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Royals pitcher Jason Vargas works on curve at cutter’s expense

02/23/2014 11:17 AM

02/23/2014 11:17 AM

During the 2011 season, Jason Vargas threw cutters 18.8 percent of the time, according to data from Baseball Info Solutions. During the height of the game’s cutter craze, Vargas ranked 15th among qualified pitchers in its usage.

These days?

"I haven’t thrown one in a bullpen in a year," he said.

The Royals signed Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract this offseason. He figures to slot in behind James Shields as the No. 2 starter in the rotation. He profiles as more of a back-end type, but his value derives from his reliability. The organization believes Vargas will benefit from the confines of Kauffman Stadium and the team’s elite defense.

The majority of Vargas’ pitchers are either upper 80s fastballs or changeups. His third pitch has rotated the past few years.

Baseball Info Solutions credited Vargas with a 1.2 percentage of cutters for the Angels in 2013. Vargas says those were likely misdiagnosed fastballs that cut by accident. He has completely ditched the pitch, and instead concentrated his energies on improving his curveball. His curveball rate jumped from 5.8 percent in 2011 to 14.9 percent last season, "which in turn made that a lot better," he said.

The cutter, he felt, had become less of a help and more of a hindrance.

"I didn’t know if it was getting me into more trouble than it was helping me get out of," Vargas said. "You know what I’m saying? It’s a great pitch to have. ... But just because something works sometimes doesn’t mean it’s going to benefit you down the road."

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