Ball Star

Defending the Jason Vargas signing

Updated: 2013-11-24T06:31:06Z


The Kansas City Star

To me, the most interesting statistics from the 2013 Royals season was their record when scoring four runs or more.


I think that statistic is important when looking at the Royals’ signing of left-hander Jason Vargas, which is not as bad as some people are proclaiming.

Sam Mellinger, The Star’s Most Interesting Sports Columnist In The World, had a great piece on his blog about the Jason Vargas signing. One of the takeaways from that was the Royals having found their identity as a team that relies on pitching and defense.

That’s why the Vargas signing makes sense for the Royals.

The Royals’ pitching strength depends on having the starters get through at least six innings and then handing the game to the bullpen, which was baseball’s best last season.

The bottom line for Royals starters don’t have to toss shutout ball for six innings. If the offense can muster up just four runs in a game (and that’s an entirely different argument), then a starter need just limit the damage.

And Vargas can do that. You may abhor the Quality Start statistic, but for this exercise, it’s important given the parameters listed above. According to Baseball Reference, since 2010, Vargas is 11th in quality starts (well, 6+ IP and 3 ER or less) in the American League with 75.*

*The top five: Justin Verlander (97), Felix Hernandez (95), Jered Weaver (93), James Shields and David Price (89).

That’s five behind Ervin Santana, the pitcher Vargas is ostensibly replacing in the rotation. But it’s more than new teammate Jeremy Guthrie (64), who ranks 14th.

General manager Dayton Moore is bullish on the young arms the Royals have: Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. Any one of those three could be the true replacement for Santana, which would push Vargas to the back of the rotation.

A four-year, $32 million deal for a back-of-the rotation starter? One that will turn 31 next year? Well, yeah. That’s the financial reality of Major League Baseball these days.

That fourth year rankled a lot of Royals fans, but by 2017, that $8 million might look like a bargain to a team that wants to acquire a left-hander.

Particularly one who can consistently deliver a Quality Start on a consistent basis.

To reach Pete Grathoff, send email to Follow him at

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