Garza comes to Texas pitching his best

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The Texas Rangers made a bold move to improve their starting pitching by obtaining veteran Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Justin Grimm and prospects yesterday.

Let's take a look at the statistical angles related to this deal.

Garza has been very good lately

Garza has been at his best of late. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in each of his last six starts, the longest streak of his career. Garza had a 6.26 ERA in his first five starts and only went seven innings or more once.

In his last six starts, he has a 1.24 ERA, .567 opponents’ OPS and has pitched at least seven innings five times.

Garza's track record is that he isn't as good as he's been lately, but he isn't as bad as he was early in the season. In sum, he's been a slightly above average pitcher for most of his career. From 2007 to 2012, his ERA hovered between 3.32 and 3.95, with the combined total in that span being 3.74.

One thing to watch in Texas will be Garza's home-run rate. Since 2007, he's allowed a home run every nine innings. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington tends to be a very hitter-friendly park.

It had the highest Park Factor in the majors for home runs in 2011 and seventh-highest in 2012, though that's dropped to 11th this season.

Keys to success

The big reason for Garza’s success in that stretch is his propensity for getting out of jams.

Garza With RISP – 2013 Season

Opponents are hitting .125 with runners in scoring position against him in his last six starts, well below what they were doing prior to that.

He's also been able to get opponents to swing and miss at a much higher rate in those situations, as the chart on the right shows.

Garza has also upped the use of his slider. He was throwing it an average of 16 times per game in that five-start stretch in which he was struggling to an average of more than 25 times per game in his last six starts.

In those six starts, he's netted 38 outs (21 strikeouts) with the pitch, holding opposing hitters to seven singles and three walks.

The Rangers need him

Entering Monday, the Rangers ranked in the top 10 in baseball in OPS, Defensive Runs Saved and bullpen ERA but 20th in starters ERA. Only one World Series champion in the past 15 seasons has finished that low in starters ERA (2006 Cardinals -– 20th).

Rangers MLB Ranks – Entering Monday

The Rangers have used nine different starting pitchers this season while trying to fill injuries at the back end of their rotation.

Yu Darvish and Derek Holland have combined for 6.1 Wins Above Replacement; the other seven pitchers have made more than 60 percent of the team’s starts and combined for 0.3 Win Above Replacement.

Did You Know

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Garza has won each of his last five starts while allowing no more than two earned runs in any of them.

Only two Cubs pitchers in the last 40 years had longer streaks of that kind within one season. Kerry Wood (in 2001) and Mark Prior (in 2003) each won six straight starts without allowing more than two earned runs in a game.