MLB Trade Rumors: Matt Garza an Overrated Commodity for the Boston Red Sox

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIDecember 29, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Matt Garza #17 of the Chicago Cubs pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on September 27, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Matt Garza. First the Boston Red Sox asked for him as Theo Epstein compensation. I was okay with that.

Then things fell by the wayside and he was forgotten—I was also okay with that. Now, they want to flat-out trade for him.

That's where I draw the "no way in hell" line.

The following analysis is going to rip Matt Garza apart. If you're squeamish, pregnant or a Garza fanboy who is going to rage on me in the comments, please look away.

If you're interested in an in-depth analysis that proves Matt Garza isn't worth the asking price of the Mat Latoses and Gio Gonzalezes of the world, then please read on.

*All stats pulled from and
**Some calculations were done by myself.

Matt Garza Has AL East Experience

This is undeniable. After being traded from the Minnesota Twins, Garza spent three seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before being sent off to the Chicago Cubs.

From 24 to 26 years old, Garza spent his most important developmental years under Joe Maddon and his superb coaching staff.

For a youngster in the AL East, Garza did hold his own. In those three seasons he went 34-31 with a 3.86 ERA. His 2008 AL East inaugural season was his best, as he went 11-9 with a 3.70 ERA.

After 2008, Garza dropped off the map. After all the promise he showed in the second half of 2008, it was more like a nosedive.

In 2009 and 2010, Garza was less of an ace and more of a No. 4 starter. The AL Beast ate Garza alive.

At first glance, the numbers aren't too terrible. Garza was able to dominate the lowly Orioles and Blue Jays, while holding his own against the Yankees and Red Sox. But, that's when you factor in home starts at cozy Tropicana Field.

When pitching at the other AL East ballparks (Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and the Rogers Center), he is 14-9 with a 3.20 ERA. Not too shabby.

However, let's subtract the weaker teams and look only at Fenway and Yankee Stadium. Now Garza is 5-5 with a 4.05 ERA.

Even more suspect are Garza's career numbers against teams that made the American League playoffs last season:

Career numbers against Texas, New York and Detroit: 7-12 with a 4.36 ERA in 169.3 innings of work.

When pitching against lesser opponents, Garza can be stellar. But when pitching in a hitter's park or against a playoff-bound team, his numbers fall apart.

Matt Garza Was a Beast in Chicago

It is true that Matt Garza was fantastic with the Chicago Cubs last season. In fact, it was his best campaign yet.

Garza only went 10-10, but that's not bad for someone on a 71-91 ball club. His ERA was a career-best 3.32, as were his 8.95 K/9 and 3.13 K/BB.

Once again, let's go under the surface.

First off, we must accept that fact Garza is great in pitching-oriented parks. In 2011, Wrigley Field was one of the best places to pitch.

Let's look at Garza's 2011 home/away splits:

Home: 6-5, 2.46 ERA, 1.120 WHIP, 3.73 K/BB
Away: 4-5, 4.56 ERA, 1.457 WHIP, 2.47 K/BB

The numbers speak for themselves, don't you think?

How did Garza fare at rival Miller Park and Great American Ball Park (two notorious hitter's parks)? His combined numbers are 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA.

Once again, we see how Garza's career has benefited from pitcher's parks. When out of his element, his numbers explode and he is not nearly as effective.

Matt Garza Is a Consistent Mid-Rotation Starter, Nothing Else Matters

No matter what the splits say, all Boston really needs is a consistent starter. Someone who won't have the blow-up games we saw in September.

Some might say Garza fits that bill, but I beg to differ. Here is a breakdown of his statistical trends over the last four seasons.

  2008 2009 2010 2011 Average Change per Season
ERA 3.70 3.95 3.91 3.32 7.62%
Innings Pitched 184.2 203.0 204.2 198.0 4.61%
WHIP 1.240 1.261 1.251 1.258 1.01%
K/9 6.2 8.4 6.6 8.95 30.84%
BB/9 2.9 3.5 2.8 2.9 14.76%
HR/9 0.9 1.1 1.2 0.6 27.10%

I know that is a lot of information to sift through, but it shows a lot. Nothing has been too consistent for Garza (except maybe that fringe 4.00 ERA he had from '08-'10).

Looking at innings, he has issues consistently touching 200 or more per season. For a guy who has been consistently healthy throughout his entire career, he should have no problem pitching 210-220 innings.

His control is suspect, evidenced by his fluctuations in K/9, BB/9 and K/BB.

Finally, his HR/9 shows how much of an effect Wrigley and the NL had on his pitching abilities.

Over his career, Matt Garza has been anything but consistent, and he is certainly not the answer for the Boston Red Sox rotation.

Let's Look at the Sabermetrics

The ultimate statistical dive—with all the sabermetrics out there, you'd be hard pressed to delve into deeper analytical waters.

First, let's look at FIP/xFip.

These numbers say that Garza's 2011 ERA should have been closer to 2.95-3.19. That's expected, because the Chicago Cubs had a below-average defense (-9.5 UZR).

When we look at the same two numbers for Garza's time in Tampa, we see that his ERA should have been between 4.14-4.42. It's easy for a pitcher to look better than they are playing with the Rays defense (they lead all MLB in UZR over the last four seasons at 209.1).

Now, one can make the case that Garza became better as an independent pitcher in 2011.

In fact, he posted the best K/9 of his career (8.95). He also saw a spike in whiff rate (12% in 2011) and a decline in contact rate (76%). Both were career bests.

But once again, we have to factor in the change of leagues and divisions. We can't compare total strikeouts and walks, because the AL has the DH while the NL Central has six teams.

But, we can examine average K/BB ratio for each divisions' offenses:

2011 AL East K/BB ratio: 2.09
2011 NL Central K/BB ratio: 2.45

Garza flashed better stuff in the NL Central and was able to gain more punch outs for himself. This made him a better independent pitcher, even when backed by a below-average defense.

However, he also pitched in a division that had a K/BB ratio 18 percent higher than that of the AL East. Will he be able to generate as many strikeouts in a division that demonstrates better plate discipline?

Final Comments

Despite the points I've tried to convey in this article, I don't completely hate Matt Garza. He has had flashes of brilliance (a no-hitter comes to mind) and has knowledge of the AL East.

However, he is far from the rotation savior. He's no ace, nor is he a No. 2. At his best, he's maybe a No. 3 pitcher, and a serviceable No. 4 at worst.

The reason I wrote this article is because current trade rumors have it that the Chicago Cubs are asking a lot for Garza. He is not worth a Latos, Trevor Cahill or Gonzalez (was Gio Gonzalez even worth a Gio Gonzalez?).

If Boston can make a reasonable trade for Matt Garza, I'd be okay with it. If they can trade for him at a premium and call the Theo Epstein compensation settled, I'd be okay with that too.

But if Ben Cherington gives up an ace's ransom for the right-hander, it will be this season's biggest waste of talent.


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