Los Angeles Angels' Jason Vargas Settles Down In May

By Thom Tsang
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It might not seem like it, but Jason Vargas is quickly becoming the most reliable pitcher that the Los Angeles Angels have in their starting rotation.

Sounds like a stretch, considering C.J. Wilson just came off a brilliant eight-inning, one-run outing in which he struck out 10, no?

Not so much, when you look at things a little more closely. Winners of five straight, the Angels are finally on a roll these days, and it should be no surprise to anyone that the main reason — as is the reason for their failures — has been pitching. With a seventh-ranked 3.00 ERA over the last seven days, the staff has been simply excellent.

Now, let’s play a little comparison game:

Player A: 21.2 IP, 2.49/1.20 ERA/WHIP, 6.79 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 1-2
Player B:  21.1 IP, 1.69/1.03 ERA/WHIP, 6.39 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 3-0

Both very good and very similar numbers, to be sure. Despite the win-loss record being lineup-dependent, I don’t think anyone would have trouble with saying that while Player A is undoubtedly very competent pitcher (at least over that stretch), Player B has been what they call the ‘stopper’.

Well, Player A is C.J. Wilson over the last three starts, and Player B is Jason Vargas.

The point of this is to show that despite some rather unassuming start to the season (he carried a 6.75/2.32 ERA/WHIP after his third start), the Angels’ other lefty has been just as good — if not better than the one they’re putting in commercials and who the team owes $65 million to through 2016.

Since his 3.1 IP, five-run disaster on April 16, all Vargas has done is throw six quality starts out of seven, and while he didn’t earn a single win in April, he now finds himself on a four-game winning streak.

Lineup dependent as that might be, its no fluke either.

Including the Angels’ 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals, Vargas has thrown at least seven innings in six of his last seven, a feat unmatched by anyone else on the staff. No, he didn’t have his best stuff on this night (two strikeouts, four walks), but he managed to stay under control, even when things look grim in the fifth inning with the bases loaded with Alex Gordon up.

You need to be good to be lucky, and the lefty was both in this case, getting Gordon to line out to end the threat.

It’s crucial moments like that which can really tests a pitcher’s ability to stay in control, and after earning his third win in three starts and establishing himself as a go-to guy for the Angels, I think it’s fair to say that Vargas is passing with flying colours.

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