I was really hoping Matt Garza would have signed somewhere by the time this post was scheduled to go out, but alas, the show must go on.
The once highly touted pitcher has now played for four teams in the last seven years. He’s once been traded for his potential (Twins to Rays), once because an emerging small market team couldn’t afford a potential staff ace (Rays to Cubs), and once because a disappointing big market team had no immediate plans to contend (Cubs to Rangers).
But through all of the movement and the several injuries he’s suffered over the last three years, Garza has remained remarkably consistent. Over those seven years, his ERA has been between 3.69 and 3.95 six times, and that other time it was 3.32. His strikeout and ground ball rates have fluctuated almost annually, but the end result is almost always the same.
Injuries aside, Garza is a known commodity in fantasy leagues. Assuming he’s healthy this year, and all indications are that that’s the case (I hate using two “that”s back-to-back), then we pretty much know what we’re going to get out of Garza: a little less than a K per inning with an average ERA and WHIP across 190-200 innings.
So in this space I thought I’d talk a little about the evolution of Garza. After all, it’s interesting (to me) that his GB% started as high as 47%, progressively fell to 35%, and then rose back up to 47%. The answer, as always, is in his PitchF/X data.
As you can see here, his pitch selection hasn’t varied much over the course of his career regardless of whether you look at specific pitch types or broader pitch categories. Instead, it’s the effectiveness of these pitches inducing grounders that’s varied.
All of his pitches aside from his change-up, which he throws the least, show the same annual trend, but it’s his fastball that correlates strongest with his overall GB% trend. (Note: This shouldn’t be shocking because Garza throws his fastball more often, therefore it’s responsible for a higher percentage of all grounders and has more influence over his annual GB% than any other pitch).
Now that we’ve identified Garza’s annual trends, let’s look at the annual movement of this fastball. Let’s toss his sinker into the analysis as well. It follows the same annual trend above as his fastball while all other pitches have at least one year that doesn’t quite jive with the overall GB% trend.
Note that the chart above shows the vertical movement of Garza’s four-seam fastball and sinker, measured in inches. His fastball has varied by three inches of overall movement from its peak (2009) to its trough (2011) whereas his sinker has varied by about four inches (2010 to 2011). With less upwards movement for both pitches in 2011 and 2012, it’s not awfully surprising that his GB% was higher in both of those years.
Note: It’s seems incorrect that Garza’s sinker has positive (upward) movement, but this due to how PitchF/X evaluates the movement of a pitch. Beyond the Box Score does a good job summarizing it:
The reason for this is the way that this movement is defined in the Gameday files, which is the amount of vertical break in the vertical axis compared to a ball with zero spin. Fastballs thrown by these pitchers would generate even higher vertical break numbers due to more backspin. Curveballs are typically pitches with negative vertical movement readings.
You can read the full article here.
Now that we have some greater insight into Garza’s pitching style, let’s get to the projection.
At A Glance
- Strengths: L
- Neutral: IP, W, K, WHIP, K/9, BB/9
- Weaknesses: ERA
Players With Similar Fantasy Value
2014 Fantasy Baseball Projection
2014 Projection: 194 IP, 14 W, 0 SV, 173 K, 3.68 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Overall Rank: 166 | SP Rank: 40
Garza has several more years of above average strikeout rates in him, but he’s only once had a WHIP better than 1.24 (twice if he lives up to our 2014 projection)
Garza just missed the Neutral designation for ERA, which we have set at 3.65 given our projections for all pitchers for the upcoming season. He also just missed having his IP and W listed as Strengths, with lower boundaries for those categories set at 199 IP and 15 W. The Strengths/Weaknesses summary above is a little misleading in Garza’s case.
The comparisons are intriguing to me, though. I feel like Fister and Gee will have greatly differing ADPs with Garza a harder to value option because of his recent injury history. Ranking 40th overall among SP in our 2014 rankings, Garza makes a low-end SP3 or a high-end SP4 and should go right around that range.
(If anything, this is more of an endorsement for Gee, whom I think makes for a good value this year. Of course, I said the same thing before last year, but in my defense, Gee was pretty good in the second half.)
Garza’s win total, and even his ERA will change a little depending on who he signs with, but these projections are sort of a neutral-case scenario. As you can see, we like Garza on a per-start basis. You can keep up to date with the latest on Garza by reading here.
2015 & Beyond
I think Garza will reestablish himself as a valuable fantasy option, albeit not a great one, and he’ll be just 31 years old next year. Garza has several more years of above average strikeout rates in him, but he’s only once had a WHIP better than 1.24 (twice if he lives up to our 2014 projection), so should he become more hittable, the fall to a 1.30 WHIP and 4.00 ERA will cause his value to drop precipitously. I don’t think that’ll happen for a few years, though.