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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Rotation Thoughts, Part III: Freddy Garcia 

Yesterday I categorized the Phillies decision to sign Adam Eaton to a 3-year, $24 mil deal as being a “wildcard”. I am not entirely sure that Eaton, a former Phillies first-round pick, will be entirely worth the investment despite the fact that he has sterling talent. Eaton’s performance in ’05 & ’06 were somewhat suspect, I noted, although he turned in a wonderful performance in 2004 and shows flashes of brilliance here and there.

As for Freddy Garcia, I have nothing but praise. If Garcia doesn’t have a good season for the Phillies, I will be stunned.

To get Freddy Garcia the Phillies surrendered busted superstar Gavin Floyd as well as prospect Gio Gonzalez, who spent the ’06 campaign honing his skills in Double-A Reading for the Reading Phillies. Gonzalez might be a spectacular pitcher one day. Maybe Floyd will regain his form and give the White Sox a formidable one-two punch, but I doubt that Gavin Floyd was ever going to be a productive pitcher for the Phillies, and I think dealing a Double-A starter for a proven stud pitcher is a smart deal, especially with so many talented Phillies pitchers currently in Single-A.

To give you an idea about what the Phillies gave up to get Garcia, here are Gonzalez and Floyd’s minor league stats:

Gavin Floyd: Scranton Red Barons (AAA)

W-L: 7-4
ERA: 4.23
HR/9: 0.70
BB/9: 2.97
K/9: 6.65
K/BB: 2.24

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

Not bad, but the Phillies other Triple-A starters had better ERAs: Eude Brito (3.17), Jeremy Cummings (3.97), and Brian Mazzone (2.03). As for Gonzalez, the Phillies are giving up a pitcher with tremendous potential:

Gio Gonzalez: Reading Phillies (AA)

W-L: 7-12
ERA: 4.66
HR/9: 1.40
BB/9: 4.71
K/9: 9.66
K/BB: 2.05

As I said, Gonzalez has a lot of potential – he’s rated as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball – but his stats don’t live up to the story. He could be a bust and Gavin Floyd could never get his groove back, in which case I think people will rate this deal as a major coup for Pat Gillick.

And as I noted, I don’t think parting with Floyd and Gonzalez is a big deal because there are so many good pitching prospects in the minors for the Phillies. Not many people realize this, but three of the Phillies six minor league affiliates led their respective leagues in ERA in 2006: the Red Barons in the Triple-A International League, the Lakewood Blue Claws in the Single-A South Atlantic League, and the Batavia Muckdogs in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League. There is a lot of talent out there and with the Phillies rotation set for the time-being, the team can afford to deal some prospects and let the talent down in Lakewood and Williamsport (the franchise that replaced the Muckdogs as the Phillies NY-Penn League affiliate) start to bloom.*

*As you might guess from my notes on the Phillies minor leaguers, I am in the process of writing a massive review of the Phillies minor league franchises.

So what are the Phillies getting with Freddy Garcia? Check it out:

2006: White Sox
FIP: 4.66
HR/9: 1.33
BB/9: 2.00
K/9: 5.61
K/BB: 2.81

And …

2005: White Sox
FIP: 4.05
HR/9: 1.03
BB/9: 2.37
K/9: 5.76
K/BB: 2.43

These are some sterling stats. Garcia is a good power pitcher who gets K’s and doesn’t allow many walks at all. As I’ve said in the past, the Phillies need groundball-oriented pitchers who don’t issue free walks in order to succeed at Citizens Bank Ballpark. As you can see, that is what he does:

G/F ratio:
2006: 1.07
2005: 1.60
2004: 1.34 (CWS)
2004: 1.02 (Seattle)

What impressed me was how Garcia went from playing in a pitchers park like Safeco Field to a hitters park like U.S. Cellular Field with little apparent effect on his stats:

’04: Mariners / White Sox
FIP: 3.52 / 3.96
HR/9: 0.67 / 1.22
BB/9: 2.69 / 2.79
K/9: 6.90 / 8.91
K/BB: 2.56 / 3.19

Aside from an understandable uptick in Home Runs that season (in 2004 U.S. Cellular had a Home Run Park Factor of 131, making it the easiest park to hit a home run in, aside from the North Side’s Wrigley Field at 138), Garcia pitched better with the White Sox that season.

Another benefit of bringing Freddy Garcia aboard: playoff experience. Brett Myers playoff experience? Zero. Cole Hamels? Nada. Freddy Garcia has hurled fifty-five innings in nine playoff starts, going 6-2. He won his only World Series start, scattering four hits and three walks in seven shutout innings, on his way to striking seven Astros out. His playoff experience could be a major, major benefit if and when the Phillies make it into the NLDS.

I think this was a great move on the part of Pat Gillick and was a major victory for the team. Oh sure, Gavin Floyd and Gio Gonzalez could combine and become a latter-day Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax duo with the Phillies luck, but I doubt it. I think the Phillies have bought themselves a stud pitcher who can give them 200+ quality innings in 2007. The Phillies might lose in for ’08 (this is Garcia’s walk year), but in the here and now the Phillies are a much better team with Freddy Garcia in the rotation.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about Brett Myers.

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Couldn't agree with you more about Freddy Garcia.

Nice write up.
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