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Well Done, Jason

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Before the season began it appeared that our rotation was going to consist of Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ian Snell and eventually Erik Bedard. The best laid plans huh?

Never mind though what transpired with the latter three and thus the second. And I've already mentioned some thanks to the first and there will be plenty more throughout the winter. Instead, I wanted to point out the season beyond expectations for one of our candidates to keep that fifth spot warm for Bedard.

Jason Vargas was one of seven possible candidates that I threw around in a February comparison. At the time, Vargas was coming off his first season back from 2008 rehab and had thrown 76 terrible innings in the 2009 rotation and 15 really excellent innings in the 2009 bullpen. Vargas' past, his 2009 starting stint in Tacoma and his good showing in the bullpen hinted that he could survive in a big league rotation, but it wasn't something he had really shown yet.

Vargas found himself in a position this season to prove that he could handle that and he vastly exceeded my, and all projection systems, expectations. The overall stat line from 2010 may not look too different from 2009 outside of the tremendous rise in innings pitched, but that obscures the role that Vargas' tenure in the bullpen helped to mask his ineptness as a starter last year. Considering just his numbers as a starter, Vargas improved his strikeout rate by two percentage points and lowered his net walk rate by over a point. Combined, the ratio of the two rose from 1.6 last year to 2.2 this year.

In addition, his batted ball profile stayed close to his '09 figures. He's still a flyball-heavy guy but not to the extent that it's dangerous, especially with Safeco as a home park.

Vargas faced 2.5 times as many batters as a starter this season and managed to improve or hold steady all the meaningful numbers for pitchers. He's not anything wondrous and there's probably not much more room for improvement, but having a slightly below or average starter capable of surviving 200 innings in the rotation for little cost is nice to have and it's more than we could have said about Vargas after 2009. Kudos, Jason.