Game 52, Mariners at Rangers
Jason Vargas vs. Scott Feldman, 5:05
The Rangers signed Roy Oswalt today, so despite the injury to Neftali Feliz and the time Oswalt will need to build his strength, you’ve got to figure Feldman’s moving back to the bullpen in a month or so. Perhaps that would’ve happened anyway, as he’s given up more walks than K’s so far. He’s presumably still smarting from his loss to the M’s in Seattle – the Liddi Grand Slam game.
Because Wedge is so fond of match-ups, not even an ugly slump is going to keep Alex Liddi out of the line-up today. In fact, the line-up is pretty similar to the one that beat Feldman a week ago. The downside is Liddi’s back in LF, with Seager at 3B. Jaso catches today and Jesus Montero gets a start as the DH.
Jason Vargas is enjoying his best season in the majors, with an improved strikeout rate, low walks and a career-low xFIP. At the same time, he’s giving up more contact than he ever has – it hasn’t hurt him thanks to an absurdly low BABIP. Why so much contact? I really don’t know, but it looks like he’s using his change-up a bit less this season. The change-up is, of course, his best pitch by some margin.
So he just needs to throw it more? No, not necessarily. We don’t (ok, *I* don’t) know many change-ups are too many. We don’t really know how to game-theory his arsenal and what percentage would lead to the best overall results. I think too often fans just want pitchers to throw their best pitch, and the logical extension of that argument is that everyone should throw their best pitch 100% of the time. That’s only worked for Mariano Rivera. Really, I’d just like to understand the thinking and what Vargas wants to achieve (this doesn’t seem to be related to catchers, as his CH% is about the same whoever’s behind the dish). This isn’t just an attempt to placate the regression monster – I think this is an interesting research area, albeit one that may be best left to teams with their proprietary data and access to players and coaches. Is Vargas trying to limit pitches per plate appearance to get deeper into games? If so, it doesn’t appear to be working. Is Vargas trying to generate more weak contact? Tough to say if it’s working, but the folks who pay for Hit FX might know.
Anyway, here’s a line-up for you:
1: Ackley (2B)
2: Liddi (LF)
3: Ichiro (RF)
4: Montero (DH)
5: Seager (3B)
6: Smoak (1B)
7: Jaso (C)
8: Saunders (CF)
9: Ryan (SS)
SP: Jason Vargas