By Michael Keneski, Fantasy Baseball Dugout contributor
The news of the day week was the Tampa Bay Rays dealing SP Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a batch of minnor leaguers. Right off the bat its obvious to see that Garza gets a boost in value due to his move from the rough AL East to much easier NL Central but lets get into this a bit more. After being a sleeper ace for 2010, Garza let down big time after a hot start and many jumped ship as a result. With his move to the Cubs, one has to wonder: “how good can he be this season in Chicago and what kind of numbers can we expect?” Lets find out here.
Despite what seemingly was a giant step back last season, Matt Garza actually was not much worse than he was in his exciting 2009 season save for a decent drop in strikeouts. As a matter of fact, Garza has actually been quite consistent over the last four seasons with an ERA around the 3.80 range with a WHIP hovering around 1.25. The issue was that as a former first round draft pick, many expected much more from Garza, especially after he rang up 189 K’s in 2009. It certainly appeared at the outset of last season that Garza had reached that ace level as he pitched to a 2.06 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP in April. Things went downhill thereafter though as Garza got rocked for three of the last four months of the season and finished with only 150 k’s in the same amount of innings as the year before. Owners were left wondering what happened and thought maybe he was injured. No injury was found however and so the missing strikeouts remain as much a mystery as Bigfoot. Certainly one possible theory is the idea that maybe Garza “bounced” a bit after throwing for 209 and 204 innings the two years prior. Fatigue could certainly have been a factor as Garza is still only 27 years old and thus is working through getting his conditioning in order. He certainly wouldn’t be the first starter to struggle with endurance after throwing for heavy innings as Cole Hamels went through a dead arm season in 2009 after throwing a ton of innings in 2008 when the Phillies went to the World Series. It certainly is possible that Garza comes back with a 180 K season in 2011 and it actually is likely due to his move to the NL where he gets to throw to the opposing pitcher. He also should see a drop in his WHIP due to the increased K’s and the fact that Garza has been a guy who has proven to be tough to hit when compared to the league average. Think something along the lines of 1.22.
Now to the bad stuff. The biggest issue with Garza is the fact he gives up a ton of home runs every season and going to Wrigley Field is just about one of the worst places for him to have this tendency. The fact Garza gave up 25 and 28 home runs the last two seasons while pitching in a neutral park in Tampa Bay is bad news with his move to Chicago. Garza might blow past the 30 home run mark this season and that will take a bite into his ERA. To make matters worse, Garza walks more batters than normal and so those walks will be compounded by the home run issue.
All in all Garza’s move to the NL pretty much improves his fantasy value but not as much as you might think. Yes he will get a boost in strikeouts and a lower WHIP. However the increase in home runs allowed that will happen in Wrigley Field when combined with the walks will hurt his ERA. Garza remains a SP 3 at this point and yes he still is young enough to make improvements in the rest of his numbers which make him intriguing but time is starting to run out on him taking that next step.
2011 PROJECTION: 14-11 3.95 ERA 186 K 1.24 WHIP
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