Jon Garland the Padre

When the Padres first signed Jon Garland, I wrote that, “For the cost of a little more than a win, the Padres get, well, a pitcher who will produce more than a win.” I then questioned whether this was the best usage of money given the landscape of their roster. A few paragraphs later, I wrote this:

The problem is that the Padres really don’t need another back-end starter. If the season started tomorrow, they would have Chris Young, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, and Kevin Correia guaranteed rotation slots with a whole host of arms fighting for the fifth spot including Sean Gallagher, Cesar Carrillo, Wade LeBlanc, and even Aaron Poreda. Is Garland better than those options? Probably. Is he worth $4M more to a team that doesn’t figure to have playoff aspirations? It wouldn’t seem so.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Padres have an 82% chance at making the postseason, all but eliminating my point about their non-contender status. Clearly I was mistaken on their team’s ability, but how about Garland himself? Thus far, he’s made 22 starts, racking up more than 130 innings. His groundball rates are actually an all-time high and do not seem to be the result of stringer’s bias because his line drive rate is essentially static from last year.

The run metrics each suggest that 2010 is one of Garland’s best seasons. That his ERA is low should not be a surprise as one of the best defenses in baseball stands behind him, and they all stand within one of the more cavernous parks in the league. Equally as unsurprising is that while Garland’s home run per flyball ratio is essentially his career average the majority of those homers have come on the road.

The largest reason for deflated fielding independent pitching metrics is Garland’s increased strikeout rate. Garland is fanning six batters per nine innings pitched; that may not seem overly significant, but the last time Garland topped five strikeouts per nine innings came before The Game repped G-Unit. The biggest change in Garland’s approach seems to be the one you’d least expect. He is not getting more swings and misses overall, but he’s actually attacking the zone less often. Using our Zone% metric and dividing Garland’s Zone% by the league average, here are the returned ratios:

It’s not a significant amount less than in 2008, but it does alter the perception of Garland being someone who simply pounds the zone without hesitation or alteration. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Garland’s O-Swing% increased as his Zone% decreased; it might not be a shock that this season is his career best for O-Contact% either. Basically: batters are providing Garland with extra strikes outside of the zone by swinging as much as ever and missing more balls than usual.

Worth noting is that StatCorner has PETCO with a high park factor for strikeouts. Many reasons could play into this. Maybe the hitters’ eye is less than optically pleasing, or maybe the shadows are weird. Or, maybe, just maybe, hitters are more aggressive at the dish because of the run environment. All of this is conjecture, but I wouldn’t be surprised if each played a role in the factor.

Nevertheless, Garland is going to earn his money, and you know what, he might earn a little more by pitching well in the postseason.




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13 Responses to “Jon Garland the Padre”

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  1. ATepperm says:

    And yet it seems like only yesterday that The Game was repping G-Unit…

    Rather, I have no idea what either “repping” or “G-Unit” are. Are they somehow related to the San Diego Padres?

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  2. Jeff Francoeur says:

    The league average FIP has dropped .17 points.
    Garland’s FIP has dropped .10 points

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  3. MikeS says:

    Am I missing something? Garland is on pace for his usual 32 starts and 200 innings – a valuable asset not to be sneezed at. But he has 0.6 WAR through 2/3 of the year. His career worst is 1.8 and he’s only been under 2 twice. His FIP and xFIP are a little better than his career averages but not career bests. While his K/9 are at a career best, his BB/9 are not far off his career worst.

    For his career he’s pretty much average but reliable. That’s a valuable asset but I’m not sure where the excitement is coming from?

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  4. tdotsports1 says:

    Who predicted the SD express though, really?

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  5. Nate says:

    The Zone% ratios are either incredibly minute or non-existent.

    And how does one account for the aforementioned 0.6 WAR? Seems awful low for someone with 22 starts and league average stuff. Does PETCO play a factor in the WAR calculation?

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    • 198d says:

      Pitcher WAR is calculated based on FIP at FanGraphs. Garland’s 4.38 is pretty pedestrian, hence the low WAR total.

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      • Steve says:

        Is there a specific reason why his WAR total this season is so out of whack with his 2007 season other than the IP? Does WAR make adjustments for park factors?

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      • 198d says:

        FanGraphs’ WAR doesn’t adjust for park factors. I assume the out-of-whackness is attributed to the fact that Garland’s FIP is compared to the league average FIP when computing WAR; the NL average FIP is lower than the AL average FIP. 4.36 may have been “above average,” in the AL in 2007, while it is merely “average” in the NL in 2010. Alternatively, Rally’s WAR isn’t based on FIP, but rather runs allowed. It *is* adjusted for park and defense factors if this is of importance to you.

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      • 198d says:

        On that note, here are some rough estimates:

        AL FIP 2007: ~4.5
        NL FIP 2010: ~4.2

        The WAR values seem plausible if you consider the relative value of Garland’s 4.36 FIP compared to the league average.

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      • Steve says:

        198d, thanks for the explanation. Makes sense I was just looking at his numbers and noticed they were relatively even. Comparing it to league average would account for the discrepancy.

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  6. Beer me! says:

    Nice article, R.J. Just one stylistic note: “Equally as unsurprising…” You don’t need the “as” there. Not a criticism at all, just a style thing.

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