I tried looking at things in a more optimistic light, citing the minimal to nonexistent chance that anything happens to his spot on the roster between now and the end of the season. I made sure to mention that he hadn’t allowed a single home run. I waxed poetic about his second-inning numbers. I (deservedly) caught flack for it, but above all else, I tried.
As a matter of fact, that’s been the whole story this season with Vargas. He makes a start, he survives somewhere between three and five innings, the team loses, and everybody digs into his final line to try and pull virtually anything convincing from the fire.
Had it not been for the lefty leaving the game with just one out in the first, we probably wouldn’t have been able to watch Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith combine for four mature, scoreless innings. Hell, that may have been the only positive from the loss altogether. The last time the Mets won a game that Jason Vargas pitched in, the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 to keep themselves a game above .500.
In his defense, the rain delay that followed his first 14 pitches was what essentially yanked him from the game, so it’s not necessarily accurate to blame him for the bullpen show that followed. This particular start comes in some notches beneath 2007 Tom Glavine on the nuclear scale, but Vargas very clearly didn’t have it… again.
For those in a hurry, Vargas allowed a leadoff single to Jose Peraza, who proceeded to steal second base. Brandon Dixon struck out on a ball in the dirt, but the throw to first allowed Peraza to scurry over to third. He scored on a base hit from Scooter Gennett, who in turn moved to third on a ground-rule double off the bat of Eugenio Suarez. The tarp promptly came out and the game entered a rain delay, thus sparing every TV remote and coffee table in the Tri-State Area that was otherwise destined to rage-fly across the room.
That none of these developments seemed much of a surprise, if any at all, is an unfortunate testament to the true dysfunction within Vargas’ first full season in New York. Now 2-8 on the season, Vargas has put together some embarrassing numbers, to say the least: an 8.75 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 2.3 HR/9, .966 opponent OPS, and pitch values that literally all register negatively are a few of the clearest examples.
As a point of reference, Alex Cobb – whom many had once labeled the biggest bust in the pile of cheap, veteran starting pitchers – has a 5.83 ERA and 1.54 WHIP at this point of the season. For what it’s worth, Lance Lynn has also found a more realistic niche of mediocrity, posting a 4.58 ERA and averaging 0.9 HR/9.
This is no longer a matter of settling in or getting a feel, nor is it any longer an appropriate time to extend the leash on a 35-year old, even if the organization mistakenly threw $16M in his direction. As far as I understand, it doesn’t say anywhere in Vargas’ contract that the Mets are obligated to lay and build a fort in the bed they made. They can move him however they see fit, seeing as they expect to get the best results in the process.
Even if they decide to try straightening him out in a long-relief role of sorts, the Mets would find themselves in a far more competitive position, seeing as pitchers like Corey Oswalt and Seth Lugo would consequently receive more opportunities to grow and establish themselves as secure cogs in the back of the rotation.
Worst case scenario, neither pitcher makes an impact. But even then, the Mets would have a far better idea as to how they improve the rotation. Running a half-incompetent, half-spent pitcher to the glue factory should not be on the agenda if the team expects to contend next season. Seeing and/or acting otherwise is either an egregious measure of ignorance to the current state of the team or an embarrassingly lazy way to run a ballclub. However you cut it, you lose.