The Kansas City Royals recently signed left-handed starting pitcher Jason Vargas to a 4-year, $32 million deal. Vargas is a solid, if unspectacular, pitcher that won’t excite many fans and won’t dominate many opponents, but will give blue collar efforts nearly every time out. Kind of like another Royals pitcher – Jeremy Guthrie.
In fact, Vargas and Guthrie are so similar statistically, they could be stat twins, except that one is left-handed and the other right-handed. It is all kind of eery. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the 162-game averages for both players, as provided by baseball-reference.com.
Wins/Losses: Vargas 11-12, Guthrie 10-13
ERA: Vargas 4.30, Guthrie 4.24
Games Started: Vargas 32, Guthrie 32
Innings Pitched: Vargas 203, Guthrie 209
Hits Allowed: Vargas 205, Guthrie 216
Earned Runs: Vargas 97, Guthrie 99
HRA: Vargas 26, Guthrie 29
Walks: Vargas 62, Guthrie 61
Strikeouts: Vargas 132, Guthrie 124
WHIP: Vargas 1.319, Guthrie 1.321
BABIP: Vargas .283, Guthrie .281
All of the ratios show similar results, being as the all of the stats that make them up are relatively close.
There is one stat in which they are not close, for whatever reason, and that is Wins Above Replacement. Despite how close these two pitchers’ stats are across the board, Jason Vargas’ WAR in 8 seasons is 8.1, or just about 1 a season. Guthrie’s in 10 seasons is 19.0, or nearly 2 per season. Vargas’s best WAR season was 2012, when he earned a 3.1 WAR. Guthrie has had 3 seasons with a WAR of 4.0 or better.
Other than WAR, statistically there is so little difference between Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Vargas strikeouts out a few more batters and gives up a tad fewer home runs. Other than those things, there few dissimilarities, and even those are slight.
So, how do you fit both into the rotation. More than likely they will both be in the rotation for the next two years, as Guthrie as that much time left on his contract, and Vargas just signed for 4 years.
If these two pitchers are slotted to be the second and third starters behind James Shields, the Royals are in trouble. If they are the fourth and fifth starters, as they should be, Kansas City may be all right.
If they Royals are unable to bring in another quality starter, there is a chance that Shields, Guthrie, and Vargas will be joined in the rotation by Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. The problem with having both of these young gums in your rotation is that neither has a history of pitching deep into games.
Duffy has 31 starts in the majors and averages about 5.1 IP per start. Ventura has just 3 MLB starts and he averages 5.1 IP per outing. In the minors, Duffy averaged less than 5 IP (4.66) per outing (86 starts, 4 relief appearances). Ventura averaged just 4.37 IP per appearance (81 starts, 14 games in relief). Neither can be relied upon to throw many innings, maybe 160 max.
Both Duffy and Ventura are slight of build, throw hard, and struggle with their control. They will have to be split up in the rotation so they won’t wear out the bullpen on back-to-back days.
Vargas and Guthrie will have to be used out of position, so to speak, if both Duffy and Ventura make the rotation. Stuff wise, Guthrie and Vargas should be numbers 4 and 5, but experience and the ability to pitch deeper into the game may force them into roles like 2nd and 4th in the rotation.
It would probably be for the best to split them up in the rotation since they are the same pitcher except one is a southpaw and one isn’t. Does this mean Dayton Moore has a type of pitcher he likes? More likely, Dayton Moore has a type of pitcher he can afford, and Vargas/Guthrie is it.
Both will have games, and stretches of games, where we the fans will love them for their gutsy, bulldog performances. There will be other games and stretches when we will rant about how awful they are, and how long we are going to have to put up with them. That is the nature of pitchers with Earned Run Averages around 4.30. That is the nature of the beast, so to speak.
It isn’t a bad thing to have a pitcher like Vargas/Guthrie on your team. They can bring a lot of positives and have a role to fill. It may not be such a good thing to have two of them in your rotation. That will mean there will be a lot of games where the Royals have to score 5 runs to have a shot. As we all know, the Royals are not built to do that.
Jason Vargas is not Ervin Santana. Make peace with that right now. Temper expectations. Jason Vargas is Jeremy Guthrie, but left-handed. Make peace with that.