Vargas Borrows Buehrle’s Blueprint | The Process Report

Vargas Borrows Buehrle’s Blueprint

For the second time this young season, the Rays offense was shutdown by a soft-tossing left-hander. Following Mark Buehrle’s gem last week, Jason Vargas of the Royals tossed eight, solid innings on Monday night, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk. Different teams, slightly different pitchers, but a very similar plan of execution: pitch sequencing and location.

Vargas threw “harder” than Buehrle, topping 89 mph at one point, but did most of his damage with a well-located, mid-80s fastball. Though he only missed five bats on the evening, Vargas spotted the ball well and kept the Rays off balance with unpredictable usage. He did almost all of his work within the strike zone and lived arm-side and down for most of the evening. Despite Vargas’ 87-mph fastballs peppering the zone all night, Tampa Bay’s offense could not do much.

map1

Perhaps it is because Vargas was playing puppetter with his pitches. Vargas held the advantage most of the night, but he did throw 20 pitchers in hitter’s counts. This is generally when a pitcher might throw a fastball to narrow the gap. Instead, he countered with 13 non-fastballs including 11 changeups. On the other hand, Vargas threw 42 pitches while ahead. Instead of trying to get hitters to chase by going out of the zone with off-speed pitches or breaking balls, he threw 25 fastballs; achieving outs with seven of them. Like Buehrle, he switched up the location of pitches as needed. For instance, on these pitches he opted to go glove-side and up.

map2

With command on both sides of the plate with the fastball, Vargas was then able bury his changeup – one of the best in the business – low and to his arm-side which results in an additional eight outs.

Though the Rays’ offense has struggled at times to produce runs – a popular refrain – it is not due to poor contact. According to ESPN Stats & Info, no team has more “well-hit” balls that the Rays. Unfortunately, they rank near the bottom in average on these well-struck offerings. Loud outs generally tend to turn into hits, so this appears to be a good process, bad result scenario. On the other hand, perhaps they could be a little more active within the zone. Currently, the team has the second-highest amount of “takes” in the strike zone (214) in the American League.



Leave a Reply

#layout { padding-left:20px; }