Jason Vargas for MVP! Great numbers make LHP the Royals first-half-of-season star

Jason Vargas

This defies reality, but I promise is not fake news. The Royals’ Jason Vargas, a 34-year-old left-hander, has won more than 11 games in the majors in only one season, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA in 33 Seattle starts…Until this year, that is.

Vargas had already claimed an American League-leading 12 victories entering July. His 2.22 ERA was the best in the American League. He went 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA in June. He is 7-1 with an AL-leading 1.84 ERA in his first nine home starts this season.

“It’s been a good season for us as a whole to start,” Vargas said. “We’ve got in some situations early (10-20 record on May 7), where we were unsure what was going on. And we started to put it together and we’re starting to play some pretty good baseball. Just the success as a whole that I believe we’re in now.”

Early in his career Jason Vargas played at three colleges, LSU, Cypress (Cal.) Junior College and Long Beach State. He was drafted in the 43rd round in 2001 by the Minnesota Twins out of Apple Valley (Cal.) High, but chose to go to LSU. He was a better hitter, .354, 14 doubles, five home runs as a Long Beach junior, than pitcher, 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA.

The Marlins choose him in the second round of the 2004 draft. Midway through the 2005 season, he was a member of the Marlins rotation.

He missed nearly two seasons in the majors. All of the 2008 season while with the New York Mets after surgery to repair a left hip labrum. He missed most of the 2016 season, pitching only 12 innings in the majors, after having Tommy John surgery midway through the 2015 season.

The Kansas City Royals are his fifth major league team. Besides the Marlins and Mets, he also has toiled innings for the Mariners and Angels.

But what about Vargas’ current success with the Royals,  personally?

“It comes along with team success,” Jason Vargas said.

Without his incredible start, the Royals would not where they are in the standings.

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, the MVP of the 2016 All-Star Game, knows how important Jason Vargas has been to the Royals this year.

“He went out in midseason (2015) and missed all of last season for the most part,” Hosmer said. “To see him back, the way he competes out there, he’s such a great competitor. It feeds off on everybody else in the dugout, so it’s good to have a guy like that back.”

“Anytime we get him runs, especially answering after he gives up one it seems like he kind of settles in and he gets in his groove and then stays comfortable. It’s fun to work behind him. He works quick and is throwing strikes,” Hosmer said.

In an age of flame-throwers, Jason Vargas is winning with a fastball that peaks at 86 mile per hour.

“His changeup has always been good when he was healthy,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said. “His fastball is probably down a mile an hour than it used to be but his command is impeccable with a real good curveball.

“He’s in tremendous shape and he does his homework. He worked very diligently on not only his arm but his whole body and on his mechanics last year when he wasn’t able to pitch. He worked on a couple of mechanical issues to really iron his mechanics out.”

Twins manager Paul Molitor, a Hall of Famer and a member of the 3,000-hit club, watched his club scratch out two singles and one run in seven innings against Jason Vargas to end June.

“I don’t think we swung and missed at a fastball all night, which goes to tell you that it’s not velocity that’s going to beat you,” Molitor said. “It’s the fact that he can be deceptive, and you’ve got to stay back, and we didn’t do that very well.”

Yost said one could “make a sound case” that Jason Vargas is the team MVP for the first half of the season. The numbers don’t lie.

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Article by Alan Eskew

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