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Pitchers Have Found Kennys Vargas' Weakness

Being overaggressive and failing to make contact are not a good combination.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this season, there were several roster moves I wanted to see. The biggest one was the expulsion of Mike Pelfrey. Clearly that didn't happen, and I had resigned myself to the fact that he would be in the bullpen, but then Ervin Santana had to go put funny things into his body and now Big Pelf inhabits our TV screens once every five days. Admittedly he's looked pretty decent thus far, but still, bleh.

The second move I wanted was for either Alex Meyer or Trevor May to break camp with the team. You can count me in the segment of Twins fans that are frustrated by Meyer's entrapment in Triple-A, though his control has taken a step back now and even I can admit that he's not currently deserving of a call-up. Meanwhile, May did technically start the season in the minors, but was quickly brought up to replace Ricky Nolasco. Though it's still early, he's dramatically improved his control and his only real problem currently has been his inability to strand runners on base.

My final wish for the Twins was for Kennys Vargas to start the season as the everyday DH, and that has gone as poorly as anyone could have imagined. Only two things have gone right for him this season: He's hitting lefties and he's drawing a fair number of walks.

Beyond that, it's been pretty tough to watch him swing the bat. Pitchers have quickly discovered that he's overaggressive at the plate and have fed him a steady diet of offspeed pitches out of the zone. From FanGraphs, here's Vargas' plate discipline numbers from this year alongside the major league averages.

Vargas Lack of Plate Discipline


O-Swing%: Percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone

Z-Swing%: Percentage of pitches swung at inside the strike zone

Swing%: Percentage of all pitches swung at

O-Contact%: Percentage of pitches outside the strike zone where the batter made contact

Z-Contact%: Percentage of pitches inside the strike zone where the batter made contact

Contact%: Percentage of all pitches where the batter made contact

Zone%: Percentage of pitches thrown in the strike zone

F-Pitch%: Percentage of plate appearances that start with a first pitch strike

SwStr%: Percentage of pitches that resulted in a swing and miss

A few things jump out at me when looking at his plate discipline numbers. Vargas is swinging at more pitches out of the zone, making far less contact, and seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone compared to the major league average. Pitchers have figured out that they don't need to put the ball in the strike zone all that often because they can get Vargas to chase. Toss in that he's not making contact and it's easy to see why his strikeout percentage is nearing 30% (the major league average is around 20%).

It's interesting that Vargas has still had some success against left-handed pitchers while being awful against righties because last year his results were flipped. It's not like he completely forgot how to hit, but pitchers have definitely discovered how to get him out.

I don't know what the solution should be, however. My first instinct was that Vargas should be sent down to Triple-A to get himself sorted out while Josmil Pinto comes up to take over some of the DH duties. After all, he did jump from Double-A to the majors last year. But, we could also argue that Vargas just needs to sink or swim in order to figure out how to lay off those pitches outside of the zone. Paul Molitor has shown the willingness to mix and match his batting orders instead of committing to one master lineup, so it may be difficult for Vargas to get regular at-bats in Minnesota. Hopefully he can get going quickly, because the Twins sure could use his power in the middle of their lineup.