When the Mets signed Jason Vargas to a 2-year, $16 million contract before the start of the 2018 season, it was seen by some as a solid back-end of the rotation/innings eater deal, and others as a colossal waste of money. It turns out that both were sort of correct.
Vargas’s second stint as a Met got off to a shaky start, when he landed on the disabled list with a fracture in his non-throwing hand in Spring Training. Due to the subsequent surgery and recovery time, Vargas didn’t make a start until April 28th. His first three starts fed into the doubts about his signing; he didn’t make it out of the fifth inning and gave up nine, six, and four earned runs, respectively. Vargas did make two good starts in May, throwing five scoreless innings against both the Marlins and the Braves.
The reality was that Vargas was just not very good during the first half of the season. When he hit the disabled list with a strained calf in late June, Vargas was rocking a 8.60 ERA, and the signing looked like a disaster.
When Vargas came off the disabled list on July 27th, his first few starts back didn’t exactly elicit much optimism either. But on August 14th, Vargas put together his longest start of the season thus far, going six innings and giving up just two earned runs. But then, on August 19th, the most important piece of Vargas’s season came into place: Vargy was born.
The Mets and the Phillies played in the Little League Classic game for 2018 and, as part of the festivities, wore their jerseys for Players’ Weekend, the second annual celebration of ballplayers’ nicknames and ugly uniforms. For his Players’ Weekend duds, Vargas picked “Vargy” for the back of his jersey, and Vargy, it turns out, was a better pitcher than Vargas was all season.
In his two starts, Vargy looked the best he had all season, showcasing better control and limiting the Phillies and Nationals to two and zero earned runs, with only a Carlos Santana home run in the August 19th game marring his two starts.
Post-Vargy, Vargas had one bad start, but more or less looked like who optimistic Met fans thought he may when he signed. He saved his best start for last, a seven inning, six strikeout, scoreless performance against the Braves. He finished the year with a 5.77 ERA, striking out 84 in 92 innings, while walking 30 and giving up 100 hits. Considering how poorly his season began, it could have been much worse.
Aside from his on the field performance, Vargas became the designated ‘chirp at the umpire for bad game calling’ Met, even getting ejected on June 17th by umpire Jim Reynolds.
Alongside the Mets’ starting pitching core of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, Vargas will be back in 2019. Tune in for another season of hipster glasses, slog starts and, hopefully, an encore appearance of Vargy.