The Matt Garza Deal from the Cubs Perspective

The rumors started gaining traction this week, and now we have a deal. The Cubs have acquired Matt Garza and two minor leaguers in exchange for five players, including Chris Archer, whom Baseball America recently ranked the Cubs No. 1 prospect. The move has a clear win-now bent, as the Cubs’ NL Central rivals have loaded up on talent this winter. But it this enough to put them back in the picture?

In terms of Garza himself, Dave expressed his thoughts not long ago, comparing him to Aaron Harang. I’m not sure I’d go that far. As Dave noted, Garza has “posted significantly better ERAs over the last several years in the more challenging league,” and I don’t think that’s a small consideration. At some point the ability to consistently out-perform your FIP and xFIP has to be a skill.

What troubles me most about Garza in Chicago is his fly-ball propensity. During the past three seasons only six pitchers have allowed fly balls at a rate greater than Garza. Since Wrigley Field is quite a bit more homer-friendly than Tropicana Field, we could see Garza allow a few more fly balls to leave the park. But other than that I have few concerns about Garza the pitcher.

In terms of Garza’s fit on the Cubs, there are a number of questions. The Cubs had something of a middling starting staff last year, finishing ninth in starter ERA and 10th in FIP and xFIP. But they did finish seventh in WAR, thanks to having five starters who produced 2 or more WAR. All five of those starters — Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Zambrano, and Carlos Silva — will return for the 2011 season. They also have Andrew Cashner, who could start for the team at some point this season. Why, then, trade a few top prospects for a depth move?

The problem, it appears, is the uncertainty at the back of the rotation. Dempster and Wells are solid contributors, but neither is an ace in the traditional sense of the term. Zambrano has been that ace in the past, but he pitched only 113 innings last season due to various issues, and I’m sure the Cubs would rather not count on him in 2011. Silva bounced back to his pre-Seattle levels, but he also managed only 113 innings. In that way, Garza provides insurance for the Cubs. He’s a better bet than either of those guys to throw 200 innings, and the Cubs could certainly use another 200 innings of reliable pitching.

The only question left, then, is of whether the Cubs gave up too much. The most significant chip is Archer, who, again, ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s Cubs prospects list. Kevin Goldstein ranked him No. 3. Both outlets love Archer’s stuff, but note that his control will continue holding him back if he can’t improve. Goldstein seems to lean towards him emerging as a relief pitcher. Maybe that’s how the Cubs ultimately view him as well, and therefore is why they included him and not one of their other top prospects such as Trey McNutt or Chris Carpenter.

Also included in the deal are SS Hak-Ju Lee, No. 4 on BA and No. 5 with Goldstein, OF Brandon Guyer, No. 10 with BA and No. 11 with Goldstein, C Robinson Chirinos, No. 12 on Goldstein’s list, and OF Sam Fuld, who has spent parts of the last three seasons with the Cubs. Overall that appears to be a solid package for Garza and a couple of return prospects. Lee, though the best prospect on the list, just turned 20 and is probably a ways off. Guyer will probably end up as a fourth outfielder. Chirinos might be the most interesting of the bunch. He’s a catcher, converted from the infield, and he has absolutely mashed the ball for the past two seasons. He’ll turn 27 in June, so he could get a long look this year.

Overall the Cubs gave up a solid package of prospects for a solid pitcher. It might have been a slight overpay, since the deal includes two top-five prospects and one really interesting 11-20 guy, but that’s the premium the Cubs have to pay in order to stay afloat in the NL Central. They now have a pitcher who can give them 200 innings and probably around 3 WAR — and perhaps more, if Garza does indeed posses the skill to outperform his FIP. The only problem is that he’s replacing a guy who produced more than 2 WAR last year. Still, considering what it will take the make the playoffs from that division, I’m sure the Cubs were happy to make the trade.

We hoped you liked reading The Matt Garza Deal from the Cubs Perspective by Joe Pawlikowski!

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

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this guy
Guest
this guy

Couldn’t outperforming his FIP come from the fact that the Rays were good at fielding? Add good fielding to a fielding independent number and it stands to reason that it would be better.

Nate
Guest
Nate

FIP stands for “Fielding Independent Pitching”, and the 3 main components are K’s, BB’s, and HR’s, so in a word, no.

Nate
Guest
Nate

My bad, I completely misread/misunderstood your post. Yes, I’d say defense could certainly play a role in ERA being lower than FIP. Was the same true for Garza in Minnesota?

this guy
Guest
this guy

You missed the point.

“At some point the ability to consistently out-perform your FIP and xFIP has to be a skill.”

His ERA is consistently lower than his FIP. Maybe it’s a skill, but couldn’t that be his fielders’ skill?

this guy
Guest
this guy

Minnesota was a decent defensive team while he was there, but only pitched 133 innings, so I didn’t really pay attention to that as a whole.

suicide squeeze
Member
suicide squeeze

“His ERA is consistently lower than his FIP. Maybe it’s a skill, but couldn’t that be his fielders’ skill?”

Could be his fielders, could be skill (he has a fair % of IFFB), could be continued luck. It’s probably some combination of all 3.

MC
Guest
MC

FIP seems to be a somewhat simplistic and misleading stat. You can’t just take BB/K/HRs and say that’s a pure measure of pitching skill because it doesn’t account for defensive skill.

Walks done right work. Sometimes it’s better to give up HR’s with none on base than a walk.

W/ Garza I think the stuff is great. He walks his fair share but it doesn’t get it in the way. I think if you’re looking at FIP with Garza that’s a huge mistake and you’d overlook a lot.

Friedman
Member
Friedman

@MC: giving up a walk with nobody on is not better than giving up a solo HR. a player on base isn’t guaranteed to score while a player who hits a solo HR has a 100% probability to score.

I’m obviously not considering player ability when pitching from the stretch vs. wind up but still. And what defensive skill are you talking about? The players surrounding Garza? Because that is not his own skill.

MC
Guest
MC

@Friedman

“not his own defensive skill” sorry I worded that sentence awkwardly. Just delete it.

No, I think with young pitchers, I would tell them, if I was coaching them: “Dude, I would much rather you give up a leadoff homerun than a leadoff walk.” Obviously a homerun has a 100% chance of scoring – that is just stating the obvious.

What I am saying is, that when a pitcher PITCHES in a MANNER that would tend to lead to leadoff homeruns, RATHER THAN leadoff walks, this results in a lower probability of runs being scored.

Why? Simply because: pitcher not afraid of homeruns –> pitcher throws strikes –> pitcher more likely to throw first pitch strikes –> first pitch strikes result in lower average BA’s over the course of an AB than first pitch balls –> lower average BA’s result in lower runs scored –> lower runs scored result in wins, etc.

Basically I am saying that pitchers, especially young pitchers, should throw strikes. Sometimes I’d rather see guys give up leadoff homers than leadoff walks because it shows me they have the right MENTALITY; the right approach.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11

Simply because: pitcher not afraid of homeruns –> pitcher throws strikes –> pitcher more likely to throw first pitch strikes –> first pitch strikes result in lower average BA’s over the course of an AB than first pitch balls –> lower average BA’s result in lower runs scored –> lower runs scored result in wins, etc.

Ex: Schilling, Curt

Seriously. HR/9 v. BB/9

I was reading about Nolan Ryan the other day and his unwillingness to “give into the hitter”. This was the “good thing’ or “bad thing” about him, depending on your view.

His starts featured a lot of walks, a lot of K’s, and not very many hits.

Nolan Ryan Career:

H/9: — 6.55
BB/9: — 4.67
K/9: — 9.55

I can’t even imagine how many pitches he threw during some of those 300 IP, 10 K/9, 5 BB/9 seasons.