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With Matt Garza’s arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow (and Bruce Levine hinting it will go forward), it’s interesting to look back at Garza’s 2011 season, start-by-start, to remember how effective he was, despite his 10-10 win-loss record. In doing so, it’s easy to see how good Garza was in 2011 with the Cubs, and how totally and completely worthless the win-loss stat is.

Yes, I recently argued (persuasively, in my opinion) that Garza’s $12.5 million arbitration request is far, far too high (the Cubs offered $7.95 million). I still believe that. But I’ve always had the “feeling” that Garza was all kinds of awesome last year, perhaps even better than the numbers reflect. And, man, looking back at his starts last year, Garza was so very good for the Cubs, and was so regularly screwed by his teammates.

Generally speaking, we already know this to be true from looking at the aggregated and advanced stats. But time and distance have a way of obscuring the long, grinding nature of a baseball season. We can look back at the stats, but usually, by the next season, we’re left with little more than a “feeling” about how a player performed in a given year.

So BN’er Cliffy and I went through each of Garza’s 31 starts last year, to take a look at the outcome for Garza, and how factors outside his control led to that outcome. In doing so, you get a clear picture of a pitcher who, on a start-by-start basis, regularly gave his team a great chance to win. And the team regularly blew it, especially as the season went on.

Matt Garza’s 2011 starts, with a relevant note or two for each:

Game #1: Cubs lose, Garza gets no decision despite going 7 innings, and allowing 3 earned runs (that was the crazy Pirates game where Garza struck out 12, but also allowed 12 hits (all singles)) – Marmol blown save, allowing 2 runs in 9th

Game #2: Cubs lose, Garza with the deserved loss (not all the starts were great, obviously)

Game #3: Cubs lose, Garza with the deserved loss

Game #4: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #5: Cubs lose, Garza allows just one earned run – Castro has 3 errors

Game #6: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #7: Cubs lose, Garza with the deserved loss

Game #8: Cubs win,  Garza with the win

Game #9: Cubs lose, Garza goes 6 innings giving up 0 earned runs – Wood gives up 4 runs in relief

Game #10: Cubs lose, Garza with the deserved loss

Game #11: Cubs lose, Garza with the loss despite giving up just 1 earned run in 6 innings – bullpen gives up 5 runs

Game #12: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #13: Cubs lose, Garza goes 5 innings giving up 2 earned runs – bullpen gives it up

Game #14: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #15: Cubs lose, Garza with the loss despite going 9 innings and giving up just 1 earned run – offense scored 0

Game #16: Cubs win, but Garza only goes 2 innings

Game #17: Cubs lose, Garza goes 7 innings and allows no earned runs – Marmol absolutely implodes, giving up 5 runs

Game #18: Cubs lose, Garza goes 7 innings and allows just 1 earned run – Marshall blows save, giving up 3 runs in final 2 innings

Game #19: Cubs win, Garza goes 7 innings and allows just 2 earned runs – Garza gets no decision because Samardzija gives up 2 runs late

Game #20: Cubs lose, Garza with the deserved loss

Game #21: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #22: Cubs lose, Garza goes 6 innings and gives up just 3 earned runs – offense doesn’t show up

Game #23: Cubs win, Garza goes 5 innings and gives up 2 earned runs but gets no decision – offense shows up, but late

Game #24: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #25: Cubs lose, Garza goes 5 innings, giving up 3 earned runs – defense makes 3 errors behind Garza (who made one, himself)

Game #26: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #27: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #28: Cubs win, Garza goes 7 innings and allows 3 earned runs but gets no decision – Samardzija blows it, Cubs win in extras

Game #29: Cubs win, Garza goes 9 innings allowing just 3 earned runs but gets no decision – Cubs win in extras

Game #30: Cubs win, Garza with the win

Game #31: Cubs win, Garza with the win

What stands out to me is, despite that vague “feeling” that Garza was brilliant last year, “Cubs win, Garza with the win” shows up just 10 times out of 31. When you see them all laid out like that, it’s stark. And, after his 10th start, Garza got a deserved loss just once. (It’s also interesting to see that Garza wasn’t quite getting screwed *every* time he pitched – it just seemed like it at the time.)

I’m not changing my tune on Garza’s arbitration case, but it worth being reminded just how good – and how unlucky – Matt Garza was almost every time out for the Cubs last year.

  • JB88

    I only count 7 games where you identified Garza taking the loss, so take this with a semi-grain of salt, but that means there were 13 or 14 games where Garza pitched well enough to get the win (only two of which were identified as games where he took the loss). Let’s assume he was 100% lucky last year, his record could have been as good as 23-8 (maybe better depending on a game or two that I counted as an ND where no loss was identified).

    Of course, no one is 100% lucky, so even assuming that he was 50% lucky last year, his record might have been closer to 17-8. So, yeah, it is amazing how much the Cubs’ pen and defense really let him down.

    And it also illustrates how bogus Toronto and New York’s claims that Garza is a middle of the rotation starter are …

    • DocWimsey

      Also, do not forget how the offense lets pitchers down. The Cubs OBP was bad all year, and the slugging did not pick up until the 2nd half. So, Cubs pitchers got very few “easy” games, which sets up opportunities for bullpens and fielders to let the team down. One of the trademarks of a really good team is that its starters get a lot of “easy” starts: these will cushion against miscues by relievers or fielders. This was NOT one of those teams!

  • ottoCub

    It is clear that Garza was outstanding as a pitcher last year, but he was woeful as a hitter and a defender. And since so many of these games were very close, it is relevant to look at Garza’s own inability to field (7 errors in 198 innings and only 33 chances), his own inability to put the ball in play (42 strike outs in 71 plate appearances), and his own inability to lay down a sac bunt (only 5 successful sacrifices). He did not help the team, nor his own win-loss record, with this performance. These stats are usually overlooked when evaluating pitchers, but games are often decided by 1 or 2 runs, and in the NL pitchers have to contribute!

    • andrewmoore4ISU

      You make great points to me otto, there were many times when Zambrano would give up a long ball and the lineup 1-8 sucked it up first time through and Zambrano would crush one over the wall to get things started, or there was often cool plays demester made at the mound atleast i seem to think there was. These arnt the biggest states, but definitaly provide a boost.

    • DocWimsey

      A big part of Garza having “only” 5 SH is because the Cubs’ #8 hitters had the 3rd worst OBP in the NL and the Cubs’ #7 hitters had the worst OBP in the NL. The collective OBP of the two slots was the 2nd lowest in the NL at about 0.292: only the Giants did worse.

      Upshot? Cubs pitchers batted infrequently with men on base and less than 2 outs relative to other NL pitchers. That meant fewer opportunities to sacrifice and thus fewer numbers of sacrifices given the average success rates.

      At any rate, arbitration has to be based on Garza’s performance relative to his peers. His AL peers (basically) do not bat, so those comparisons cannot be made.

  • SirCub

    smh at game #15… ridiculous.

    • CubFan Paul

      that was against the Nats i think ..in my opinion Garza will make us competitive in the short & long term ..i think garza & his agent will settle for an extension that has an Annual Average Salary of $10M-$12M ..4yrs/$48M, 5yrs/$55M, 6yrs/$60M-$70M is all below market rate for a frontline starter ($15M)

  • http://www.cardinalsbern.ch Jan Forty-Two

    I agree Garza was much better than the 10-10 record shows. According to baseballreference and espn, he had a 3.32 ERA, 197 Ks and 20 quality starts. I think some teams would spend > 10 million $ a year for a player like Garza. Not sure though if the Cubs want to and should do it.

  • David

    FWIW, John Lannan lost his arbitration case today, and will have to get by on $5 million for 2012. Garza is clearly a better pitcher than the serviceable Lannan, but I think he will struggle to make the case that he’s $7.5 million better.

    • tjtrigo

      According to MLBtraderumors.com, Lannan is aggressively being shopped now that the Nationals are about to sign Edwin Jackson.  I know we don’t need another lefty starting pitcher, but I do know that the Nationals have been interested in Byrd over the last year or so.

  • Mike Foster

    Great recap and thanks to you both.

  • Dante Hicks

    Brett, (and cliffy), very impressive work on the Matt Garza stuff. Great reads. I got lost in the hysteria the last month or so. Stepping back it is pretty amazing. The is very, very good pitcher. A good #2 or amazing #3 (if you have that staff), but we are treating him around here like Cy Young. We have seen those guys in town before. Garza is not that level. He has a great attitude. Although, he fielding was not so great, he is an ideal teammate from all accounts.

    But, in the end, was he worth everything Hendry gave up? Since it seems pretty clear Theo-Jed plans to trade him either now or July, it seems we just want to rebuild the system with good prospects. Not a bad idea, but remember we when we, as Cubs fans used to worry about winning?

    I’ll continue to follow the Garza saga with great interest–it is what we have in an era where (Rightfully) the team’s superstar is Theo. But, it makes me look forward to (and this is way beyond normal hot stove talk) when we can talk the Cubs being playoff bound.

    What the hell. We’ve waited a long time.

  • tjtrigo

    I am hoping the Cubs announce today that the Cubs and Garza avoided arbitration today and are finalizing a 4-year deal.

  • Julian

    Great article, way to break it down for us. I think the real Garza is the one that showed up for his final 17 starts (excluding that start versus the Nats, we’ll give him a mulligan on that one). So from Jun 27 to Sep 27 his stats were 2.45 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 111 K, 117.7 IP. Those stats are FILTHY! I really hope the Cubs keep this guy, sign him long term, and build their pitching staff around him.

  • die hard

    Brett, I couldve saved you all that typing if you just asked as I watched almost every game last year and noted how Garza kept them in every game or was unlucky….which is why I have been advocating building a staff around him if serious about building a contender….but I still dont think Ricketts wants a contender….I feel he wants to gut this team and suck out as much revenue as he can before selling or CH 11 as appears to be operating on a Bain Capital model…otherwise why didnt he sign Fielder, Darvish, or any of the other big FA out there?…Theo brought in to make this happen as hes a smart guy and knows which bad players to bring in as much as which good players to avoid…reminds me of the movie Major League…would be great if 2012 ends the same way which could crimp these plans

    • Matt

      ??? Wow… That is all I can say after hearing that.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You’ve re-entered the troll zone, die hard, and my patience with respect to trolling has gone down considerably.

    • cjdubbya

      Back under thou bridge, yon trolles!

  • Matt

    Something that indirectly effects Garza happened today. Edwin Jackson was signed by the Nationals. So, he didn’t go to a team we could be trade partners with. That is always good. Also, the Nats have one hell of a pitching staff now. Who would have thought?

  • EQ76

    Garza could have easily had 15-17 wins last year if not for our bullpen blowing saves, offense not showing up and a ton of errors.. If he had won 15 games, I’m sure the 2 sides wouldn’t be so far off on the ARB figures.

  • colocubfan

    How many sacrifice chances did he have? Anybody know?

    • DocWimsey

      Garza had only 34 PAs with men on base. Of those, slightly over one third would have been with two outs due to the low OBP of the guys in front of him. Some others might have been non-sacrifice situations for other reasons.

  • rbreeze

    I like Garza as a starter in the rotation.  Right now he is our best shot at winning more times than not over any other starter we have.  I hope he gets an extension and stays but if he has to go it better be for a couple of can’t miss players.  Whether its two minor leaguers or a current everyday player plus a can’t miss minor leaguer and some change.  Play ball!!!

  • MichCubFan

    Also just look at his earned run/unearned differential compared to our other starters last year….and that isn’t even taking our offense into consideration.

  • John

    http://centuryandcounting.mlblogs.com/?p=22&preview=true

    This article (which is the same basic idea as yours) was posted December 16th (almost 2 months before this one). Have you seen it?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Nope. This is the first time I’ve seen it. Seemed like a useful offseason exercise in advance of his arbitration hearing. It wasn’t even my idea – as I note in the post, BN’er Cliffy came up with the idea.

      Edit: And now that I re-read your comment, I’m not sure I care for your implication.

      • Quintz

        Yea not a fan of accusing Brett of plagiarizing. Most people did this timeline figuratively in their head all season. While it’s hard to argue with those summaries, I’m not going to go as far and say that Garza should or would have won 21 games on a better team. The Dodgers had a comparable offense and Clayton Kershaw won 21 (only lost 5). RA Dickey and Jeff Karstens (someone will probably tell me I’m wrong) probably have a worse (or more un-lucky) looking timeline than Garza and they aren’t near the pitcher Garza is. Hell, Cole Hamels only won 14 with a sub 1 WHIP.

        • Cliffy

          I’m weighing in on the thought that Brett may have plagurized another persons article. I was the person who did the original leg work on this article. I did so by using my MLB at bat 2011 app and going thru each of the 162 games one by one. It took me the better of 4 hrs. Time over 2 days, I then emailed to Brett, he contacted me by email to let me known It had a few errors in the content and he was re-formatting it. It pisses me off to have someone say negative things about Brett with all the hard work he puts into his site.

          • Quintz

            I don’t think (most) of us who read it (even after the reference to the other article) thought there was any plagiarizing. I think many of us who write (or edit) for a living understand how volatile an accusation like that is, and am hoping that the person who made the parallel between the two did not understand the possible sensitivity of his posting.

            • MichiganGoat

              Agreed

      • DocWimsey

        Separating games into “deserved” W’s and L’s is hardly new: I’ll bet that Brett and this other guy are 2 of many who did this for many, many pitchers. (I see nothing implying that either guy thought he was inventing the notion.)

        Moreover, I prefer Brett’s approach to the other site’s. Brett singles out deserved loses, not deserved wins. Starting pitching is primary form of defense in baseball. Thus, a starter can lose the game for his team quite easily by making it easy for the opposition to score. However, he cannot win the game: 9 innings of shutout ball just makes it easy for his offense to score and thus his team to outscore the opponent. However, pitching cannot get that run to score.

        So, a starter can deserve a loss, but at best he can only encourage a win

    • Andrew

      anyone that watches the Cubs regularly and has seen Garza pitch in his starts would realize there is a discrepancy between how he’s pitched and his win-loss record. To take another look at Garza (currently one of the most talked about Cubs) is just something people that like the cubs will likely do. Given the volume of Cubs blogs, its not surprising that 2 people wrote a similar article. It seems like youre accusing Brett of stealing someones idea, which is just ludicrous, because if you’ve read any of his posts he always gives credit where credit is due by linking to different blogs, or youre just saying this is unoriginal, which is kind of a pointless comment.

      • DocWimsey

        There is a discrepancy between Garza’s performance and his won-lost record only if you treat W-L as a trait of the pitcher and not of the team. Just like RBI, we have to view W-L as a team stat rather than an individual stat. At any rate, put a pitcher with Garza’s stuff on a team like the Cubs, and shouldn’t we expect that record? 1972 Steve Carlton was a once-in-baseball-history fluke!

    • rcleven

      John: How many ways can history be reported?

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