Some Thoughts On The Overrated Matt Garza

Two nights ago, while Alexi Ogando was wetting the bed, Jamey Newberg tweeted these:

And, yeah, I get it, I think we’re all pretty aware of Ogando’s ineptitude on the mound right now. If you follow Newberg on Twitter, you would also know this isn’t the first time he’s taken his digs at the Rangers former Rule-5 pick.

All told, Alexi Ogando gave up 4 runs in 6.1 innings on the bump.

On Wednesday night, it was Matt Garza‘s shot against the Brewers. And, like Alexi, he was done in by the long ball, allowing all of his runs (4 of them) via two Juan Francisco bombs. (Ogando, for the record, surrendered 3 HRs on Tuesday.)

But Matt Garza is one of Newberg’s coveted pitchers, so this is all we got to see:

Yep, 4 wins in 5 games. Thanks, offense.

And thank you for Wednesday, Leonys.

Listen, I’m not here to take shots at Jamey Newberg, because let’s face it, he’s a legend among Rangers fans. In fact, he might be the most famous die-hard Ranger fan on the planet, and I would gladly bow down and kiss the ring if I ever met the man.

Okay, probably not. Not gladly, at least.

But in the spirit of fairness, Matt Garza has not been anything special, so let’s just call a spade a spade, shall we?

I harp back to something Jeff Sullivan wrote over at FanGraphs about Garza before the trade went down:

He’s a starter who gets talked about a lot, and who throws hard. The magnitude of his actual impact would probably be smaller than the magnitude of the perception of his impact.

The glowing perception of Matt Garza will survive as long as Rangers continue winning his starts, and right now that’s been enough to keep the negative focus on Alexi Ogando — a pitcher who ideally wouldn’t be in the rotation in the first place — and away from Garza, who to this point has made more news from his predictable tirades than his performances between the lines.

This article is not intended to expose a compendium of hard-hitting revelations about Matt Garza as a starting pitcher because, the truth is, he’s been about what I anticipated. But the Rangers need more.

In 5 starts, Matt has faced the Astros, Yankees, Brewers, Angels and Athletics; the two most former rank 27th and 28th in baseball in terms of the offensive metric wRC+, Milwaukee has basically been league average (18th), and Oakland and Anaheim are each in the top-10. On the whole, however, he hasn’t exactly been facing a cavalcade of offensive juggernauts.

In those 5 starts, Garza has amassed 35.0 innings on the bump (7.0 IP/start), surrendering 16 runs on 33 hits, with a rather impressive 28:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

His xFIP with the Rangers (adjusted for league and ballpark) is 3.85, which is almost identical to his earned run average (3.86), and consistent with his 3.82 xFIP he posted in 71.0 innings with the Cubs earlier this year. The difference is his ERA was, predictably, over a half-run lower in the National League (3.17).

I know when you see an ERA in the 3′s you’re all like, “Woo-hoo!”, because this is the Rangers we’re talking about, and pitching really didn’t come into existence in Arlington until 2010.

The fact is, an ERA in the 3′s isn’t that impressive anymore, it’s expected. And especially so for a team as good as the Rangers. For example, in almost double Matt Garza’s sample (68.0 IP), Martin Perez‘s ERA is 3.44. In 80.1 IP — even with how shitty he’s pitched over the last month — Alexi Ogando’s ERA is 3.47.

I understand Garza’s 2013 American League sample is small, but that’s also acknowledging he’s faced a handful of bottom-dwellers, teams pitchers generally benefit from in the small sample.

So, yes, you can say I’m being overly critical. After all, if nothing else Matt Garza does provide innings. But let’s not pretend the quality of those innings are something they really aren’t.


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  • primi_timpano

    I understand acquiring Garza; it was either Garza, Norris or even more lackluster trade candidates, or more Tepesch or lesser pitchers from the farm. JD acquired the best available.

    The interesting question is the multi-year crush on Garza. According to press stories, the Rangers have “coveted” Garza during these last two or three years. If I were to covet a pitcher and had the Rangers budget and farm system, he would be someone younger, with better pitching tools, who can field his position, and who did not have such an ugly goatee.

    The interesting question suggested by your article is why do so many think Garza is better than he is? The strikeouts are part of it. I also think his stretch with the Rays contributes to the hype. Add grit and you have the building blocks of irrational expectations.

    I have read nothing to suggest my next hypothesis, perhaps Garza is another Nolan project where either consciously or not, Nolan sees the qualities of an ideal pitcher in Garza–grit, fastball, Ks, inside pitching, long starts–and the fascination exceeds the reality.

    My wish is today’s needs and attractions do not endure into the offseason. Garza is a fine 4 slot pitcher and maybe a decent number 3, but he is not a Darvish or Holland, or even an Anibal Sanchez. I hope he isn’t paid as such. It isn’t my money, but the Rangers need a better solutions to the outfield and first base, and AJP is a FA, too.

    • Andy

      I agree. Because of availability, I expect that Garza will be paid like a #2-3 instead of the #3-4 he actually is (I expect somewhere between what Edwin Jackson and Anibal Sanchez got). I would rather the Rangers not take that on, unless Garza takes it up a notch the rest of the season. I’d rather either roll with the guys we have, and let Feliz, Tepesch, and others try out for the 5th starter spot, or possibly make a trade. Obviously Price would be ideal, and he’ll be incredibly expensive, but he might be worth it. Right now I’d rather pay what the Rays ask for Price than $60-80m on Garza.

      • Eric Reining

        Will be closer to $80-100 million for Garza.

        • Andy

          I’m a bit skeptical Garza will approach 9 figures, but if he does, I want no part of it. He’s having trouble turning in quality starts. I’d rather see Feliz than Garza at that price.

    • Eric Reining

      The Nolan point is interesting, I hadn’t considered that.