Game 5, Mariners at Rangers
Vargs vs Lewis, 5:05 pm
This is a pretty good chance to talk about Jason Vargas, who makes his season debut tonight. He’s a pretty typical soft-tossing command lefty who throws strikes and doesn’t miss many bats, but he features one really good pitch – his change-up. It’s one of the best on the team, and is the reason that Vargas has essentially run a neutral platoon split over his career (4.60 xFIP vs LHB, 4.71 xFIP vs RHB). His fastball and breaking ball are both substandard, but with a plus change, Vargas manages to get ahead of enough hitters to serve as a decent back-end starter.
His glaring problem is the long ball. He throws a four seam fastball up in the zone, and when he doesn’t locate it just right, it’s a meatball. He’s given up 33 home runs in 218 career innings, and it’s not even driven by an abnormally high HR/FB rate. He’s an extreme flyball guy, due to the way he pitches, and that inevitably leads to home runs. On days when he keeps the ball in the park, he’ll look pretty good. When he doesn’t, he’ll look pretty terrible. It basically boils down to that.
So, he makes his season debut in Texas, facing a line-up that features guys like Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, and Chris Davis. Can’t say this is the kind of team he’s setup to do well against. So, I guess my suggestion is don’t judge Vargas based on tonight – a homer prone lefty making his debut against a home run hitting team in Texas is not really a recipe for success.