More On The New Jason Vargas

So, as we wrote about, Jason Vargas turned in another solid start last night against the Yankees, his second consecutive strong start since making a mechanical adjustment. We're only two starts in, but so far the early returns are positive, as Vargas' season has done a near 180.

I wanted to combine New Vargas' numbers and compare them to Old Vargas' numbers, so now, this post. This post is basically a small data dump, but small data dumps can be interesting when handled correctly. To note:

Pre-slump: April 2nd - July 6th
Slump: July 14th - September 2nd
Post-tweak: September 8th - September 14th

Now then. Pitch-by-pitch velocity:

Pitch Pre-slump Slump Post-tweak
Fastball 87.1 86.9 88.5
Cutter 84.1 83.9 85.4
Curve 73.8 73.5 75.0
Change 80.1 80.1 81.3

Indeed, as we already knew, Vargas has been throwing a little harder across the board. It was true in his start against the Royals, and it was true in his start against the Yankees. He's gained more than a tick on all of his pitches, and a few times last night his fastball brushed up against 90 miles per hour. 90 miles per hour! Jason Vargas!

Some results:

Pre-slump Slump Post-tweak
Strike% 66% 63% 68%
Contact% 84% 84% 79%
GB% 39% 35% 38%

Not much to see in the groundballs, but the other two stats are encouraging. Vargas has thrown strikes, and - importantly - he's also been more difficult to hit. The league average contact rate for starters is about 82%. Vargas made both Royals and Yankees miss.

What I find perhaps most interesting, though, and what isn't included in the numbers above, is this: over his last two starts, Vargas has thrown just 29 changeups out of 200 pitches. That's a rate of about 15%, where historically he's been closer to 30%. To fill in the gaps, he's thrown more fastballs and curves. That would be interesting with any pitcher, but especially Vargas, whose changeup has long been considered his best pitch. He's thrown it far less often of late, and he's still done well.

Now, for the trillionth time, we're dealing with a small sample of information. Jason Vargas has made exactly two starts since introducing the twist to his delivery, spanning 12.2 innings. It's too early to read deeply into pitch mix changes, and it's too early to read deeply into statistical changes. We need more information, and thus more starts.

But it's the velocity boost that really makes me think we have something here. You can't fake or fluke your way to higher velocity. It might not sustain, but it very easily could, and it's easy to see how this could all lead to better performance. And it's easy to see how that could lead to a happier us.

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