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Why Galarraga is no Hudson or Kennedy

Posted By Eno Sarris On January 25, 2011 @ 5:12 pm In Starting Pitchers | 2 Comments

We’ve seen the move enough over the last two years that the math is clear: Struggling young fly-ball pitcher from a tough American League division + trade to Arizona = Fantasy relevance! So will that math magic work for Armando Galarraga?

Not so fast. The first difference is immediately obvious upon looking at the player cards of the respective trio. Galarraga has a career 5.7 strikeout rate with a peak of 6.35 in 2008 – Dan Hudson showed a 6.75 K/9 in Chicago and was consistently over one per inning in the minor league leagues, and Ian Kennedy had a 6.49 K/9 in New York and also had a strikeout rate over one per inning in the minors.

But, say you believe in Galarraga’s peak strikeout rate despite its precipitous drop (to 4.61 K/9 last year), there’s still the matter of his ground-ball rate. All of the three are fly-ballers (not fly ballers), but here Galarraga (40.4% ground balls career) comes out (incredibly) ahead of the pack when compared to Hudson (34.2% ground balls career) and Kennedy (36.9% ground balls career). So… he strikes out a few less but gets a few more grounders, maybe he should be included in the trio as interesting late-round picks in upcoming drafts?

Thta’s still a negative, Ghostrider. It’s a matter of age and proximity to their minor league records. When Hudson made the leap to Arizona, he’d only accrued 34 1/3 major-league innings and 23 years on this earth – Kennedy 59 2/3 and 25 respectively. Galarraga is 28 years old and has pitched 475 1/3 major league innings. He’s no lapsed prospect that hasn’t gotten the chance to perform – he’s a journeyman just trying to hang on.

The bounce back won’t look like Hudson’s or Kennedy’s for Galarraga, who has pitched to a 5.17 FIP over his career, but could it look okay anyway? Take his career strikeout rate (5.7), strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.62) and ground-ball rate (40.4%) and look for comparative qualified starters in the National League last year, and it’s not pretty. Being as good as Randy Wolf (5.93 K/9, 1.63 K/BB, 39.4% GB) and his 4.17 ERA (4.85 FIP) would be a success story for Galarraga. Other close comps are Dave Bush (5.52 K/9, 1.64 K/BB, 39.5% GB, 4.54 ERA, 5.13 FIP) and Rodrigo Lopez (5.22 K/9, 2.07 K/BB, 37.6% GB, 5.00 ERA, 5.21 FIP) so he’s not in happy territory.

Galarraga may take the fifth starter role in Arizona next year, and he may pitch better than his terrible 2010 season (imPerfect game notwithstanding), and he may even have some superficial similarities to other AL starters that have made the same move recently – all of these things may be true, but he’s still probably not a good pick in your next draft.


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