Wow. This is long overdue.
I was extremely wrong about Jason Vargas.
When the Royals signed the 31-year-old lefty in November I actually wrote a story called "51 Reasons the Jason Vargas Signing Sucks." Now, to be fair, that's mostly because I'm not a very reasonable or intelligent person, but my feelings were in concert with many others when the team announced the four-year, $32 million deal.
If you liked the deal at the time, I commend you -- and secretly assume you're lying.
I didn't. Many of my "51 Reasons ..." were stupid jokes, but most of it was just stupid -- which is easy to say in hindsight -- but Vargas has pitched well enough to make a statement like " ... he's only slightly more skilled than Vin Mazzaro" look especially krill-witted.
But this isn't about me -- or at least I hope it won't be since it makes me look pretty damn dumb.
It's about Vargas.
The way he's pitching -- and the way the royals are playing in general -- is almost enough to convince the average Royals fan that the Planet Earth is not going to misanthropically collapse on itself like a petulant dying star ... almost.
After a complete game shutout against the best team in baseball in which he faced only 29 batters, Vargas pantsed me again at Target Field last night. He threw seven innings of one-run avarice, picking up his 10th win on the season in the process.
Wins are, of course, an extremely flawed statistic for pitchers. However, they have a way of being meaningful anyway since winning games is the only thing that actually matters. But instead of looking at the crapshoot of his official win-loss record, it might be better to look at the team's record in his starts (13-10). That might not seem otherworldly, but if you take into account the fact that the bullpen -- who has been exceptional this year -- has blown two leads for him, it starts to look a little better (15-8). And if you consider that the Royals have won eight of his last 12 starts, his value -- especially his recent value -- takes a more definitive shape.
Hell, last year's National League Cy Young winner, and everyone's favorite God, Clayton Kershaw only managed to lead the Dodgers to a 19-14 record over his 33 starts. That's definitely a good point in favor of ignoring pitching wins and team records altogether. But on the other hand, Vargas has been good enough to give the Royals a chance to win almost every time he's started a game this year -- two of "his" losses came after he allowed just two runs.
Vargas' advanced metrics don't champion him as the Great Unlauded Hero King of 2014 -- mostly because I just made that title up, but also because his FIP (3.81) and xFIP (4.06) are only marginally better than the rest of the league.
His contract could still hurt the Royals at some point in the future, but he'll have to be exceptionally bad from 2015 to 2017 to make me regret the regret that overwhelmed me when he signed it nine months ago.
Pitching statistics are great, but ultimately it comes down to whether or not a guy frightens the crap out of you when he's on the mound.
That's how it is for me anyway ... but Jason Vargas doesn't care.
And he shouldn't. In many ways, he's having the best season of his career. And it couldn't have come at a better time for the Royals -- and maybe if he keeps this up, he can buy the Planet Earth a little more time as well.