For a second consecutive year the Athletics will get Jason Vargas in the second game of the series. And for a second consecutive time, the Athletics will attempt to figure him out. Last year Vargas drew the A’s in Oakland and went 6.2 innings, giving up five hits, one run (earned), one walk, and six strikeouts. Below you will find more than you ever wanted to know about Vargas as a pitcher, and how the line-up should look for tomorrows 2:04 AM PST/3:04 AM MST/4:04 AM CST/5:04 AM EST game.
Vargas is your typical lefty. He has a five pitch repertoire, fastball, sinker, cutter, curve, and change-up. Unlike King Felix last night, Vargas tops out at 88. Certainly not something hitters like seeing the second game in a series. His fastball is fairly normal, has some arm side run, not a lot, and decent sink to it. His next favorite pitch, his change-up, has some outstanding fade and sink to it, he loves throwing this to righties and in situations with RISP (more on that later). His third most used pitch, his sinker, will be used to keep lefties honest on the inside corner and he will throw it any time, any count. His cutter is his preferred pitch against lefties, keeping the ball away from the barrel of the bat. He will throw a curveball, not often though, that he tips. The pitch itself is nothing more than a show me, get-me-over pitch. It doesn’t have a whole lot of rotation but the break does change the eye level well. The only real problem with his curveball is that his arm slot for it is much higher than his other pitches and the ball “jumps” out of his hand. This means that upon release the ball travels upwards before breaking, giving is a noticeable “hump.”
At an even six feet tall Vargas will have trouble getting a downward plane on the ball, this means that he has to work the corners. Something that he certainly does.
Vargas does not necessarily “pitch backwards,” use off-speed to set-up fastballs in negative counts (0-1, 0-2, 1-2, etc.), but he does not necessarily pitch traditionally either. He is comfortable with all his pitches and will throw most of them in any count. However, if he does need to get back into a count, he will lean on his fastball to do so.
Last year he was more likely to throw his change-up than his fastball, especially with RISP and/or RISP with 2 outs, even more so if your were a righty. This means that you can sit on this pitch and look to go the other way with it. Unlike with Hernandez last night, batters should not look to ambush Vargas, swing early in the count. Let him come to you. As mentioned above, he pitches to the corners well. He uses his change-up and cutter effectively to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat and try to induce weak contact.
Vargas should not cause too many problems for the Athletics. With three switch hitters in the lineup and mainly right handed hitters, lineup construction should be easy. I would like to see Seth Smith in the game though. This is the kind of pitcher that has given him problems and has led to most people labeling him as a platoon outfielder. If I had my choice, I’d put him in the 5-8 range in the order.
As I mentioned earlier, you can ambush Vargas. Let him come to you. Let him get behind in the count, forcing him to throw you the fast ball. And if you are in a negative count, sit change-up the other way and adjust to everything else. He does not have the stuff to blow it past you, he wants you to put it in play. If the batters go to the plate looking to go to right field and are patient, they should be able to get to Vargas early and often.