As the season winds down, it seems like every other post turns into a discussion of which players the Royals should target. This not one of those posts. This post is the opposite -- a well-known player who the Royals should avoid, namely, Jon Garland.
This is not to say Jon Garland sucks. He does not. He would be fine rounding out many clubs’ rotations, and if he was still in his early club control years, he would have some decent value. The problem is that Garland is a back of the rotation starter in terms of talent, but he is regarded as mid-rotation starter who is about to get paid like a frontline starter. He is likely this year’s Carlos Silva or Jeff Suppan.
The line for the average AL pitcher this year is (per THT):
FIP: 4.88, 4.46, 4.41
ERA: 4.49, 4.23, 4.51
K/G: 3.9, 4.3, 4.8
BB/G: 2.7, 2.5, 1.8
HR/G: 1.09, 0.83, 1.11
HR/FB: 14.5%, 7.4%, 9.4%
GB%: 48.3%, 39.4%, 42.1%
LD%: 23.5%, 22.8%, 20.3%
Except for walk rate and groundballs (this year only), Garland has been below average almost across the board. Garland is a typical “command and control” pitcher: he misses few bats but limits his walks and relies on his defense to make outs. The problem with that approach is that in this case, the good defenses that Garland has pitched in front of will not come with him. His FIP has him as a below average AL starter, but his FIP does not tell the whole story. Garland is also well below average in line drive percentage – few pitchers post LD% above 23% because at the rate, they usually find themselves back in AAA. Line drive percentage is important because on average roughly 75% of line drives go for hits. Garland is leaving too many pitches in places where hitters can hit them hard. Thus, Garland is an example of a guy who is pitching worse than his FIP and ERA.
Garland is also trending the wrong the way over the last three years. His FIP, walk rate, and LD% have all trended upward while his strikeout rate has dropped almost a full K/G. His HR rates have shot up too this year, even though he has moved from a strong hitter’s park to a neutral park.
While teams are generally getting smarter about how to evaluate pitchers, there are still enough clubs who overvalue W-L record and ERA that Garland is likely to land a three or four year deal at $10 to $12 million (or more) per season. That team will end up very disappointed.