Vargas and Olson

Dave · May 7, 2009 at 6:48 am · Filed Under Mariners 



We’ve now seen both Olson and Vargas work a few innings in the big leagues, and their respective charts are above.

The fastballs are pretty similar – 89 MPH average velocity, topped out at 91. Both of these guys have below average heaters. Olson’s breaking ball is slower with quite a bit more vertical bend, while Vargas’ is more of a side-to-side slider. They both have a low-80s change.

Vargas pounded the strike zone quite a bit more than Olson did, though that could easily just be a function of the line-ups they were facing. Remember, Vargas was facing the worst offense in baseball and Giambi and Cust had already been removed from the game. Not exactly a scary bunch of hitters.

The interesting thing, to me, though, was how Vargas didn’t vary the height of his pitches much at all. Look at that strike zone plot. 41 pitches, and he missed low four times, while never missing high. He was off the plate on either side 12 times, but the vertical range of pitches was basically the strike zone for Vargas. He would move in and out, but not up and down.

Olson, on the other hand, was more than willing to miss the strike zone entirely. He was burying that breaking ball down and away from LH hitters, and then was more than willing to go up and away or down and in on RH bats with the fastball. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well – he threw 18 pitches outside the strike zone to right-handed hitters, and all 18 were stared at for balls.

The breaking ball down and away to LH hitters was a good pitch for him – he got six strikes on pitches out of the strike zone down there. But against righties, they just waited for him to come in with the fastball. There wasn’t any real deception there.

To me, this is a pretty easy choice. Vargas to the rotation, Olson stays in the pen as a long reliever or left-on-left guy.


13 Responses to “Vargas and Olson”

  1. rmac1973 on May 7th, 2009 7:38 am

    Either of them would be a short-term fix for starting work, in all probability.

    I still haven’t found anything on Ryan Rowland-Hyphen-Smith’s estimated return date… info?

  2. Dave on May 7th, 2009 7:54 am

    I think Vargas could actually do okay in the rotation. His fastball command is decent, his slider is a weapon against lefties, and Safeco will help him with righties.

    He won’t be an ace, but I like him more than RRS or Jakubauskas as a starter.

    RRS is throwing a simulated game soon, then going out for a rehab start or two. He’ll be back in 2-3 weeks.

  3. rmac1973 on May 7th, 2009 8:04 am


    You like Vargas more than R-Hyphen? Interesting.

    Any particular reason(s) why? I thought he did really well as a starter to end the 2008 season, although he did develop into a somewhat predictable pitcher… what did you see that I missed?

    Jak’s a nice story, kind of like the M’s version of Kurt Warner, but he’s not much better than Silva as a fifth starter, IMHO.

  4. Dave on May 7th, 2009 8:25 am

    RRS’ stuff plays up in the pen. As a starter, he’s just not very good. Extreme flyball guy with mediocre fastball command is not a great combination.

    I think Rowland-Smith just belongs in relief. He can sit in the low-90s for an inning or two, and the change and breaking ball give him weapons against both hitters when they’ve got that speed separation. When he’s throwing 86-88, he’s batting practice.

  5. rmac1973 on May 7th, 2009 8:33 am

    While I’m not making a reasonable comparison here, Jamie Moyer was BP too (hard to argue with success, though), although far more wily and sneaky than R-Hyphen.

    With him in the ‘pen and Vargas starting, that still leaves Jak in the rotation. How long until he gets moved back to the ‘pen? I’m a little mystified as to who in Tacoma can fill in with any success.

    Oh well… at least 2009’s 15-13 start is better than their 13-15 start to 2008.

  6. Dave on May 7th, 2009 8:36 am

    Moyer had good command. RRS does not.

  7. rmac1973 on May 7th, 2009 8:47 am

    Well, true. Earlier in his career, though (’86-’91… geeeeeez… is he really that old?), Jamie was pretty hittable and saw limited success.

    I don’t necessarily think R-Hyphen will develop into a 20-game winner ten years from now, but he did okay as a starter down the stretch last year. IMO, he just walked too many guys, 23 in his 10 starts over 63.1 innings with 64 hits for a 1.37 WHIP. Not awful, per se, but not that good either.

    Bah… I dunno. Maybe I’m just waiting for Washburn to implode.

  8. Butwheredoesthemeatgo on May 7th, 2009 9:02 am

    Vargas seems like the better choice to go into the rotation, better control, his year starting with the Mets was actually decent, nearly had a K per inning and that was 3 years ago when he was only 22, you would think he would only be a smarter pitcher at this point. I am as excited if not moreso about these two guys as I am about RRS, all three I think could be helpful to the team and it is nice that all 3 can relieve or start, especially for after the trade deadline if we trade away Bedard and Washburn. Having these viable options to replace Silva makes you think the new management might just know what they are doing, that is the reassuring part. Also lean towards Vargas as Olsen started 26 games for Baltimore last year and got hit pretty hard, so Vargas being from the National league and not having pitched much in the league since 2005-6 will create some unfamiliarity that could help him out.

  9. hans on May 7th, 2009 9:21 am

    I love the fact that you post charts showing pitch location by type and the way it feeds into your analysis of pitchers. …And I love the discussions that follow. There have been several very well-written and informative blog posts and discussions using these data since the Pich F/X data became available.

    However, being color blind, I have a very difficult time reading the charts. Any way you could modify the symbols in future posts?

  10. littlelinny6 on May 7th, 2009 9:29 am

    Unrelated to Vargas and Silva, but [deleted, unrelated]

  11. joser on May 7th, 2009 9:52 am

    Well, true. Earlier in his career, though (’86-’91… geeeeeez… is he really that old?), Jamie was pretty hittable and saw limited success.

    Right, and then he developed his pin-point command. If RRS can do that, he can turn into Jamie Moyer. But the odds of that are pretty long, considering how unique Moyer actually is. Moreover, RRS is a big, aggressive pitcher and I think sees himself that way, so even the suggestion he try to pattern himself after Moyer would probably sound absurd to him.

  12. joser on May 7th, 2009 10:04 am

    However, being color blind, I have a very difficult time reading the charts. Any way you could modify the symbols in future posts?

    Yeah, that’s a problem — and the problem is that Dave is getting those charts generated by the tool at, which offers no control over the colors. I believe there are utilities that can take an image and replace colors with other colors or patterns, but perhaps you’re already quite aware of them.

    In more general terms I think the graphical representations of the Pitch FX data has been very primitive so far, and this is just one of the issues that should get addressed as the tools mature. (I have some ideas of my own that I may try out if I ever get the time)

  13. Nate on May 7th, 2009 12:46 pm

    So, the top chart is Olson and the bottom chart is Vargas?

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