Season in Review: Matt Garza

Following the 2010 season the Cubs decided to trade a bunch of players to acquire an overrated middle of the rotation pitcher in Matt Garza. Then he surprised many of us by having the best season of his career. His average WAR was 3.7 (5.0 fWAR, 2.5 rWAR, 3.7 WARP). His fWAR in 2011 was 1.9 higher than his previous best in 2009. His 2011 WARP was 1.5 higher than his best (also 2009). According to rWAR, both 2008 and 2009 were better than his 2011 season with the Cubs.

He had a career best ERA, FIP and xFIP. His K% was the best and his BB% was the 2nd best in his career. Naturally, we heard all about how Matt Garza is a different pitcher. To a large extent he was. He threw his fastball considerably less often. He replaced it with sliders and changeups. Since Garza was having a career year, different was meant to mean that he's a better pitcher.

From 2008 through 2010 Garza had a 3.85 ERA and 4.24 FIP. In his injury shortened 2012 season he posted an ERA of 3.91 and an FIP of 4.17.

This is a bit unfair. Garza has been a bit unlucky this season while at the same time being a little lucky. His HR/FB rate is over 16%. There's no reason to think it would remain that high and if we adjust that to 10%, which xFIP does for us, it's a solid 3.60. Not as good as the 3.19 from a year ago, but still plenty good. His BABIP last season was about league average while this season it's just barely over .270, which interestingly is the same as it was from 2008 through 2010.

Garza has been more of a groundball pitcher since joining the Cubs. He's struckout more and walked a bit less than before.

He was more than likely going to be traded prior to the July 31st deadline, but went on the disabled list with soreness in his triceps. It was later relealed he had a small fracture in the elbow and since we're so late in the season he's been shut down for good.

Prior to the injury he had thrown 103.2 innings, allowed 90 hits, struckout 96 and walked 32. In 2011 he allowed 14 home runs in just over 200 innings. He allowed 15 this year. His 3.91 ERA was just a little better than league average and his FIP is right in the same area as average. Fangraphs uses FIP-, which is similar to stats like ERA+ and OPS+ except that less than 100 is better than average. His ERA- in 2012 was 94 and his FIP- was 102.

His fWAR was 1.3, rWAR was 1.1 and his WARP was -0.5. The WARP was below replacement level because his FRA (Fair Run Average) was 5.53, which was more than a half run higher than his worst FRA in 2010.

Garza will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason. Due to his injury it's highly unlikely the Cubs could find a trading partner. In all likelihood he opens the 2013 season atop the Cubs rotation. He earned $9.5 million this past season and since he wasn't nearly as effective as 2011 and pitched just half a season, he won't get much of a raise. Both Garza and the Cubs will hope he returns to form early on so that they can trade him at the deadline. Garza will be hoping for a return to form in part to get to a contender at midseason, but also because he'll be a free agent following 2013.

While we're at this, we may as well take another look at the trade for Garza. I did so last June and then again in August, but we're another year into the trade so why not? I liked the trade by that time, but when the trade was completed, I hated it.

Garza has a total WAR (average of fWAR, rWAR, bWARP) over the first two seasons with the Cubs of 4.3. The Cubs also acquired Fernando Perez who had a short-lived career as a Cub and Zachary Rosscup. Rosscup was injured much of the season (only 29 innings at A+/AA), but will report to the Arizona Fall League. Rosscup strikes a lot of people out and has better than average control. The lefty has the potential to be a late-inning reliever, but he needs to return to form following the injury before that's even a possibility.

Chris Archer made his big league debut this year and in 3 starts has an impressive 25 to 4 strikeout to walk ratio. His command is still below average (this year in the minors it was 4.4 per 9). He could end up a back of the rotation pitcher, but more than likely will find himself in middle relief.

After a breakout season in High A last year, Hak-Ju Lee returned to AA where he slumped toward the end of the 2011 season and was only mediocre. He's still young, but he has no power. Speed is his best tool. If he can't stick at SS he has no MLB future ahead of him.

Robinson Chirinos missed the entire season with a concussion after an umimpressive debut in 2011. Guyer also missed most of the season and he was also unimpressive in his big league debut a year ago. Chirinos is 28 and Guyer is 26.

Sam Fuld has provided 2.4 WAR in his time with the Rays and he's done it for league minimum.

Because of Fuld's decent production for little money and Garza's step back this year, you once again have to give the edge to the Rays in this trade. Not much of one, but a slight edge.

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