Dodgers Risk Little on Garland

Outside of the Javier Vazquez and Tsuyoshi Nishioka news, the only move of note over the holiday was the signing of starter Jon Garland by the Los Angeles Dodgers to a one year, $5 million deal. Garland moves from divisional foe San Diego, where he posted good traditional numbers (14-12, 3.47 ERA) in exactly 200 innings with the Padres.

Garland is the quintessential “innings-eater.”

The 31-year-old has now thrown at least 190 innings in every season since 2002, Garland’s third season as a Major Leaguer. Perhaps not coincidentally, Garland’s new contract contains a vesting option for $8 million dollars if he managers to reach that mark for a 10th straight time.

Despite the very good traditional numbers and even decent raw peripherals (4.41 FIP and a career high 6.1 K/9), Garland may have had the worst season of his career in 2010. As we’ve seen with countless pitchers, Garland was undoubtedly aided by the cavernous PETCO Park. Even with over half of his innings coming at home, his HR/FB rate was still a roughly average 11%, resulting in a good – but not awe-inspiring – 0.9 HR/9. We also can’t ignore the impact of the park on plate statistics (strikeout and walk rates). According to StatCorner’s park factors, strikeouts are heavily inflated at PETCO – reflected in Garland’s 2010 numbers – as are walks, although to a lesser extent. Garland’s 3.9 BB/9 was the highest of his career and the first time since 2004 that he even walked more than three batters every nine innings – the park can’t account for that kind of inflation completely.

Even though Garland’s raw numbers look good, the effects of the park make them pedestrian, even in comparison to the rest of Garland’s career. Despite this, Garland still managed to post just under 1.0 WAR due to his durability. Garland won’t turn 32 until late in the 2011 season, so his 2010 season may be a signal of his decline phase. But it seems equally likely that he could also have three or four productive seasons remaining. Based on his solid 2008 and 2009 – 4.2 combined WAR – Garland is a good bet to produce at least one win above replacement in 2011, essentially the value of what the Dodgers will play him. As the fifth starter, many teams can (and will) do worse. Outside of his performance, Garland also brings decent depth to the Dodgers rotation, making this low-risk move a no-brainer for Los Angleles and Ned Colletti.

We hoped you liked reading Dodgers Risk Little on Garland by Jack Moore!

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Good signing by the Dodgers. If he is in his decline and isn’t playing close to the 2 WAR level it will be easy enough for them to skip him in the rotation a few times late in the season to make sure that the option doesn’t vest.