One of the frustrating aspects of the endless opinion-sharing that modern technology invites, is the lack of accountability that comes along with it. I could post just about any prediction on here and risk virtually nothing by doing so. If I’m right, I could celebrate with a not-so-humblebrag about my accuracy. If wrong, I can just continue to write like I normally would and rely on the notion that few, if any, would feel a need to point out my mistake. It is in that spirit that I would like to revisit what I wrote when on February 19th, shortly after Mets inked Jason Vargas to a 2-year deal.
To be fair, to Vargas and to myself, my statements 3 months ago, as well as my statements today, are not meant to be definitive. It is only mid-May, and while the season feels like it is getting exponentially less young by the day, there is still enough time for anything to happen, good or bad. In the case of Vargas, however, things can only get better. On that Monday in mid-February, I was quick to identify that Vargas was unlikely to compete for the NL Cy Young Award in 2018. I made sure to point out that he was not coming to Queens to be the ace of the staff. I did use the words “energized” and “excited” in describing this acquisition as I thought he would bring stability to an oft-injured staff.
And, of course, the first thing Vargas did as a Mets pitcher, was get injured. It was, in baseball terms, a fairly freak accident: a line drive off his hand that resulted in a broken bone. And even though he missed the first month of the season, to date that’s been the best thing he’s accomplished as a Mets pitcher. Vargas has pitched in 13 innings so far this season (across 3 starts), and has given up runs in 7 of them. In last Wednesday’s start, Vargas yielded 4 runs over 4 innings, that’s an ugly 9.00 ERA, even uglier – that brought his ERA down to 13.86. At the moment, his WHIP is 2.68. For the uninitiated, that essentially means that Vargas pitches with the bases loaded in almost every inning. When I wrote a few months ago that Vargas’ career numbers were mediocre at best, I was trying to lower expectations from the fairly impressive number Vargas posted in the first half of last season. Maybe “mediocre” was setting the bar too high.
Now, to some degree, the Mets rotation has been relatively stable, sort of, when compared to the last two seasons at least. Sure, Matt Harvey was removed from the rotation, then the bullpen, and finally the team. And yes, there have been some missed starts due to injuries and such. However, to this point, the least stable component of the Mets rotation, has been Vargas himself. So, in an effort to help him get back on track, the Mets planned to skip his turn in the rotation, which would have been this Tuesday night against the Blue Jays. As it turns out, the rainout this past Saturday night in Philadelphia would have probably led to the Mets skipping Vargas in this go ’round anyway.
In regards to my thoughts from 3 months ago…I think we all knew not to expect too much from Vargas, and I mentioned that. Vargas has never been great, and has only been very good for limited periods of time. He also hasn’t really ever been this disappointing. It’s possible that the late in the offseason signing, combined with the limited spring training exposure, simply means that he’s running a bit behind schedule. In fact, when the Mets signed Vargas, there were two other free-agent starting pitchers with recent measures of success who were available at that time. Lance Lynn signed with the Twins shortly after Vargas signed with the Mets, and Alex Cobb eventually signed with Orioles, and neither pitcher has gotten off to an impressive start.
This all leads me to believe that, fortunately, we have not seen the best of Vargas just yet. Perhaps this little break in the action for him will enable Vargas to essentially push “restart” on the season, and the Mets rotation will gain that reliable pitcher they had expected to get when they signed him. Of course, if it doesn’t work, the Mets might have to turn to him to try to fix another one of their issues. Question is, can he hit?