in May

New Orleans Zephyrs starter Jason Vargas was held out of his Sunday start, most likely because he is the emergency fill-in should Oliver Perez still have back issues tomorrow.

It’s entirely possible, in fact, that the Mets hold out Perez regardless of how he feels, as a precautionary measure. His 7-6 record does not correlate with the way he’s been pitching this year — more times than not, he’s put out ace-like efforts. With the All-Star break looming, it would make good sense to give Ollie an extended break to let his back heal, and have him fresh and healthy for the second half.

At the same time, Tuesday is as good a time as any to see if Jason Vargas can help this club this year. He gave a solid if unspectacular effort in his one spot start in early May, going seven full innings and allowing six hits and no walks. Unfortunately, two of those hits were homeruns, and thus he gave up five runs. Still, he pitched fairly well, throwing lots of strikes, hitting spots, and changing speeds. Though perhaps not ready for regular duty in a Major League starting rotation, he is much more polished and composed than Mike Pelfrey — if less blessed with god-given talent.

Giving Pelfrey instead of Vargas the start yesterday reeked of trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Though Pelfrey was doing better in AAA than he did in the Majors, he wasn’t exactly lights-out, and based on his performance on Sunday, he’s still very raw. The electrifying sinker we saw in spring training returned, albeit only for an inning and a half. Though his slider looked better, he still isn’t changing speeds — and the fact that he uses the slider for strikes is a recipe for disaster (sorry, Jorge Sosa’s luck with that will run out soon as well). As a result, if he doesn’t have great command of the sinker, he’s doomed.

Vargas, on the other hand, has an average assortment of pitches — nothing particularly impressive, but nothing awful either. Unlike Pelfrey, no one will ever consider him a future staff ace, but he’s a tough competitor who does everything he can to win a game and rarely beats hiimself. In many ways, he’s a poor man’s Tom Glavine, in that he pitches to contact and does all the “other” things to help himself win — he fields well, hits well, keeps runners close, etc. Though he will get beat with the gopher ball — not a great thought considering he may be pitching at Coors Field — it’s generally because he’s not afraid to challenge hitters. Though he doesn’t have electrifying stuff, at this point in his career, he’s probably ahead of Pelfrey, and better equipped to keep the Mets in a ballgame.

Should Vargas get a start and pitch well, he could be considered as a spot starter / relief pitcher for a while — perhaps until Dave Williams comes back. It might be nice to have a lefty not named Schoeneweis to team up with Pedro Feliciano.

We may find out on Tuesday night.

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. Micalpalyn July 2, 2007 at 11:53 am
    Man, I was going to attach my rant onto the previous story, but I guess I am glad I waited.

    Vargas or Pelfrey: Here’s my spin. Its July we are (again) 12 games over and somewhat comfy, but as you have seen its not a matter of ‘rest’, Omar has elevated the value of Pelfrey this weekend….PERIOD. And I expect that GM’s want to see Pelfrey et al as they evaluate trades. As this season has gone on I have seen Omar’s master plan unfold. The aging veterans (eventually) leave, younger (cheaper Mets) assume roles. Last yr Pelfrey, lastings, and Humber debuted, this yr Mean Joe Smith and Gold Glove Gomez. I previously decried Willie’s use of his players and I still do…LOUDLY!!! But I applaud seeing Gomez, tho his non-hitting will catch up to him.

    As I see it, There should be a 5-man outfield rotation with Alou, Beltran, Gomez and Lastings plus Endy/one other. Alou or Green goes but if Gomez and Lastings hit they are the corners, with Alou getting 300ABs in LF. Also Beltran sits periodically (rest) while Gomez/Endy patrols center.

    There is alot of info that article. Right now I’d say Pelfrey for Buerle. And if so it may be imminent. We still have young pitching in the stable. But unlike the Yanks, we cant get a pitching farm hand to be successfull (a true winner) in the majors as a starter (bobby Jones?). And I’m fine with that as long as Omar keeps mining Maines and Ollies. I think Pelfrey is as good a prospect to give up as there is right now. AND I’d rather keep Humber. I have blooged that for a year, making the point humber (who was a 3rd overall pick) has better off speed pitches and will eventually recover his velocity. Also Humber who won this past weekend again should get Sele’s spot in the pen. Is Burgos out for the year?I’m not sure about your evaluation of Vargas. I think he is better, I see alot of Bannister in him…he who is succeeding in KC.

  2. joe July 2, 2007 at 12:23 pm
    EXCELLENT spin!

    I’m so naive sometimes, thinking that the Mets are simply looking to win ballgames. But now that you’ve pointed it out, it makes complete sense: showcase Pelfrey, elevate his value, then send him packing in return for someone who can help this year.

    People may disagree, but I don’t see Pelfrey as a big-time pitcher anytime in the next two years (maybe never). In fact, I see him becoming a setup man in the mold of a Brad Lidge. That said I completely agree with keeping Humber — as Humber seems to have a higher ceiling. Though, I’d prefer to leave Humber in AAA to continue honing his stuff.

    As far as Vargas, I’m VERY high on him, but since I tend to get too excited about certain guys, I tempered my evaluation. To me, Vargas is a tough sonofagun with enough attitude to be a back-end starter now.

    BTW I think Gomez has been showing great at-bats compared to when he first came up. The bat will come around, as he seems to make adjustments — and that’s the key to longevity in MLB.