Every dedicated Mets fan knows how bad Jason Vargas was last season. Some fans clamor for the Mets to give Seth Lugo and/or Robert Gsellman a chance in the rotation, and that might be the best long-term move. Some fans would like the Mets to sign a star pitcher like Dallas Keuchel, and some would even settle for a middle-tier free agent like Gio Gonzales. However, we all know that the Mets will not do this, as Vargas is making 9 million this season, which might as well be a guarantee for a roster spot. With that said, there are a few reasons to expect that Jason Vargas will make a comeback season in 2019.
1. The Mets Organization Mishandled Vargas’ Injury
In spring training last year, Vargas was hit by a comebacker on his right hand in one of his early spring starts. Since he is a lefty, he did not break his pitching hand, but the Mets said that Vargas would not pitch a game until he could adequately field his position. After a few weeks, his hand healed, but he was rushed into action too soon. With a lack of a real spring training, he was doomed from the start. This directly lead to the 8.60 first-half ERA that we all remember. That ERA was caused by 36 earned runs in 37 innings, which is downright terrible.
2. After Vargas Recovered, He Was A Good Starter
Remember that 8.60 first-half ERA, and only in 37 innings? Jason Vargas went on to pitch 54.1 innings in the second half, and that amounted to a 3.81 ERA. Not only is that earned-run average serviceable, it is actually a very good number for a team’s fifth starter. In the first half, there were games that Vargas single-handedly lost by giving up 5+ runs in less than 3 innings. Now if you look at the second half, his ERA would suggest that he gave the chance to win most times he took the mound. Remember, the Mets do not need Vargas to be an ace, or even a mid-rotation starter. All they need him to be is someone who can eat up innings, and keep the team in a position to win the games he pitches.
3. Impressive Spring Training
Yes, this is the smallest of sample sizes. Vargas has made 2 starts, giving up just one run on a home run, adding up to a 2.08 ERA. Regardless of the sample size, it shows the importance of Vargas getting a proper spring training. Even if he regresses a run or more from that 2.08 number, he will be a decent starter at the back of the rotation.
4. Solid Career Numbers
In a 14 year career, Jason Vargas has posted a 92-90 record and a 4.27 ERA. He’s never been a flashy starter — his career numbers are around league average and he does not throw hard — but he’s been consistent. While he’s not getting any younger, there’s no obvious reason to think he would be worse than his career line.
Following a mishandled injury, a strong second half to 2018 leads me to believe that Jason Vargas will have a comeback season. No, we will not have a rotation of “5 aces” again. What we will have, though, is an above average rotation that does not need much run support. Since the Mets’ offense is questionable, that is a good thing. A team’s positives should help counteract its negatives, and that applies to this 2019 Mets team. Sure, the Mets should sign another starter. However they won’t, and Vargas should be at the very least be a serviceable innings-eater in the meantime.