Kansas City Royals Breakdown: The Rotation

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Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Vargas

Last season, Jason Vargas appeared to be perfectly suited to Kauffman Stadium and the Kansas City Royals. He slotted into the middle of the Royals rotation perfectly, posting a solid 3.71 ERA and a 1.273 WHiP. That ERA was the best Vargas has had in a single season, while his WHiP was the third best mark of his career. It appeared as though Dayton Moore had pulled off another brilliant move with the pitching staff.

This season, Vargas just did not look like the same pitcher. In his five outings, Vargas failed to get past the sixth inning in any appearance. His 3-1 record was rather misleading, as Vargas had posted a 5.26 ERA and a 1.481 WHiP prior to landing on the disabled list with a left elbow strain.

Even before the Royals knew about the injury, something did not seem right. While Vargas is not a strikeout pitcher, he had struck out a career low 4.9 batters per nine innings, while walking career high 3.5 batters per nine. Opponents had produced a .783 OPS against Vargas, the highest mark since 2009. These struggles had to be due to his elbow bothering him all season, right?

While Vargas’s ERA and FIP are almost identical, it may be that there was quite a bit of bad luck involved. Even though he was unable to command the strike zone as well as usual, Vargas was generating fewer line drives, dropping from 23.0% of balls put in play to 15.9% this season. Meanwhile, he was generating more fly balls and grounders, theoretically meaning weaker contact. However, 10.5% of those fly balls resulted in home runs.

Jason Vargas also had one of his better starts of the season prior to landing on the disabled list. He allowed two runs on two hits and two walks, striking out five in his six innings against the Indians. Perhaps Vargas was starting to see that luck begin to normalize.

When Jason Vargas comes back, he is going to be an important part of the Kansas City Royals expected postseason push. Hopefully, he was starting to round into form, and can get back to being that pitcher from his most recent outing.

Next: The wild card