Matt Garza Moves to the NL (So What)

I stated in the previous article that I’d rather have Jeremy Hellickson in 2011 than Matt Garza, even if the’re round/dollar values were the same. Some people have asked, “What about the fact that Garza moves to the NL Central and out of the AL East?”. Normally, we assume that a pitcher will automatically improve with a move to the National League from the American League, however, that isn’t always the case.

Last season, Roy Halladay moved from the Blue Jays (AL East) to the Phillies (NL East). How much did his numbers change?
Roy Halladay
Year Team ERA FIP K/9 BB/9
2009 TOR 2.79 3.06 7.83 1.32
2010 PHI 2.44 3.01 7.86 1.08

Hmmmm. Despite moving away from the “terrifying” AL East, Halladay’s numbers improved only slightly and even on a much better team, he only won four more games while still losing ten.

A lot is made about the competition in the AL East and, yes, it may just be baseball’s best division. However, good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week and twice on Sunday (not possible, I know, but it’s an expression). Just ask the two runners-up for the AL Cy Young award in 2010. Both CC Sabathia and David Price pitched in the AL East in last season. So did Andy Pettitte (3.26 ERA, 3.85 FIP). So did Jon Lester (3.25 ERA, 3.13 FIP) and Clay Buccholz (2.33 ERA, 3.61 FIP). So did Ricky Romero (3.73 ERA, 3.64 FIP) and Shaun Marcum (3.64 ERA, 3.74 FIP). Even Jeremy Guthrie ended the season with an ERA under 4.00.

The bottom line is that Garza just isn’t that dominant of a pitcher. In his three seasons with the Rays, he had never posted an FIP under 4.00.

Then there is the issue of how his fly ball rate and HR/9 totals have gone upward for three straight seasons. Garza gives up home runs–he surrendered 28 in 204.2 innings last season. Moving from “The Trop” to “The Friendly Confines” won’t help that cause. He also doesn’t miss a ton of bats (82.6 percent career contact rate) or have a top-end strikeout rate, so he is, to a certain extent, at the mercy of his defense.

Matt Garza is a good pitcher, a solid big league number three (on a championship contending club) and a fine player to have on your fantasy team (as long as the price is right). However, let’s not assume that he’ll have a breakout season simply because he moves from the AL East to the NL Central.