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  • Vargas: Kennys Keep it Up

    Twins and Losses

    It seems a little inappropriate to call Kennys Vargas “Little Papi”. According to Baseball Reference he is an inch taller (6’ 5”) and weighs thirty-five pounds more than Mr. Ortiz. One can assume that this comparison has more to do with their skills with a bat than their impressive physical stature. They may not be the quickest nor the best when it comes to flashing the leather but they do both possess an important skill, one that Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame deems the most vital, though his reasoning pertains to motor vehicles: Power.

    Over the last thirty days Kennys has put himself among some very impressive company thanks to his prowess with a baseball bat.

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    He ranks 5th in MLB in RBIs (23), 13th in hits (33), 13th in batting average (.333), 16th in slugging percentage (.525) and 18th in on base plus slugging (.890). If we compare his stats to just those in the American League he stands 3rd in RBI, 6th in hits, 6th in BA, 7th in SLG and 8th in OPS. So he’s top 20 in the MLB and top 10 in the AL. Not bad for a guy who was called up to the majors from AA- New Britain less than a month ago.

    So "not bad." In fact, Baseball Reference has a stat called "OWn%" which is the percentage of games a team with nine of said player batting would win given average defense and pitching. Team Kennys would be averaging 7.4 runs per game and sitting high above the rest of the league at 117-45. That is about as likely as Roger Goodell handing out suitable suspensions for violating certain NFL policies, but not bad.

    Not all of Vargas’ stats are as rosy as those mentioned above. With great power comes great responsibility and part of said responsibility is patience at the plate. In the very small sample size of his twenty-four games played, Kennys has a strikeout rate of 26.2% compared to a walk rate of 3.7%. Not so good. His K/BB rate is 7.0, which is also… not so good. He does hit home runs at the same pace he draws walks though.

    Surprisingly, for a player with so little time in the majors his plate discipline isn’t terrible:


    A few things we can gather from the chart above:

    • Vargas sees more pitches outside the zone than in the zone. Not at all uncommon for batters new to MLB. For example, just over 50% of the pitches thrown Danny Santana’s way are in the zone and he’s been hitting consistently since the beginning of May.

    • Of those outside pitches, Kennys has swung at less than half of them, showing he has a decent grasp on what is and isn’t in the zone. Even when he does swing at pitches he technically shouldn’t, whether chasing or fouling off, he’s still able make contact more than half the time, which is encouraging.

    • While he may not see as many pitches in the zone, he seems to have a good grasp where the zone is as evidenced by a 31% increase in swing tendencies and contact made when the ball crosses the plate in the zone. For perspective, this season Joe Mauer has swung at 53% of pitches in the zone and made 90% contact. A 4% difference in contact on strike pitches between a guy who has been in the majors for a month and a three-time batting champ isn’t too shabby.

    Overall, Vargas has some work to do when it comes to leaving the bat on the shoulder on pitches that are balls. But his contact percentages on pitches both in and outside the zone are an indication that he knows what he can and cannot touch. This will go a long way toward building his foundation as a solid hitter.

    I do fear the day where opposing pitchers take note of Kennys' tendencies at the plate. With 28 strikeouts and four walks in 99 at-bats, it’s hard to see those numbers getting much worse, but then again at the beginning of the year we all thought Chris Colabello would be our run-producing machine for the season. I think we’re all expecting a DH who plays 1B every once in a while and mashes the ball with such strength that we'll hear Dick Bremer turn nearly speechless, aside from a feeble “…Oh my…”, as was the case in Houston when Kennys planted a ball halfway up the second deck in right field.

    He certainly has some work to do at the plate when it comes to walks and strikeouts. But if the lineup of the future includes a second-coming of the Bash Brothers in the switch-hitting Vargas and lefty Oswaldo Arcia cranking back-to-back moonshots, you can bet the cameras at Target Field won’t shy away from showing the upper deck seats as much as they have recently.

    The sun may be setting on another 90+ loss season for the Twins and you've probably stopped reading this because football is right around the corner, but if you're a die-hard like I am, you'll stay tuned-in to the bitter end to see what Vargas (and the other young'uns) can do.

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    Excellent Article. I like the idea of the return of the Bash Brother, but I have a feeling it's Vargas and Sano, with Arica providing the protection. The article in general was a great balance of of stats and color, but one area I was thrown off was when you had the picture of Vargas split up the "Past 30 day" comments and the "Leads the majors in.." comment. Made it feel like they were two separate factoids rather than one.   

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    Vargas, Arcia, and Sano are going to make a very nice core over the next few years. I'm pretty excited about that as all of them. Combine them with Buxton, Santana, Mauer, and Dozier, and you have a pretty nice 1-7.

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    It's too bad that Kennys wasn't called up in early July.  I figure that it takes about a month for the book to get around on a new guy's tendencies, and we could have seen how he adjusted to legitimate MLB pitching attacking his weaknesses in August.  We'll only get to see a little of that in September as the expanded rosters will dilute the pitching staffs and not give us a true read of how Kennys adjusts.  I guess we'll have to wait until late April/early May to learn that.

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    I am so excited for Kennys!  He's playing 1st base recently.  Nice young man with a fine attitude and a winning personality.  Sure to be a fan favorite for many years.  I always enjoy my trips to spring training to see all of my "baseball sons".

    Edited by ashburyjohn
    In a thread about Vargas, no need to slip in a slam against another player
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    My question is why must he have a better walk to K rate?  It would be nice if he did yes, and most likely will, but he puts balls in play and a lot have been for hits.  If he was hitting around .225 and had that same K rate then I would say larger issue.  Is he in the line up to walk, or hit and drive in runs? 

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    My question is why must he have a better walk to K rate?  It would be nice if he did yes, and most likely will, but he puts balls in play and a lot have been for hits.  If he was hitting around .225 and had that same K rate then I would say larger issue.  Is he in the line up to walk, or hit and drive in runs? 

    Right now he has a .398 BAPIP.  If his BAPIP drops to .300 with the same K rates then he's a .225/.275/.400/.675 hitter (at DH).  We don't know exactly what his BAPIP will drop to since each hitter can control his BAPIP to a certain extent.  We do know that .398 is unsustainable by anyone and he's a big guy so beat out IF singles won't boost his BAPIP. 


    Luckily Vargas has a history of good K/BB rates in the minors and it's not a surprise that a rookie loses his plate discipline on his initial callup.  Of course Arcia hasn't improved his plate discipline.

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    Kennys won't keep up this rate, but I'm thrilled he's up with the team and gotten off to this kind of start. He seems to be taking it all in stride, and has a pretty good eye at the plate. Perhaps that will rub off on Arcia who is a sure k right now. And Kennys has played decent defense to the surprise to some who labeled him as a lifetime DH.


    I seem him as hitting around .280, with alot of doubles and 25 plus homers a year in the future.

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    Perception is interesting.  Arcia is a sure K and Vargas has a good eye at the plate.  :confused:


    Vargas - 26% K rate

    Arcia - 31% K rate


    The difference is that one of these is getting a lot of hits when not K'ing (Vargas and .398 BAPIP) while the other is not (Arcia and .285 BAPIP).

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