In fairness to the reader, and, to a much lesser extent, myself, I will admit that I am not the biggest Matt Garza fan. I also don’t dislike him; I think he’s a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter, and those don’t exactly grow on trees. However, a snob is a snob is a snob, and I most definitely am a snob when it comes to starting pitching.
To me, when I look at Matt Garza, I see a pitcher who is given too much associative credit for being in the same rotation as Scott Kazmir, James Shields and David Price during the beginning of his career. And I don’t think there’s much doubt that Matt’s early success in Tampa has influenced the false perception that he’s a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. After all, he was solid, he was pitching for a playoff team, and that team had a bunch of other stud pitchers. Transitive property implied that he was great*.
[*If the Rays example isn’t clear enough, consider this analog: the perception of the Rangers is that they always have a good offense, right? Well when the Rangers became a dominant, front-running Major League franchise, the offense was still good, and even though understated players like Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz created the lion’s share of the behind-the-scenes lineup production, Michael Young was given the “leader” tag, as well as being rewarded with the “good clubhouse guy” label, as if those intangibles impacted the team’s overall performance.
Basically, Young was given extra credit for how well his teammates played, which is why some circles still believe he carries value. Matt Garza is in the same light; he’s okay, but the success of the Rays makes him look a lot better in retrospect.
Never underestimate the power of face value.]
Garza’s best season as a professional came in 2011 — with the Cubs — where he finished the year with a 3.31 SIERA, an xFIP of 3.19, and an ERA of 3.32 in 198.0 innings on the bump. He was worth +4.9 fWAR. (For lulz sake, his W-L record that season was 10-10.)
Excluding 2006 and 2007 in Minnesota — where both his samples were less than 100 innings — Matt Garza’s next-best seasons came in 2008 and 2009 while he was in Tampa Bay, where he produced +3.2 and +3.0 fWAR, respectively.
Here are how many innings he threw between the 2008 and 2011 seasons: 184.0, 203.0, 204.2, 198.0.
Here are his ERA’s during those seasons: 3.70, 3.95, 3.91, 3.32
Here are his xFIP’s during those seasons: 4.42, 4.14, 4.31, 3.19
Here are his SIERA’s during those seasons: 4.44, 3.98, 4.27, 3.31
If you throw out his outlier 2011 season, you are basically looking at a #3 starter in a solid rotation. Again, this is data from his prime, when he was throwing complete seasons, before injuries became a part of his game.
We aren’t talking about a former #1 starter with recent health concerns. This was a mid-rotation starter even in his prime … who carries a considerable risk to breakdown, who will probably cost your team a couple half-way decent prospects.
Intellectually, the numbers suggest that Matt Garza just isn’t that great of a prize to begin with.
Philosophically, the idea that it’s going to take at least two prospects — and likely two with some solid upside — to acquire two months of a #3 starter isn’t all that appealing.
If Jon Daniels is looking to upgrade the rotation, I would think his eyes would be set at steeper targets. Pitchers who have yet to enter our conscious as realistic options. If we know anything about the front office, it’s that they can, for the most part, control the media game they play around this time of the year. Matt Garza is obvious, boring, and most importantly, we already know about it.