Matt Garza. First the Boston Red Sox asked for him as Theo Epstein compensation. I was okay with that.
Then things fell by the wayside and he was forgotten—I was also okay with that. Now, they want to flat-out trade for him.
That's where I draw the "no way in hell" line.
The following analysis is going to rip Matt Garza apart. If you're squeamish, pregnant or a Garza fanboy who is going to rage on me in the comments, please look away.
If you're interested in an in-depth analysis that proves Matt Garza isn't worth the asking price of the Mat Latoses and Gio Gonzalezes of the world, then please read on.
*All stats pulled from www.baseballreference.com and www.fangraphs.com.
**Some calculations were done by myself.
Matt Garza Has AL East Experience
This is undeniable. After being traded from the Minnesota Twins, Garza spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before being sent off to the Chicago Cubs.
From 24 to 26 years old, Garza spent his most important developmental years under Joe Maddon and his superb coaching staff.
For a youngster in the AL East, Garza did hold his own. In those three seasons he went 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA. His 2008 AL East inaugural season was his best, as he went 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA.
After 2008, Garza dropped off the map. After all the promise he showed in the second half of 2008, it was more like a nosedive.
In 2009 and 2010, Garza was less of an ace and more of a No. 4 starter. The AL Beast ate Garza alive.
At first glance, the numbers aren't too terrible. Garza was able to dominate the lowly Orioles and Blue Jays, while holding his own against the Yankees and Red Sox. But, that's when you factor in home starts at cozy Tropicana Field.
When pitching at the other AL East ballparks (Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Center), he is 14-9 with a 3.20 ERA. Not too shabby.
However, let's subtract the weaker teams and look only at Fenway and Yankee Stadium. Now Garza is 5-5 with a 4.05 ERA.
Even more suspect are Garza's career numbers against teams that made the American League playoffs last season:
Career numbers against Texas, New York and Detroit: 7-12 with a 4.36 ERA in 169.3 innings of work.
When pitching against lesser opponents, Garza can be stellar. But when pitching in a hitter's park or against a playoff-bound team, his numbers fall apart.
Matt Garza Was a Beast in Chicago
It is true that Matt Garza was fantastic with the Chicago Cubs last season. In fact, it was his best campaign yet.
Garza only went 10-10, but that's not bad for someone on a 71-91 ball club. His ERA was a career-best 3.32, as were his 8.95 K/9 and 3.13 K/BB.
Once again, let's go under the surface.
First off, we must accept that fact Garza is great in pitching-oriented parks. In 2011, Wrigley Field was one of the best places to pitch.
Let's look at Garza's 2011 home/away splits:
Home: 6-5, 2.46 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, 3.73 K/BB
Away: 4-5, 4.56 ERA, 1.457 WHIP, 2.47 K/BB
The numbers speak for themselves, don't you think?
How did Garza fare at rival Miller Park and Great American Ball Park (two notorious hitter's parks)? His combined numbers are 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA.
Once again, we see how Garza's career has benefited from pitcher's parks. When out of his element, his numbers explode and he is not nearly as effective.
Matt Garza Is a Consistent Mid-Rotation Starter, Nothing Else Matters
No matter what the splits say, all Boston really needs is a consistent starter. Someone who won't have the blow-up games we saw in September.
Some might say Garza fits that bill, but I beg to differ. Here is a breakdown of his statistical trends over the last four seasons.
| ||2008 ||2009 ||2010 ||2011 ||Average Change per Season |
|ERA ||3.70 ||3.95 ||3.91 ||3.32 ||7.62% |
|Innings Pitched ||184.2 ||203.0 ||204.2 ||198.0 ||4.61% |
|WHIP ||1.240 ||1.261 ||1.251 ||1.258 ||1.01% |
|K/9 ||6.2 ||8.4 ||6.6 ||8.95 ||30.84% |
|BB/9 ||2.9 ||3.5 ||2.8 ||2.9 ||14.76% |
|HR/9 ||0.9 ||1.1 ||1.2 ||0.6 ||27.10% |
I know that is a lot of information to sift through, but it shows a lot. Nothing has been too consistent for Garza (except maybe that fringe 4.00 ERA he had from '08-'10).
Looking at innings, he has issues consistently touching 200 or more per season. For a guy who has been consistently healthy throughout his entire career, he should have no problem pitching 210-220 innings.
His control is suspect, evidenced by his fluctuations in K/9, BB/9 and K/BB.
Finally, his HR/9 shows how much of an effect Wrigley and the NL had on his pitching abilities.
Over his career, Matt Garza has been anything but consistent, and he is certainly not the answer for the Boston Red Sox rotation.
Let's Look at the Sabermetrics
The ultimate statistical dive—with all the sabermetrics out there, you'd be hard pressed to delve into deeper analytical waters.
Is Matt Garza Worth the Current Asking Price?
Total votes: 144
First, let's look at FIP/xFip.
These numbers say that Garza's 2011 ERA should have been closer to 2.95-3.19. That's expected, because the Chicago Cubs had a below-average defense (-9.5 UZR).
When we look at the same two numbers for Garza's time in Tampa, we see that his ERA should have been between 4.14-4.42. It's easy for a pitcher to look better than they are playing with the Rays defense (they lead all MLB in UZR over the last four seasons at 209.1).
Now, one can make the case that Garza became better as an independent pitcher in 2011.
In fact, he posted the best K/9 of his career (8.95). He also saw a spike in whiff rate (12% in 2011) and a decline in contact rate (76%). Both were career bests.
But once again, we have to factor in the change of leagues and divisions. We can't compare total strikeouts and walks, because the AL has the DH while the NL Central has six teams.
But, we can examine average K/BB ratio for each divisions' offenses:
2011 AL East K/BB ratio: 2.09
2011 NL Central K/BB ratio: 2.45
Garza flashed better stuff in the NL Central and was able to gain more punch outs for himself. This made him a better independent pitcher, even when backed by a below-average defense.
However, he also pitched in a division that had a K/BB ratio 18 percent higher than that of the AL East. Will he be able to generate as many strikeouts in a division that demonstrates better plate discipline?
Despite the points I've tried to convey in this article, I don't completely hate Matt Garza. He has had flashes of brilliance (a no-hitter comes to mind) and has knowledge of the AL East.
However, he is far from the rotation savior. He's no ace, nor is he a No. 2. At his best, he's maybe a No. 3 pitcher, and a serviceable No. 4 at worst.
The reason I wrote this article is because current trade rumors have it that the Chicago Cubs are asking a lot for Garza. He is not worth a Latos, Trevor Cahill or Gonzalez (was Gio Gonzalez even worth a Gio Gonzalez?).
If Boston can make a reasonable trade for Matt Garza, I'd be okay with it. If they can trade for him at a premium and call the Theo Epstein compensation settled, I'd be okay with that too.
But if Ben Cherington gives up an ace's ransom for the right-hander, it will be this season's biggest waste of talent.
Edit: I liked this one posters arguement on the comments section:
Have you even looked at the stats you posted? How can you say it's inconsistent? Besides the K/9 of course. The WHIP? Consistent. The innings? Consistent. Your basis of him not hitting 200 all the time is irrelevant. The most starts he's ever had in a season is 32. 30 starts in 2008 = 184.2 innings. 31 starts with the Cubs in 2011 = 198 innings. 32 starts in 2009 = 203 innings. 32 starts in 2010 = 204.2 innings. His innings per start is consistent. How many starts he's had wavers from year to year. I doubt it's his fault.
Here's an accurate statistic for you. Garza threw his fastball 70% of the time when he was in Tampa. When he went to Chicago, he threw it around 45% of the time. He threw his slider more often. So he had better success. To say that didn't effect how well he pitched would be a laughable statement. So please don't go there.
So, Garza has had success in the AL East before while have a different pitching perspective. If he were to come back to the AL East in a Red Sox uniform(hopefully not from my point of view) he'd actually be better than he was with the Rays because they way he pitches is different. Would his sabermetrics point to a sub 3 ERA? Probably not. But I wouldn't doubt if he'd match the 3.30 ERA he posted with the Cubs for numerous reasons. The Red Sox have a better defense. Also, he wouldn't have to face the Red Sox anyway. So all you have to worry about is the Yankees(he dominates the Blue Jays who aren't too shabby offensively). And despite the Rays being just as good as the Sox and Yanks, the offense isn't their strength.
If I was a Red Sox fan, I'd absolutely be thrilled if Garza went to Boston. If I was a Yankees fan, I'd be thrilled if went to New York. He's a good pitcher. Even a great one nowadays.
...I myself consider Garza to be a number 3 type, on this team he maybe a number 4. I actually wouldn't argue with putting him in the 3 slot just to put less pressure on Clay. I myself perfer Garza to Gio Gonzalez, just because of the fact lefties not named Jon Lester seem to struggle at Fenway, and Gio has problems with walking people, he could be a left handed Dice-K. I would not want to give up Middlebrooks, Lavarnway, Iggy, or any of our top prospects, however I'd be okay with maybe 3 or 4 2nd tier prospects or 2 second tier prospects and 1 top prospect that maybe blocked. What do you guys think? I really enjoyed this article, and I also liked the commenters arguement.