Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By Chuck Richter - Executive Editor

The Angels Wednesday acquired left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for infielder Kendrys Morales. Today’s transaction was announced by General Manager Jerry Dipoto.

Vargas, 29, finished the 2012 season with a 14-11 record with a 3.85 ERA (217.1 IP – 93 ER) and 141 strikeouts. The left-hander led the Mariner staff in wins and quality starts (22) while setting career highs in wins, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts. The Southern California native finished amongst the American League leaders in starts (T4th), quality starts (4th), innings pitched (6th), WHIP (1.178, 10th) and complete games (2, T10th).

A former teammate of Jered Weaver at California State University Long Beach, Vargas has compiled a 42-50 record with a 4.35 ERA (829.2 IP – 401 ER) over parts of seven big league seasons with Florida, New York Mets and Mariners. Throughout seven career appearances (6 starts) at Angel Stadium, Vargas has posted a 3-1 record to accompany a 2.27 ERA (43.2 IP – 11 ER). The 2.27 ERA at the Big A since the start of the ’09 campaign ranks fourth (min. 5 starts), trailing only Bartolo Colon (2.14), Trevor Cahill (2.25) and Jered Weaver (2.26). The left-hander was originally drafted by the Florida Marlins in the second round of the 2004 amateur draft.

Be that as it may, some fans are banging their heads against the wall after the deal today, sighting Vargas' road ERA as the reason they dislike the trade. Let's dig a little deeper into this in an effort to help all you frustrated fans to sleep well tonight. 

I will start off by pointing to one game in 2012 that ballooned Vargas' 2012 season road ERA to a 4.78 clip.

It happened in interleague play against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 20th at Chase Field when Vargas got tattooed, going just 4 innings, giving up 10 earned runs to the tune of a 20.77 ERA.

You take that ONE BAD ROAD OUTING AWAY, now tell me what his overall away ERA is for 2012? Here's a hint: It's very respectable for any starting pitcher on the road and in hostile territory. If you take out one more less than average start away, say his start in Chicago against the White Sox (Aug 28th) a game in which he gave up six earned runs over four innings and his 2012 road ERA is very good!

While Vargas had a hard time against the Rangers in Texas this past season, you have to consider they had Hamilton, Napoli and Michael Young in their lineup, but won't in 2013. Michael Young absolutely OWNED Jason Vargas over his career, but he has since changed leagues.

Vargas against the Texas Rangers in Arlington this past season, in three starts, went 19 IP, gave up 11 earned runs to the tune of a 5.21 ERA. He did win one game in Texas in 2012. But don't worry fans, Vargas doesn't pull a Joe Saunders in Texas all the time. In two starts against the 2010 AL Representative in the World Series, Jason Vargas posted a respectable 3.97 ERA against the Rangers in Texas.

But hey, it's the Rangers right? The Angels ace Jered Weaver had a 6.48 ERA against the Rangers in Texas this past season and a 5.14 ERA the year before there.

Enough about the Rangers, let's look at well Vargas has done against the Angels nemesis this past season, the Oakland A's and note other road performances in 2012.

Notable 2012 Road ERA's

Coors Field: 3.86 ERA, 1 GS, 1 WIN
Angel Stadium: 3.21 ERA, 2 GS, 2 WINS
Oakland Coliseum: 1.69 ERA, 3 GS, 2 WINS
Camden Yards: 3.38 ERA, 1 GS, 1 CG, L
Safeco Field: 2.74 ERA, 14 GS, 5 wins
Rogers Centre: 3.00 ERA, 1 GS, L
Tropicana Field: 0.00, 1 GS, 1 WIN
Tokoyo Dome: (Include the A's for this line) 1.42 ERA, 1 GS

Three Year Road Splits By Stadium

Angel Stadium: 1.82 ERA (His new home)
Safeco Field: 3.46 ERA (His new opponent)
Oakland Coliseum: 3.18 ERA
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: 4.58 ERA
Minute Maid Park (DNP there)

Again, any good starting pitcher will have some problems on the road. As I noted already Jered Weaver and other team's aces have typically had worse ERA's on the road than they do at home. In Weaver's case, his career home/away splits are very much in favor of him pitching at home than on the road. So while splits are something that every GM & major league scouting department should look at, it's not fair to say a player X is terrible at a certain aspect of his game until you've dug deeper, and in this case, get discouraged by Vargas' away/home splits without examining the entire season. It's worth noting however, that in 2011, Jason Vargas had a better road ERA (3.79) than he did at home (4.56).

The conclusion: This deal not only adds a solid lefty to the rotation, but it also allows the Angels to boast without a doubt the best defensive outfield in the game. That's right! What other team can say they have three centerfielders roaming their outfield in 2013? Bourjos and Trout alone could probably cover LCF and RCF and still be league average. Vargas, a flyball pitcher, is licking his chops. He can go out there, throw strikes and watch his defense make highlight reel after highlight reel, while not worry about his team scoring runs  -- unlike when he toed the rubber for the Mariners who were last in runs scored the past two seasons.

Like the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, the Angels have put together a balanced club over the winter that will boast an incredible defense, a solid bullpen and an innings eating rotation --- something the Angels were missing in 2012. The Angels unlike the Giants will have four hitters in their lineup that should hit 30 home runs or more, while creating havoc on the basepaths for opposing club's defenses with speed at #9 (Bourjos), #1 (Trout) and #2 (Aybar) before the sluggers get up to the plate.

So take a deep breath fans and welcome the newest southpaw to the Angels where they can now send two lefties to the mound in a regular season series and he'll get to pitch in three ballparks within his division where he's had a tremendous amount of success over the past three years in the AL West.  

Hopefully by now you're over the Vargas' '12 road ERA. We've all had a bad day or two at the office, so don't judge a guy's worth based on a couple bad outings. Vargas' away ERA minus the starts in Arizona & Chicago would have been 3.82.
Love to hear what you think!

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