James Shields is the clear cut No. 1 starter for the Kansas City Royals, but Jason Vargas is emerging as a quality second option.
Vargas started the Royals game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday and put up an impressive stat line. Vargas nearly went the complete game but was pulled after facing one batter in the ninth. He scattered four hits over the course of the eight innings, giving up just one run off a leadoff home run to Ben Zobrist in the top of the ninth.
The most recent performance has Vargas sporting a 1.20 ERA over 15 innings pitched this season.
Those numbers are a vast improvement from his career numbers. Only twice in Vargas’ career has he posted an ERA under four and those numbers were 3.78 and 3.85. Vargas has also struggled in the win-loss department, posting a win-loss percentage over .500 just twice.
Vargas looks poised to change that this season. He pitched well this spring, going 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA, and has continued that success so far during the regular season. A big reason for this newfound success can be attributed to Vargas limiting the hits allowed. He has posted H/9 ratios over eight in every year of his career, but this year, Vargas has allowed just nine hits over 15 innings.
Vargas is a pitcher who relies on his defense to have success. He doesn’t strike many batters out and relies on the players behind him to make plays. He struck out just two batters against the Rays, getting nine outs via the ground ball and 13 via the fly ball.
The Royals have not been to the postseason since 1985, but that could change this season. If the Royals are going to break that streak this season, Vargas will have to continue his strong performance.