Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Galarraga's future imperfect
By Christina Kahrl
Armando Galarraga's name is always going to be associated with something he almost achieved, but will never officially get credit for -- a perfect game. While losing his bid one out shy of perfection almost exactly a year ago gives him something in common with Mike Mussina or Dave Stieb, by getting designated for assignment today, Galarraga now has something in common with a few thousand pitchers in major-league history.
Despite Galarraga’s run at history, seeing him get squeezed out in Detroit by the decision to sign Brad Penny wasn’t that surprising as decisions go. His strikeout rate had declined from 16.9 percent in 2008 to 13.8 percent in 2009 to 12.0 percent in 2010, at a time when game-wide strikeout rates are headed in the other direction. He did this while walking an above-average 8-10 percent of opponents. So he was already fooling fewer people. Add in the fact that he’s always been a fly ball-oriented pitcher, which involves risking -- and giving up -- plenty of home runs, and you can see how this had all sorts of potential to go badly.
But perhaps getting traded to Arizona was the coup de grace. Chase Field is already a homer-generating ballpark, indexing via Baseball Info Solutions’ park factors just a little bit worse than Comerica for bombs over the past few years, and a lot worse last year. However, it’s reliably better at inducing more extra-base hits of every flavor than almost any venue in the majors.
Changing leagues, Galarraga got a slight strikeout bounce by moving to the league where pitchers have to hit, but as a guy prone to lots of balls in play in the first place, the combination of his nibbling and walking people plus getting hammered for a league-leading 13 homers seemed like a predictable outcome for a guy who’d be better off pitching someplace like Petco. (Then again, who wouldn’t?)
Finally, as if you couldn’t make matters any worse for the man, if he does make it through waivers and goes to Reno, the Aces’ home field indexes as one of the worst parks for pitchers in the PCL.
Christina Kahrl covers baseball for ESPN.com. You can follow her on Twitter.