Stop me if you’ve heard this before: with an improved pitch, a pitcher has significantly upped his performance. In my last two pieces, I wrote about Bud Norris’s and Mike Leake’s cutters, both of which have pushed them to another level. Today, I turn back to the American League, with a discussion of the Kansas City Royals’ surprising top starting pitcher: Jason Vargas.
Vargas isn’t getting any younger. He’s 34. Vargas is not throwing any harder. His fastball is averaging 86.1 mph; only four pitchers throw a four-seamer that is slower. Despite this, Vargas has a 1.01 ERA in 44 2⁄3 innings pitched this season, with FIP (2.16) and xFIP (3.70) numbers that would be career-bests over a full season. And, it wouldn’t even be close.
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