While Jason Vargas didn’t really make the major strides in 2010 that people might tell you about, his performance was both comfortable, and sustainable. We’ve never thought of Vargas as anything more than a solid back-of-the-rotation starter, and that’s exactly what he looked like this year. His 4.82 xFIP was a bit on the mediocre side, but the fact that he’s a left-handed fly ball pitcher in Safeco Field continued to work to his benefit, and it will continue to as long as he’s in a Mariner uniform.
He still has one thing that separates him from guys like, say, Doug Fister, though, and that’s his changeup. It continues to be an excellent pitch for generating swinging strikes, and it’s the reason his future is probably as a #3 or #4 starter, and not a #5. It’s never been nearly as good as it was in 2010 though, going for 15.6 runs above average (via FanGraphs pitch values). Compare that to it’s 0.3 mark in 2009, when it was already beginning to draw praise.
Outlook: His 6.1% HR/FB rate probably won’t be sustained in 2011, and that 2.6 WAR mark is likely to come down a bit, but he’ll still be an excellent fit for this team. Sure, the help he gets from Safeco and our outfield defense doesn’t mean he’s any better of a pitcher, but if the results are good, and the variables stay in our favor, he’ll sure be nice to have around. Just think of him as a younger, first half of 2009 version of Jarrod Washburn, only with a great changeup. Might not sound all that appealing, but remember, first half of 2009 Jarrod Washburn worked out pretty well for the Mariners.