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Matt Garza: Will he be worth the money?

The Brewers gave out the biggest free agent contract in franchise history to Matt Garza. What will he give them in return?

Christian Petersen

Matt Garza has been relatively consistent over his career. He’s a solidly above average if not spectacular starter when he’s healthy, but unfortunately that is an issue with him. He missed significant time in 2012 and a moderate amount of time in 2013 with elbow and shoulder issues. Despite that, his performance hasn’t been obviously affected. He maintained an ERA in those two years close to his career average of 3.84. One thing I really worry about with injury prone pitchers is velocity, but his has remained constant at around 93.5 mph. Here’s how he compares to league average over the last three years:

K% BB% HR/9 F-Strike SwStr% Contact% AVG WHIP BABIP
Lg 2011 17.7 7.5 0.98 59.9 8.1 81.8 .256 1.32 .293
Garza 23.5 7.5 0.64 63.8 11.2 76.5 .241 1.26 .306
Lg 2012 18.7 7.4 1.09 60.5 8.6 80.8 .256 1.32 .294
Garza 22.6 7.6 1.30 62.5 9.8 78.4 .232 1.18 .271
Lg 2013 18.9 7.4 1.01 60.6 8.7 80.7 .255 1.31 .295
Garza 20.9 6.4 1.16 63.8 9.8 78.9 .248 1.24 .290

As you can see, both Garza’s first strike and swinging strike rates are above average. Unlike with Lohse, this is important because Garza’s effectiveness lies in his ability to strike guys out. His strikeout rate shows that he’s above average in this area. His contact rate, batting average against, and WHIP all show the impact that ability has as each is better than average. However, the last two years he’s been a little worse than average in HR/9. It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out in Miller Park. The hope here is that the home runs won’t hurt too much since he doesn’t allow too many base runners as evidenced by his WHIP.

Since his peripherals haven’t noticeably diminished despite his health, I’m confident in his abilities going forward. The real issue is going to be how much his health impacts his innings pitched. That’s something I can’t predict. In the three years before his injury issues began, he averaged about 200 innings a season. If we’re really lucky and his injuries are a thing of the past, it’s possible he could reach that mark again. That might be too much to hope for, but if he can go 180 innings the top of the rotation will be looking pretty good.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs