Jason Vargas’ New Pitch
In his post-game conversation with Geoff Baker, Jason Vargas noted that he started throwing a cutter last night, after shelving it last year to work on his breaking ball. Over the last few years, we’ve heard a lot of stories about Mariner pitchers making changes to their mechanics (remember Miguel Batista’s eureka moment?) or adding a new pitch to their repertoire (hello, Dolphin), but it usually has amounted to a big ball of nothing.
This might be different.
Below are two graphs from Brooks Baseball, showing Vargas’ pitch selection in his first start against Texas and then last night’s performance against the A’s.
As you can see in the first graph, he was a three pitch guy in Texas – fastball, curveball, change-up. Last night, however, you see a new blob of pitches, the one between 83-86 MPH with negative horizontal movement. The Pitch F/x algorithm calls it a slider, but that’s pretty normal; it’s tough for the system to distinguish between a cut fastball and a slider in a lot of cases.
He only threw 8 of these cut fastballs, but all eight were strikes, and he mostly worked them in when the count was even. Rather than having to go to his hit-me fastball on a 1-1 pitch, Vargas was able to use his cutter to get ahead in the count, at which point he could then throw a fastball out of the zone or a change-up to get a strikeout. Adding a pitch he can throw for strikes to keep himself in pitchers counts can do wonders for him, since he doesn’t have the dominating stuff to constantly pound the zone and get away with it.
Now, don’t go getting too carried away with this. It’s just eight pitches in one start, and it was the A’s offense in Safeco Field, so we’ll have to see how confident he is throwing at a good offense in a hitters park, but adding a cut fastball to his repertoire could be a significant boost for Vargas. It’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on, and if he gains confidence in the pitch, he may be able to perform better than expected.