Jon Garland Stranding Runners at Home

The main component of the Padres’ surprise first-place standing has been its pitching. The team has seen excellent performances from Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc, Clayton Richard, and especially Jon Garland. It was only a few years ago that Garland was a revered innings eater. During the past few winters, though, he hasn’t seen many attractive offers. His $5.3 million salary represents his lowest since 2005, when he was a second-year arbitration player.

Last night the Dodgers knocked around Garland, putting 11 runners on base in five innings and bringing four of them around to score. This tends to happen while on the road, where he has allowed 31 percent of baserunners to score. He has kept up decent peripherals, though — a 7.39 K/9 and 3.54 BB/9, which have helped suppress run scoring a bit. His 3.54 road ERA comes somewhat close to this 4.13 FIP and 4.05 xFIP. It’s at home that Garland becomes a completely different beast.

Garland has allowed plenty of runners to reach base while pitching at Petco, 35 of 104, almost half of which have come via the walk. Yet few of these runners have come around to score, six to be exact, meaning Garland has stranded 82.4 percent of them. Combined with a .224 BABIP and zero home runs allowed, it adds up to a pretty lucky pitcher. He might not be the luckiest man alive, but he’s close.

What strikes me as peculiar is the juxtaposition of Garland’s home BABIP and home strikeout rate. He has struck out just eight of 104 batters faced, which amounts to a 2.88 per nine rate. Garland has never been a strikeout pitcher, just 4.74 per nine in his career, but his 2010 home rate appears a bit extreme. His home walk rate is also ridiculous, 5.76 per nine, which is nearly three per nine more than his career rate of 2.96. That does mean fewer hitters putting the ball in play, but it also means tons of baserunners. But, again, Garland has done an excellent job of preventing them from scoring.

Part of this can be credited to his own approach. Of the 79 hitters who have put the ball in play against Garland at Petco this year, 41 of them have hit it on the ground. Not all of those will turn into outs, but few, if any, will go for extra bases. The groundballs and walks mean that most of the baserunners he allows are moving station to station. Eventually a number of those grounders will turn into outs, some of them double plays, which certainly goes a long way in Garland’s high strand rate. It’s luck in a way, but if he keeps the ball on the ground at this rate he can probably keep his strand rate pretty high.

When taken as a whole, Garland’s 2010 season in some ways resembles his career year in 2005. His overall strand rate, 75.6 percent, is the highest since that season, and his BABIP is the lowest since. Of course, his other peripherals are all out of line. His overall strikeout rate, 5.26 per nine, is about 0.50 above his 2005 mark, while his walk rate, 4.58 per nine, is multiples larger than his 1.91 mark from 2005, and his home run rate is about half. Since all of his numbers are a bit out of line with what we’ve come to expect from Garland in his career, it’s tough to get a real read on what he’s doing this year.

While many of his numbers suggest a steep statistical correction, there are some mitigating factors. The Padres, for their part, play excellent defense (Kyle Blanks in left and Jerry Hairston Jr. at short are their only below-average defenders with more than 100 defensive innings), which helps Garland’s contact tendencies, especially at home. Both FIP and xFIP, 4.25 and 4.75, suggest that he’s been incredibly lucky on balls in play, but part of that is his groundball rate. He also benefits from Petco’s homer-suppressing nature.

There is little chance that Garland ends the year with a 2.38 ERA. A few more balls will find their ways into the seats, and while he’s likely to cut down on the walks, the increase in homers will likely hurt him to a greater degree. The number of groundballs he induces might help his strand rate and BABIP, but it’s still unlikely that they remain at their current levels. Few pitchers, after all, finish the year with a strand rate north of 80 percent and a BABIP at nearly Garland’s level. Even so, he’s setting himself up for a quality season. The Padres are certainly getting their $5.3 million worth.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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BobLoblaw
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BobLoblaw
6 years 1 month ago

Confucious say: The only thing wrong with a Padres pitcher is he never gets to face the Padres lineup.

Aaron
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Aaron
6 years 1 month ago

As a Padres fan, I have conflicting reactions to Garland’s performance. On one hand, the results have been fantastic. On the other hand, as Joe pointed out, he’s overperformed and he is all but certain to regress.

Also, it’s frustrating watching him pitch, even when he wins — he takes so much time between pitches it can feel like you’re watching grass grow.

JoeyO
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JoeyO
6 years 1 month ago

“His 3.54 road ERA comes somewhat close to this 4.13 FIP and 4.05 xFIP.”

I’ve never understood why everyone chooses to put ERA against FIP/xFIP to figure out if someone has been lucky. It is Runs/9 which actually needs to be looked at since the plate appearances after errors are still counted in the formula.

Using Garland
2.16 Runs/9 at home with 4.37 FIP / 5.52 xFIP
4.82 Runs/9 on road with 4.13 FIP / 4.05 xFIP

He has been extremely lucky at home, as one would expect, but also quite unlucky on the road.

Overall
3.57 Runs/9 with 4.25 FIP / 4.75 xFIP

That is not even close to the level of luck your using his 2.38 ERA alludes to. It is still lucky, but not much more then many other players this early in the season really

batpig
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batpig
6 years 1 month ago

yes, the unearned runs have to be taken into account when looking into Garland’s season so far. He has allowed 14 earned runs…. but 7 unearned runs!

So when you look at his overall RA/9 of 3.57 he doesn’t really look THAT lucky anymore, especially when you consider (1) the high GB rate, (2) the Pads defense, and (3) Petco Park.

Nathaniel Dawson
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Nathaniel Dawson
6 years 1 month ago

Why would his groundball rate help his BABIP? Well, I suppose it would if it was reducing the number of line drives he allowed, but that’s not the case — he’s right at his career rate. Allowing more groundballs while allowing the same amount of line drives should increase a pitcher’s BABIP.

Garison
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Garison
6 years 1 month ago

“Allowing more groundballs while allowing the same amount of line drives should increase a pitcher’s BABIP.”

That may be true in general, but in any case, the context matters. What is the nature of the pitcher’s defense and home park infield? The article references the Padres’ good defense; the only subpar infielder being Hairston Jr. And you also have to factor in that Petco Park’s infield is slower than other infields (the explanation I’ve heard is low elevation). So an increase in groundballs in Petco Park may lead to more outs than average due to good defense and park effects.

A similar issue comes up in Seattle with their above average OF defense and park that supresses homers (0.94 per game in 2010, lowest in the majors; http://www.hittrackeronline.com/stadiums.php). We might offer the generalization, “Allowing more flyballs while allowing the same amount of line drives should increase a pitcher’s HR/FB rate.”
Yet the advantage at Safeco Field goes to contact/flyball pitchers (e.g. ’09 Washburn and ’10 Fister) rather than contact/groundball pitchers such as Garland. It helps tahat the Mariners’ OF defense at least over the past few years has been catered to that park.

All that to say that defense and park effects can cause deviation from general expectations.

Garison
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Garison
6 years 1 month ago

Er, that should read “Allowing more flyballs while allowing the same amount of line drives should increase the amount of home runs allowed.” Not necessarily the HR/FB rate.

Nathaniel Dawson
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Nathaniel Dawson
6 years 1 month ago

Well…..maybe.

And there’s a lot about how parks affect the game that we don’t really know about. So I can see how in Garland’s case it might be true.

Still, fly balls are turned into outs more often than groundballs, and when you remove the home runs, that difference becomes even greater. It would be a very unusual set of circumstances where a pitcher could allow more groundballs (assuming a static LD rate) and see a decrease in his BABIP.

JMHawkins
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JMHawkins
6 years 1 month ago

And here I thought “Strading Runners at Home” was a euphemism for upping his strikeout rate.

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