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Monday, November 19, 2007

THANKSGIVING GARLAND 

Honestly, I'm so shocked by this that I don't even know how to start analyzing it. First of all, it appears that major league baseball teams have the ability to exchange players with other teams. Did you know this?

Joking aside, for the second time, the Angels have traded for pitcher Jon Garland. (Recall that before the 2002 season, a deal was in place to trade Darin Erstad for Garland and Chris Singleton, which was smacked down by Tony TavaresPaul Pressler). This time, the bounty is Orlando Cabrera.

Did anyone see this coming?

Anyway, so now we have Jon Garland in the rotation. I'd like to tell you about Jon Garland, but the fact is I haven't been able to understand him for years, and I'm not about to start now.

What do I not understand? For one, how does this guy get people out? Over the last four years, he's only struck out 12% of the batters he'd faced; the AL K'd 17% of batters last year, so he's been consistently below-average in this regard. Last year, despite pitching over 200 innings, Garland only whiffed 98 batters: this was the fourth-lowest strikeout total in baseball for any pitcher that pitched so much.

Yet, somehow, Garland succeeds. Over the last four years, he has an ERA+ of 111, and has been approximately 38 earned runs better than average. (He did give up an immense number of unearned runs last year, but that's been out of his norm. We'll get to that at some point, I'm sure).

Is Garland an extreme groundball pitcher? Honestly, I had thought he was, but his groundball-to-flyball ratio was only 55th out of the 80 major league ERA qualifiers last year and his groundballs allowed as a percentage of balls in play ranked 19th. However, this was his lowest groundball rate ever, as well as his highest flyball rate (see it all here).

As a groundball pitcher, his success may be highly correlated to how the defense behind converts his groundballs into outs. Let's look at his past four seasons:
Year   K/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  BABIP  ERA+
2004 .122 .082 .037 .275 97
2005 .128 .052 .029 .267 128
2006 .124 .046 .029 .311 105
2007 .111 .065 .022 .285 112
2006 and 2007 provide an interesting contrast; Garland struck out less people and walked more, but did manage to cut down on home runs. That HR improvement is tantamount to roughly 6 HR; assuming 1.4 runs per HR (the linear weight value), that's a savings of .37 points of his ERA -- which would have left his ERA+ at 103, very similar to his previous year's performance. It appears that the frequency by which Garland allows home runs is even more important than the batting average he allows on balls in play behind him; the correlation between his HR/BF and ERA+ (-.49) is slightly stronger than the correlation between his BABIP and his ERA+ (-.43).

You see what I mean? You think have something (oh, he's a groundball pitcher, he's heavily dependent on his defense), then you take a deeper look and it's, like, no, you really have no idea what makes this guy tick.

Anyway, there's no doubt that having a good defensive shortstop would be an aid to Garland, and quite frankly I have no idea if we have that right now. I mean, I know we have Erick Aybar, but can Aybar hit? We have Maicer Izturis, a league-average hitter, but can he handle short defensively at this point? Or even maintain that offensive performance over a full season. Brandon Wood's a year away, we're not going to rush him, are we?

Not knowing what is to come, it's hard to evaluate this move. Does this mean Miguel Tejada will soon be wearing red? Let's see what happens.

But one thing I'll say for Tony Reagins -- he sure knows how to surprise us.

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Comments:
I am pretty sure that the Erstad/Garland trade was smacked down by Paul Pressler, who was hired above the massively incompetent Tavaresin order to get the team in shape to sell.
 
I was going to post that yesterday, but I couldn't remember the dude's name. it was the guy who took over for Tavares.
 
How about the whispers that David Eckstein may be coming back to keep the SS spot warm until Woods is ready?
 
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