Let’s talk about Armando Galarraga

Kevin Long making his rounds this winter
The RAB Radio Show: January 13, 2010

Word got out last night that the Tigers, with Brad Penny now on board, could look to unload the arbitration-eligible Armando Galarraga. Surely you remember him from the non-perfect game this past summer. We all know that he did in fact throw that perfect game, but the record books will say otherwise because of Jim Joyce’s rather infamous blown call on the 27th out. Despite that feat, Galarraga is the odd man out of the rotation because the Tigers have their hearts set on using Phil Coke (Phil Coke!) as a starting pitcher in 2011. I think you all know what’s next … should the Yankees have interest in Galarraga?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Although he turns just 29 in two days, Galarraga has already earned the journeyman tag. He signed with the Expos out of Venezuela on Halloween day in 1998, then was traded to the Rangers as part of a package for former Yankee Alfonso Soriano seven years later. A little more than two years after that, Texas flipped him to the Tigers for a nondescript minor leaguer. Galarraga made just three appearances with the Rangers (zero with the ExpoNats), but it looked as if Detroit had found itself something useful following his 2008 season. That’s the year he posted a 3.73 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 178.2 innings.

As fine as that performance was, the underlying red flags were enormous. Galarraga wasn’t striking out many batters (6.35 K/9) and he wasn’t making up for it with a bunch of ground balls either (43.5%). His walk rate was rock solid (2.97 uIBB/9) and right in line with his minor league walk stats, but he was very prone to the long ball (1.41 HR/9). Opponents hit just .226/.294/.410 (.319 wOBA) off of him thanks to a .247 BABIP, which was the third lowest in the game among pitchers with at least 100 IP that season. Galarraga’s 4.88 FIP was far more indicative of what his performance might look like going forward rather than the 3.73 ERA.

Sure enough, Galarraga took a beating in 2009. His ERA climbed nearly two full runs to 5.64 (5.47 FIP) and his strikeout (5.95 K/9), walk (3.45 uIBB/9), ground ball (39.9%), and homer (1.50 HR/9) rates all declined. A correction to a .302 BABIP in 143.2 IP didn’t help matters either. Last season was slightly better but no not really. Galarraga’s ERA fell to 4.49 (5.09 FIP), but so did his strikeout (just 4.61 K/9 now) and ground ball (37.3%) rates, as well as his BABIP (.268). The walk (3.12 uIBB/9) and homer (1.31 HR/9) were back at 2008 levels, but that only does so much.

(AP Photo/Paul J. Bereswill)

So that leaves us where we are today. Galarraga’s a big (6-foot-4) and skinny (180 lbs.) guy that throws mostly two-seamers (35.2% of the time, averaging 90.6 mph) and sliders (33.0%, 86.7 mph), but he also mixes in a straight four-seamer (18.8%, 91 mph) and changeup (12.2%, 84.2 mph) on occasion. His peripheral stats over the last three years are wholly underwhelming: 5.69 K/9 (below average 8.0% swings and misses), 3.37 uIBB/9, 1.41 HR/9, 40.4% grounders, and a 5.13 FIP. The only pitchers with a worse homerun rate than Galarraga’s over those last three years are Aaron Harang and Dave Bush, and the only pitchers with a lower BABIP in that time are Tim Hudson and Ted Lilly. Not a good combo. Unsurprisingly, Galarraga also has a massive platoon split for his career (.307 wOBA against vs. RHB, .371 vs. LHB). There’s not much to like here.

We don’t know how much Galarraga will earn in his first trip through arbitration, but it’ll surely be over the $1M mark, possibly even $2M. Since these aren’t guaranteed contracts, the Tigers could flat out release him in Spring Training and pay just a portion of his salary, which is exactly what the Yankees did with Chad Gaudin last year. Because that 2011 salary isn’t guaranteed, whatever team signs him wouldn’t be able to get him for the league minimum with Detroit on the hook for the rest like we’re used to seeing. Galarraga would be able to sign with whatever team offers the most money. The other thing Detroit could do is try to send him to the minors. He’s out-of-options, so he’d have to pass through waivers to go back to Triple-A, and it’s highly unlikely that another team would claim him with a seven-figure salary. Either way, there’s not much for the Yankees to see here, unless he’d be willing to take a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training after a release. There’s no harm in that.

Perhaps the more interesting news came from the Central Division of the other league last night. The Cubbies may be open to moving Tom Gorzelanny after their Matt Garza pick up, and I’d have more interest in him than in Galarraga bar none. I wrote about Gorzelanny last month, and although he won’t be great, he definitely passes the “better than Sergio Mitre” test, something I’m not sure we can say about Galarraga.

Kevin Long making his rounds this winter
The RAB Radio Show: January 13, 2010
  • http://www.richardiurilli.com/ Richard Iurilli

    It would be kind of cool to watch Galarraga throw a perfect game at Yankee Stadium again.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa


      • http://www.richardiurilli.com/ Richard Iurilli

        I was at the Yankee game that night. Watched the last four inning of Galarraga’s game on @stevensmithy’s Droid.

        We knew something was going on when Detroit was in the seventh inning as the Yankees were starting the fourth.

  • The Real JobaWockeeZ

    a 1.41 HR rate in a spacious ballpark? Yikes.

  • The ca$hMAN

    Out of these teams who’s most likely to trade a Sp:
    Giants,dodgers,reds,cardinals,Atheltics,white sox ?

    • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

      If you mean a good starting pitcher for a laughable return I would have to go Kenny Williams.

  • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

    Maybe the Yankees should follow the Tiger’s lead and convert one of their relievers into a starter. They have to have someone in there better than both Galarraga and Mitre. Of course they would leave a huge hole to fill in the 8th (and most important) inning.

    I know it will never happen, but how bad could David Robertson really be in the starting rotation?

    • Accent Shallow

      Robertson has never started in his professional career, and last started in 2005, when he was at Alabama.

    • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas Apostoleris, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

      First of all, Coke was a starter in the minor leagues. He moved to the bullpen in 2008, and if I recall correctly, he came into camp in 2009 as a starter. Robertson has never started a game in his professional career. Also, Robertson is basically a two-pitch pitcher with a four-seamer and a curveball. He’s shown a changeup, but he doesn’t appear to have any confidence in it. Coke has a four-seamer, a two-seamer, a changeup, and a slider. Not that all starters necessarily need four pitches, but it’s a good thing to have.

      • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

        My post was sarcastic, but kudos a very in depth and well constructed answer. I agree with you that starters should have four decent pitches, i just wish AJ did as well.

        • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas Apostoleris, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

          Ha, thank you. I agree on A.J. I wish he’d throw more sinkers and changeups.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      it’s ok, i get your joke.

      he means joba people.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Problem is Cashman won’t even consider it

        • MikeD

          That’s what Cashman says now because there’s no reason for him to change his opinion until he knows what he’s facing. He’s still boiling the oceans for pitching help, so until that process is finished, there’s no reason for him to hint at a possible switch. It would cause yet another round of Joba-mania among the Francesca-like ilk who think Joba is the next Goose.

          Based on the past, I have no reason to believe that what Cashman says externally in any way should be taken as final. He is not going to share his game plan and he will purposely mislead.

          • BG90027

            Exactly. I don’t get why other people don’t think seem to think this. There’s obviously a good chance that the Yankees know more about Joba’s shoulder than we do and think it wouldn’t withstand 200 IP/year but otherwise I wouldn’t rule out Joba starting if better options don’t emerge.

            • dalelama

              Here is a different spin. If Cashman said Joba was going to start maybe other teams wouldn’t try to stick it to us as hard when we try to acquire a starter. We wouldn’t look as desperate for a starter.

              • The Big City of Dreams

                According to a handful of ppl the Yankees aren’t desperate lol. I don’t agree with that hey that’s what they say.

          • twac00

            He also could be hoping to save some money in arbitration.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            I think what he does about Joba is final no matter how limited his options are. I don’t think there is any chance Joba starts for the Yankees because Cashman seem very determined to prove he’s a reliever.

      • Jobu The Voodoo Troll

        Wow, I figured I didn’t need to add the sarcasm tag to this one. Really missed the boat there.

        • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas Apostoleris, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

          Woah … that’s actually so amazing, even if I mistook you for being literal. Hats off.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          your joke


          everyone else’s head lol

          you and me, kid, great minds think alike

    • The Big City of Dreams

      If they need to covert a reliever it should be Joba but we all know that’s something they don’t want to do.

  • the Other Steve S.

    hey, he’s better than Bonderman.

    • Mister Delaware

      Is he?

      Galarraga: 4.61 SO/9, 3.18 BB/9, 37.3% GB

      Bonderman: 5.89 SO/9, 3.16 BB/9, 44.7% GB

      • MikeD

        Yeah, that’s a tough one. Well, maybe not. I think Bonderman is probably slightly better, and may still offer a bit more upside another year away from his arm issues.

        Galarraga: 5.09 FIP, 5.44 xFIP, .268 BABIP, .05 fWAR

        Bonderman: 4.90 FIP, 5.74 xFIP, .304 BABIP, .09 fWAR

        I’m not a fan of xFIP, but I included it. BABIP would suggest Galarraga might be prone to get worse, although his career BABIP is .271.

        • Mister Delaware

          (xFIP for Bonderman is 4.74, not 5.74. And I like it a bit better because fluky HRs shouldn’t lead to a shitty overall number.)

        • Mister Delaware

          Case in point, since this game for some reason sticks out in my head, 2009 Laptop Clay gave up 13 HRs in 92 innings for a rate of 1.27 per 9. 5 of those 13 came in one game; scratch that start altogether and he’s at 0.83 per 9 (8 in his other 87 IP). Massive difference. Sure, this is a bit of a drastic example, but one aim of a good stat should be to mitigate outliers to paint an accurate picture.

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

    Give me a lottery ticket with some upside over a guy like this.

  • A.D.

    Given the back end of the rotation is currently Mitre and Nova, really have no problem bringing anyone in to compete with those two even a fairly unexciting Gallaraga

  • Mikey

    Whatever happened to all the Fausto Carmona rumors? Did the Indians GM blow that up? Can’t remember.

    • Ed

      There never were Carmona rumors. There was just an RAB “Here’s an idea” post about him – it wasn’t based on anything, it was just something to read.

  • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas Apostoleris, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

    Make a deal for Phil Coke! How’s about we send Granderson back to Detroit and make all of those annoying Tigers fans on Grandy’s Facebook page happy.

    • http://danielslifka.wordpress.com Jerome S.

      Except Granderson >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Coke.

  • http://yanksgoyard.com Andy_C_23

    The most important post of your career, and you kicked the shit out of it.

  • beef-in-my-heart

    I’ve always liked lefties in pinstripes. Can’t have enough of ’em.
    Gorzellany would be a very decent pick-up. He’s been inconsistent, but has the goods to be a solid starter.
    I’m still a fan of trading for Wandy Rodriguez, who is available. I’ve yet to hear of a better choice as a trade target than him.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    Wonder what the Cubs would want for Gorzelanny. Always liked him.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    did you guys create the uIBB stat so you wouldnt have to keep amending the walk rates you report?

    good on ya.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      I just take out intentional walks. uIBB = unintentional walks.