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Saturday, December 31, 2011

WHY GARZA & THE YANKEES ARE A PERFECT MATCH

Here at BYB, we've thrown around ideas for that elusive potential number two starter that the fans desperately want. We've talked about higher profile names like Yu Darvish, Gio Gonzalez, Mark Buehrle, CJ Wilson, and Edwin Jackson to lower names that won't cost as much in terms of money or prospects like Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Rich Harden, etc. But, we've only briefly talked about the guy we're going to profile who happens to be a perfect fit, and that guy is Matt Garza.

Before Garza joined the Chicago Cubs in 2011, he was pretty good, but not great, during his three years with the Tampa Bay Rays. Take a look at the basic stats and the advanced stats...

2008-2010:
34-31, 3.86 ERA, 592.1 innings, 7.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9, 38.9 GB%, 4.24/4.29 FIP/xFIP, 109 ERA+, 7.6 WAR

Again, good, not great, but when Garza joined the Northsider's, he really shined. Take a look...

2011:
10-10, 3.32 ERA, 198 innings, 8.95 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, 0.64 HR/9, 46.8 GB%, 2.95/3.19 FIP/xFIP, 118 ERA+, 5 WAR

Before you bring it up, don't let the deflated win total fool you, as Garza received 5.91 runs of support on average per start last year, which is basically middle of the pack (43rd highest among 94 qualifiers). If he joins the Yankees, expect a lot more run support and more wins as a result. Also looking at last year's numbers, you can see with Garza's much improved strike out, walk, and home run rates, it results in much better FIP and xFIP rates compared to years past. Expect this trend to continue if he keeps those numbers up.
Another difference that caught my eye was Garza significantly increasing his ground ball rate, which suggests he has pitched more in the lower half of the zone. And in terms of pitch selection between the two time periods, you'll see that he has matured, and by a lot. Take a look at these graphs...
(by Fangraphs)
To be honest, the difference is quite staggering, and pretty awesome too. The guy has matured by a large degree, and at age 28, I can see him becoming an elite pitcher if he keeps this up.

Now, I bet some of the Garza doubters are saying "Well, the reason he improved so much is because he was pitching in the National League." While that may be true to some extent, you have to give him the majority of the credit. Look at Garza's quality of opponents. In 2011, Garza's opponents had an average OPS of .755, which was 286th out of 707 players that threw a pitch. For comparisons sake, AJ Burnett--who pitches in the American League East--was 283rd. Check out the full list HERE. Also remember, Garza pitched in the National League Central with strong hitting teams that include the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers who ranked 5th, 7th, and 11th, respectively, in runs scored last year.

Obviously, Garza is someone the Yankees would need to trade for in order to add him to their rotation. I'll throw out a scenario, but I'm sure it's unlikely to happen since I'm just a blogger with an opinion and not a GM like Brian Cashman or Jed Hoyer, but I say package Dellin Betances, Gary Sanchez, Adam Warren, and David Phelps for Garza.Now, of course that may sound like a lot to some, considering if all of those guys reach their potential, but try to think this one through. Betances has struggled with walk problems his entire minor league career (4.3 career BB/9), and could very well end up being a reliever, who knows. Sanchez is terrible, to say the least, thus far on defense to the point where Sanchez himself decided to not call for breaking balls while behind the plate. (Read HERE.) Also, at 18 years of age, he's still a long ways away, so anything can happen. Finally, you have Warren and Phelps. At this point, I'd say both of these guys could make a lot of major league rosters as back end starters or long men out of the 'pen, and nothing more going forward. To be frank, you have a better chance at winning the Powerball than you do with all of these prospects reaching their peak. This trade has got to be made.

We'll have to see what happens, of course, but I'm really high on Matt Garza. In fact, I've really liked this guy since the 2008 ALCS. Check this video out before you go on your way, as Garza finishes off the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS and earns ALCS MVP Honors...





--Jesse Schindler, BYB Staff Writer



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