Since the off-season began, I’ve heard Yanks fans mention Jon Garland as a possible solution in the rotation. Those comments have heated up a bit over the past few weeks as it has become increasingly unlikely that the team signs Andy Pettitte to fill the fifth starter void. The argument usually goes something like: “He’s a guy who can eat innings and give you league average pitching.” If we were sure this is what Garland would bring, I could see signing him. Unfortunately, the way his stats have trended make it look unlikely.
Garland made a name for himself in 2005, posting a 3.50 ERA in 221 innings, en route to a World Series title with the White Sox. However, since that season he’s not been nearly as good. Not even close. In fact, even that season his FIP was 4.24, which is not bad, but shows that his results might have been part of the randomness that baseball players experience from year to year. For more on randomness, read books by this guy. His 75.4 LOB% might have something to do with that low ERA as well.
Let’s take a look at Garland’s peripherals. We’ll start at the basics, with his strikeouts and walks.
In 2008 he walked nearly one more batter per nine innings than he did two years prior. If that was a one-year jump, it wouldn’t scare me as much. Yet his 2007 figure, 2.46, sets off a red flag. Combine this with his incrementally declining K rate, and you have one messy situation.
Moving down to his other peripherals, it paints a strange picture. His line drive rate has been pretty consistent throughout his career, right in the 22 percent range, but he saw an enormous spike in groundballs last year — 49.9 percent, which was over 10 percent higher than his 2007 campaign. This means he was giving up fewer fly balls, generally a good thing, but not when your HR/FB ratio jumps up by nearly five percent (7.1 percent in 07, 11.9 percent in 08).
No, Jon Garland probably wouldn’t be a poor choice to fill the fifth starter role. A 4.50 ERA/FIP, which is what the three projection systems (Bill James, CHONE, Marcel) have him at in 2009, is fine from the five hole, especially if it’s over 200 innings. However, the price will not match the output, and that gap becomes wider if Garland continues his downward trend. Unless he’s available for one year and around $5 million, the Yanks would do best to pass on him.
(Plus, as tommiesmithjohncarlos says: “Jon Garland is the exact opposite of Katie Holmes topless.”)