Monday, April 28, 2014
Did the Cubs cost Matt Garza 30 wins?
By David Schoenfield
One thing about baseball players: They're good at playing baseball.
They're not always so good about analyzing baseball.
Case in point, this quote from Matt Garza, when advising former Cubs teammate Jeff Samardzija: "I told [Samardzija], 'It doesn't matter, dude. You play in Chicago. I was there, and I lost 30 wins in three seasons. It's not your fault. You pitch your way out of there.'"
OK, Garza's point was that if Samardzija keeps pitching well, he becomes more attractive on the trade market. Garza's other point was that he lost wins due to a bad team around him. But 30? Really?
In his two-plus seasons with the Cubs (he was traded to the Rangers in his third year), Garza went 21-18 in 60 starts. Taken literally, Garza is suggesting he should have won 51 times in 60 starts. That's a ridiculous percentage,of course, but let's say Garza deserved to win every time he pitched well. In those 60 starts, he had 38 quality starts (and zero "blown" quality starts by the bullpen). If we stretch the definition of quality start to every game he allowed three runs or fewer, we get 42 such games (although in one of those he pitched just three innings).
So that leaves 18 other starts, nine of which needed to be wins to get us to 51. He actually won one of those games already (he allowed five runs in six innings to beat the Brewers on June 16, 2011. We can find a few more potential wins if we're generous:
--April 25, 2011: 6 IP, 5 R, 1 ER
--Aug. 14, 2011: 5 IP, 4 R, 2 ER
--Aug. 25, 2011: 5 IP, 6 R, 3 ER
--June 13, 2012: 6 IP, 5 R, 3 ER
We classify those as games where his defense let him down. So now we're up to 46 wins. He gave up four runs in 6.1 innings against the Angels on June 5, 2013. That's not a quality start, but maybe in Garza's mind that's good enough to get a win, even though starting pitchers don't usually get wins in starts like that. (Last season, a started pitched between six and seven innings and allowed four runs 295 times; he got the win 53 times.) Again, we're giving him the benefit of the doubt here so we'll say Garza "deserved" to win that one. And, who knows, maybe the Cubs had some misplays in the field.
That's 47 wins. I can't really come up with four more. He had one start where he allowed nine runs, two with seven, three others with six runs that we didn't look at yet and five more where he allowed five earned runs. You can't say he deserved to win any of those games. But you know, 47 isn't so far from 51. Maybe if Garza had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the lineup and Andrelton Simmons and Andruw Jones playing defense behind him, he does win 47 games.
Although even the '27 Yankees scored two runs or fewer in 28 games.
If there's a bigger point here it's that in this age of declining offense, the old definition of a quality start -- six or more innings, three runs or fewer -- probably needs to be revised. Six innings with a 4.50 ERA isn't really a "quality" start these days.
To be fair, Garza did pitch in some bad luck. He allowed zero runs or one run in 17 starts with the Cubs (not counting that three-inning game) and won just 10 of those games. He allowed two runs in 14 starts and went 6-2.
Garza did pitch his way out of Chicago. He's with the Brewers now. The team with the best record in baseball.
He has one win in five starts.