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The free agent market is taking its time with the starting pitching side of things and Matt Garza’s signing was a bit delayed, but last week the Milwaukee Brewers signed Garza to a four-year contract worth $50 million.
Garza missed nearly half of the 2012 season after suffering an elbow strain and missed six weeks in 2013 with a strained lat muscle. He is apparently pain-free with no issues in his elbow or elsewhere and pitched over 180 innings each year from 2008-2011. The hope is that Garza can get to at least 180 innings this year. That would even include a quick trip to the disabled list.
Here’s what Garza’s signing in Milwaukee means for his fantasy value this year.
It can be a fool’s errand most of the time to try and predict pitcher wins. There are so many factors that play into a pitcher’s win-loss record that the ability to accurately predict a number of wins becomes unlikely.
Rather than predict how many wins Garza will get, looking at how pitchers on losing teams did last year gives us a better idea of what to expect in the win-loss column for good pitchers on losing teams:
- There were eight teams with losing records in the National League in 2013. Of those eight losing teams, only 13 pitchers ended up with double-digit wins. Of those 13 pitchers with double-digit wins, one had more than 14 and it was Jorge De La Rosa of Colorado.
The offense would seem to be an issue for Milwaukee. With Ryan Braun a bit of a question mark (though I do think he will be elite), Jean Segura expected to regress in the power column, and an aging Aramis Ramirez, it’s not a sure thing this will be a top flight offensive team in the National League.
If the prevailing thought is that Milwaukee is a losing team next year then it would seem unlikely that Garza posts a high win total in 180 innings. It’s just an educated guess, but 12 wins is a reasonable estimate.
Assuming Garza can get to 180 innings (in other words, stay healthy), banking 160 strikeouts for him on the season is a good target. That would give him eight strikeouts per nine innings, which is about where he has settled for his career.
While 160 strikeouts doesn’t seem like a monster total, it’s worth noting there were just 44 pitchers who reached that mark last year and 43 pitchers each year before that. Even if you expect runs to keep declining, it seems like there’s a settled number for starting pitchers to achieve 160 strikeouts. That means in a 15-team mixed league, most teams can expect to have three pitchers with 160 strikeouts. So while that number isn’t necessarily eye-popping, it’s certainly very solid as far as fantasy goes.
Over the years, Garza has pretty much established himself as a mid-1.2 pitcher as far as WHIP is concerned. Other than a 1.18 WHIP in 2012, Garza has been between 1.235 and 1.265 every year since 2008.
The only cause for concern going into this year was Garza’s spike in line drive percentage against last year in conjunction with a dive in ground ball percentage. If that trend continues again this year his hits per nine innings could see a jump. It won’t be to levels that destroy his WHIP for the season, but it could be closer to 1.30 than 1.20.
For Garza, the scenery changes a bit but his going from the Chicago Cubs to the Milwaukee Brewers should be a seamless transition, at least in terms of scouting opponents. In his 60 starts as a Cubs pitcher, Garza managed an ERA under 3.50 which was a career-best for an individual team. Garza’s very good 2011 season was a bit of an aberration for him as his home run rate was less than half what it ended up being in 2012 and about 55 percent what it was in 2013. This is problematic for Garza as his fly ball rates have been trending up for a couple of years now so if that ball gets in the air a lot next year at Miller Park then Garza’s ERA could balloon – Garza’s two highest HR/FB rates of his career have been the last two years. Miller Park, home of the Brewers, has been top five in baseball in home runs given up in each of the last two years, so Garza could run into bloated innings more often than usual if he can’t get that fly ball rate down.
While the same can be said for a lot of pitchers, nine of the 10 outings last year that Garza gave up at least four earned runs involved a home run in there too.
Assuming Garza’s health, a forecast of around 3.60 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 160 strikeouts, and 12 wins is about where he should land. While those numbers won’t win fantasy leagues, he could provide decent value in both snake and auction drafts.
Ideally, fantasy baseball owners should pay under $10 for Garza in an auction and draft him as a fifth pitcher. If he happens to miss a month of time, Garza doesn’t have the skill set to blow batters away for the other five months. In that sense, his upside is really limited. The number of innings will determine his final value but he’s a solid pitcher who shouldn’t be avoided completely as long as the price is right. Too often in fantasy, the solid guys get overlooked and they’re often the ones that become important pieces at trade time later in the fantasy season because they just keep doing what they do and that is put up good campaigns.
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