By Tommy Rancel //
After something of a career year in San Diego, Jon Garland has agreed to a one-year, $5 million dollar deal (plus performance bonuses and a vesting option) with the team he pitched for in the second half of the 2009 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers. In six starts in Dodger blue, he went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. While pitching for the Padres in 2010, he went 14-12 with a career-best 3.47 ERA in 33 starts.
In addition to the stellar ERA, Garland posted his best strikeout rate to date – although 6.12 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) aren’t much to brag about. He also turned in his best groundball rate with 52% of the balls put in play against him burning worms.
That said, defensive independent metrics, which strip luck and defense from a pitcher’s performance, suggest Garland’s true talent level in 2010 was much closer to his 4.32 career ERA than the sub 3.50 he posted. This can be attributed to a lower-than-normal batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and pitching in Petco Park for more than half of his innings total.
In 2010, Garland’s BABIP (.267) was 35 points lower than the league average (.302). Most often the best indicator of what a pitcher’s BABIP should be is his career average. Those numbers show Garland’s mark is usually below the league’s average; however, his career .288 BABIP is still 21 points above his 2010 showing.
When looking at home/road splits, we see that Garland is the latest pitcher to rebound thanks to the “Petco Factor.” Easily one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball, several pitchers have gone to San Diego for a numbers boost. Here are Garland’s home/road splits for 2010:
Home: 18 starts, 7-5, 3.00 ERA, .259 BABIP, 0.80 HR/9
Road: 15 starts, 7-7, 4.01 ERA, .277 BABIP, 1.08 HR/9
As you can see, his ERA differential was more than one full run. Closer to career levels, he allowed more balls to drop in play and more to carry over the fence on the road. The good news for Garland is Dodger Stadium is also pitcher-friendly park. In terms of ESPN’s park factors, the stadium has finished in the bottom half of the league for home runs allowed over the past three seasons.
Also working in Garland’s favor are consistency and durability. Over the past nine seasons, he has won at least 10 games and pitched more than 190 innings in each. The only other pitcher in baseball who can say he’s done the same is Garland’s former White Sox teammate Mark Buehrle.
Looking at everything in play, Garland is probably the most predictable fantasy pitcher in the National League. Expect a double-digit win total, nearly 200 innings, and an ERA around the league average. He should regress from his 2010 numbers, but landing in Dodger Stadium should soften the blow. He will start the season as Los Angeles’ fifth starter; consider him a fourth or fifth starter in NL-only leagues, and the last man on your staff in standard 12-team mixed leagues.