Anatomy of An A’s Killer: Jason Vargas


After last night’s very nice 8-2 win for the Athletics against the Seattle Mariners the A’s have reduced their magic number to guarantee themselves a playoff spot to 4 games.  A combination of 4 between A’s wins and Angels losses does it, any way it’ll come will do just fine.  But today the A’s have a tough task against the talented left hander Jason Vargas of the Seattle Mariners.  Most people probably looked at this series against the M’s and saw no Felix Hernandez, and therefore were ready to chalk up a series sweep.  But not this writer, there’s just something about Jason Vargas when he toes the rubber in Oakland that gives me visions of Kenny Rogers suiting up for the Texas Rangers over the years and consistently having success in Oakland no matter what his performance against the rest of the American League was.  Vargas seems the same to me.

July 7, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Jason Vargas (38) throws a pitch to a Oakland Athletics batter during the first inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

Just for reference, a quick hint of biographical info in the baseball sense.  Vargas was a 2nd round pick of the then Florida Marlins in 2004, was traded to the New York Mets in 2006, and was acquired by the Seattle Mariners in 2008 in the deal that sent J.J. Putz to the Mets.  It really wasn’t until his arrival in Seattle that Vargas began to figure things out, and that seemed to coincide with getting more innings under his belt, which had been a problem for him in Florida and New York.  Now Vargas’ numbers will not jump off the stat sheet at you by any means, but he’s turned himself into a definite quality starting pitcher.  Since coming to Seattle he’s logged almost or more than 200 innings in 3 of 4 seasons, and has posted a 4.11 ERA in 695.2 innings over that span.  Again, not eye popping but not terrible.

In 82 innings pitched versus the Athletics though his ERA drops to 3.29, and he simply seems to be one of those thorn in your side kind of pitchers for the A’s.  I know a pitcher’s ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, but when it comes to a certain guy facing a certain team sometimes he just has their number and the stats can only explain it so far.  Overall 2012 has been Vargas’ most successful season in the Major Leagues, he’s won 14 games and has a 3.94 ERA in 210.1 innings.  He has beaten the A’s twice in Oakland this year, including a complete game in July, and the Mariners won his other start in Oakland although he wasn’t credited with the victory.  His .549 OPS against versus the A’s though is among his lowest against any opponent this year, only the Toronto Blue Jays have hit him with less success than the A’s have.  It seems like a game that the A’s are primed to lose, but this team thrives on defying the odds as they have all season.

There are some glimmers of hope though.  The A’s welcomed back Coco Crisp last night after his recent struggle with a bout of pink eye, and he seemed like he hadn’t missed a beat going 3-5 with a lead off home run in the 1st, a double, and 3 runs scored.  The A’s really really did miss him.  Also noteworthy is the rise once again of Josh Reddick.  He didn’t tear the cover off the ball hit last night, but did get a base late in the game, and has hit in 3 straight games after his horrific 0-30 slump during the road trip.  If he gets hot again it will be huge for the A’s.

So while Vargas seems to be a tough nut to crack for the A’s, it isn’t impossible for them.  This entire season is living proof of that.