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Trimming the Garland
2005-12-29 09:17
by Mike Carminati

On August 7, Jon Garland allowed one run and five hits in 7.1 innings, striking out three and walking two in a 3-1 win over the M's. He pitched so well that after allowing an RBI single to Ichiro Suzuki in the third, he retired the next 12 batters.

In the process Garland ran his record to 16-5 with a 3.29 ERA and was the AL wins leader. The White Sox ran their record to a major-league leading 72-38 and had a thirteen game lead. (By the way, their 72nd win came the day that they christened a life-size Pudge Fisk statue, and he wore number 72 for Chicago).

The last third of Garland's season was not the unalloyed success the first two-thirds had been. His next win did not come until almost a month later (Sept 4). He only won one other game and that was on the last day of the season, in a meaningless game against the Indians.

Meanwhile Chicago's seemingly insurmountable lead dwindled. On September 10th he allowed five runs on eight hits (two of which were homers) in six innings and blew a two-run lead after two innings in a 10-5 loss to the Angels (whose starter Bartolo Colon ran his record to 19-6). It was the third straight loss by the Sox just as the Indians were winning their sixth straight to close the gap to 6.5 games.

On September 21, a day on which Garland was quoted as saying, "tell them [the reporters] I didn't have it," he lost 8-0 to the Indians to trim their lead to just 2.5 games. Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, he threw a ball behind Jhonny Peralta scoring Grady Sizemore. Then after getting out of a jam in the seventh (second and third and none out), Garland allowed a three-run home run to Travis Hafner with one out in the eighth to seal it.

The White Sox were said to be fading and allusions to the '64 Phils abounded. Chicago held on to win the division as the Indians pulled their own fadeaway act. Garland pitched well in his two postseason starts (2.25 in 16 innings) including a complete-game, 5-2 win over the Angels in the pivotal game three of then-tied ALCS. But one has to wonder why he wasn't save to pitch game one of the Division Series instead of pitching the final day just to knock the Indians out of the wild card race.

Anyway, even with an 18-10 record and 3.50 ERA (27% better than the park-adjusted league average), one would have to say that the season was anything but an unqualified success for Garland. He went 2-5 with three no decisions and a 3.97 ERA down the stretch. After running his record to 8-0 with a 2.41 ERA on May 17, he was an even 10-10 with a 3.90 ERA.

At age 25 even that was a major step forward for Garland, who was coming off a 12-11 2004 season with a league average 4.89 ERA. Actually, in his previous five seasons, Garland only once had an ERA under 4.50 or better than the park-adjusted league average (both coming in 2001).

So what is to be believed the five seasons prior to 2005 in which he was largely a league average starter and the 24 starts after May 17 in which he was a slightly better than average pitcher OR the 8-0 start to the 2005?

I would offer this question rhetorically if it weren't for the ludicrous contract to which the Sox signed Garland yesterday. He will make $29M over the next three years. Now, Garland will be just 26 in 2006 and may be able to recapture his early brilliance from this past season, but for my money, I wouldn't gamble almost $10M a season for the next three years to find out, especially when the pitcher in question would not be eligible for free agency for another season. I would have traded him while his stock was high, but then again, it's not nice to disrupt the post-championship euphoria and its attendant attendance boost.

Then again, this about the umpteenth—umpeen plus one-th one, to be exact—contract that has caused me to shake my head in disbelief this offseason. When was the last time you heard a mention of collusion, something that was being taken as a given by a few agents the last couple of offseasons?

Garland gets a reported $7M in 2006, $10M in 2007, and $12M in 2008. That puts him second all-time among 26-year-old pitchers in terms of salary by my calculations:

Pitcher Yr Tm Salary
Pedro Martinez 1998 BOS $7,575,000
John Garland 2006 CHA $7,000,000
Byung-Hyun Kim 2005 COL $6,575,000
Kerry Wood 2003 CHN $6,190,000
Mark Buehrle 2005 CWS $6,000,000
Ben Sheets 2005 MIL $6,000,000
Javier Vazquez 2003 MON $6,000,000
Ismael Valdes 2000 CHN $5,737,500
Johan Santana 2005 MIN $4,750,000
Joel Pineiro 2005 SEA $4,700,000
Alex Fernandez 1996 CHA $4,500,000
Mark Mulder 2004 OAK $4,450,000
Jaret Wright 2002 CLE $4,312,500
Sidney Ponson 2003 BAL $4,250,000
Greg Maddux 1992 CHN $4,200,000
Steve Avery 1996 ATL $4,200,000
Jeff Weaver 2003 NYA $4,150,000
Mike Hampton 1999 HOU $4,125,000
Eric Milton 2002 MIN $4,000,000

That seems a bit high to me, especially when it's the lowest of the three years in the deal.

Garland had 21 Win Shares in 2005. To put his 2006 salary in perspective, here are all the 25-year-old pitchers with at least 20 Win Shares in the free agent era. For each I have listed their salary in the subsequent season, if available:

Name Yr WS Pitching WS Salary
Bret Saberhagen 1989 28 28.3 $1,400,000
Kevin Appier 1993 27 27.0 $3,800,000
Johan Santana 2004 27 26.8 $4,750,000
Pedro Martinez 1997 26 26.4 $7,575,000
Rich Gossage 1977 26 26.0 N/A
Mike Norris 1980 25 25.2 N/A
Dave Stieb 1983 24 24.4 N/A
Mark Gubicza 1988 24 24.3 $1,375,000
Tom Glavine 1991 23 23.1 $2,975,000
Ben Sheets 2004 21 23.0 $6,000,000
Mike Witt 1986 23 22.5 $1,133,333
Joe Mays 2001 22 22.2 $2,350,000
Roger Clemens 1988 22 21.5 $2,300,000
Mark Eichhorn 1986 21 21.0 $165,500
Fernando Valenzuela 1986 21 21.0 $1,850,000
Roy Halladay 2002 21 21.0 $3,825,000
John Garland 2005 21 21.0 $7,000,000
Andy Pettitte 1997 20 20.3 $3,800,000
Wayne Garland 1976 20 20.2 N/A
Mario Soto 1982 20 20.0 N/A
Bill Caudill 1982 20 19.8 N/A
Charles Nagy 1992 20 19.5 $541,667
Average (w/o Garland) $2,922,700

Yes, a number of these salaries are not representative of today's market. But even compensating for inflation, could Garland be worth almost two and one-half as much as the average from this group ($7M divided by the average is 2.40)?

If you answered "Yes", you may have what it takes to be a major-league GM. Just trace the picture of Bambi and a pirate that come in the attached brochure, send it in to us, and we'll tell you if you too could enter the exciting world of baseball management (that or gun repair). Just send us $19.99 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope, wait six to eight weeks, and then (to quote the Dick Van Dyke Show) go outside and scream like a chicken!

2005-12-29 14:24:30
Using Win Shares is a good way to contradict yourself. If you use WS, then Garland is the 7th best pitcher in the Majors (ahead of both Cy Young winners), so a 3 yr $29 million deal is a steal for the White Sox.

How about comparing the current contracts in this offseason:

Millwood - 15 WS - 5 yr / $60 million
Burnett - 12 WS - 5 yr / $55 million
Garland - 21 WS - 3 yr / $29 million

There is no way you can compare contract values from year to year, just performances.

P. Martinez was making over $7 million in 1997!

2005-12-29 16:49:28
2.   johnny mostil
I guess I sort of see your point, but you're forgetting there's PR involved. It's evident the White Sox are trying a risky transition phase from a pseudo-small-market team to a real big-market team. The Cubs are poorly managed at this point -- and not getting a clue very fast -- leaving blood in the water.

I think the White Sox front office has cash to burn (ticket sales are apparently pretty impressive and last year was a windfall) and spending it to reward players who actually won the World Series (Konerko, Garland, Pierzynski) is PR gold. Jerry Reinsdorf's image went from Scrooge to Santa Claus in one year; the immediate way to spoil that was to "pull a Marlin", go all cheap, and try to rebuild for a future that may practically never come. With Cleveland rising (and with Cleveland having a strong revenue base the ownership has pocketed), the White Sox can't afford to go back to playing chintz-ball quite yet, their newly-revived fan base would desert them.

The frightening signings are the mercenary hirings of Hessians with poor health records and spotty statistics, not the young guys who never go on the DL and won a championship who get a bunch of money from their current teams.

2005-12-29 18:29:00
3.   Mike Carminati

Re Burnett and Millwood, see:

Two bad contracts don't make his any better.

Secondly, you miss the point--They are devoting $29M over three years to a pitcher who has been better than league average for about half a season in the last four. If you think that's a good investment, god bless.


Agreed, I just think it's a bad gamble. Maybe he will prove me wrong, but so far he's been an ace for about a month and half (April-May 2005). I think they are in a difficult position given the PR issues, and do have the money to spare, so why not?

2005-12-30 08:22:20
You say that Garland has only been better than the league average for about half a season in the last four.

What half season are you talking about?
Pre All-Star 3.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
Post All-Star 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

You are probably only going off Wins and Losses, which is a horrible way to measure a pitchers performance (see Clemens).

Here are some numbers to examine:

Apr - 1.80 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
May - 4.22 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
June - 3.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
July - 2.56 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Aug - 4.78 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
Sep - 3.89 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Oct - 2.70 ERA, 0.75 WHIP
Post - 2.25 ERA, 0.86 WHIP

So looking at those numbers, Garland really only had 1 bad month (August), but he also had a lights out month (April).

Compare his "bad" 2nd half with some of his teammates:

Post All-Star
Garland 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Buehrle 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Garcia 4.28 ERA, 1.34 WHIP

Also in 4 No-Decisions, Garland pitched 29.1 IP, and allowed 5 ER. He pitched at least 6.2 IP in all of those No-Decisions and in 3 of those he pitched 7+ allowing 1 ER, 0 ER, and 1 ER respectively without receiving a decision. The Sox were 2-2 in those games. If Garland gets 2 wins in any of those 4 games he is a 20 game winner and likely Cy Young winner.

Colon 21-8, 2 CGs, No SHO, 222 IP, 215 H, 93 R, 86 ER, 26 HR, 43 BB, 157 K, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .254 BAA

Garland 18-10, 3 CG's, 3 SHO, 221 IP, 212 H, 93 R, 86 ER, 26 HR, 47 BB, 115 K, 3.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .255 BAA

You have to admit that those numbers are strikingly similar minus the K's where Colon has the edge, and the SHO were Garland had 3 to Colon's zero.

Finally, Garland had only 4 starts less than 6 IP, while Colon had 4 in September alone.

Here are Colon's "Cy Young" numbers:
July - 6.12 ERA 1.30 WHIP
Aug - 1.72 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
Sep - 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP

The bottom line is Garland is only 26, and only signed a 3 year deal for less than $30 million. He didn't just have one good half season, he had one great year. There is no way you can justify this as negative move. I would say that almost every team in the league would take Garland in a heartbeat for 3/$29.

2005-12-30 20:14:17
5.   Scott Long
I have mixed feelings about this deal, myself, but I guess I'm more on the side RME JICO. This was really a 2 year deal, as I mentioned in my post, as Garland would have gotten around 7 mil in arbitration.
While I suspect he have an ERA around 4 this year, in US Cell that isn't too bad. (Yes, I know for that kind of money, it doesn't seem to hot, but we have to start wrapping are heads around the new money world for pitchers.)

I realize a lot of saber followers dismiss Garland to a certain extent, since he doesn't get many strikeouts, but as a pitcher whose out pitch is a sinker I think that gives him some leeway on that statistic model.

The most interesting new development in baseball is it worth it to sign a player more money for less years? This would be an interesting thing to look back on in 5 years.

2005-12-30 21:56:41
6.   Scott Long
I hope everyone who read my comments was able to get through it, as I really should have proofread it before posting. Youch!
2005-12-31 12:26:03
Back to the Win Shares support. I don't mind using Win Shares but it seems like it is a better model to see what a player contributed compared to a predictor of future performances. If we use WS and project Garland for next year we can safely assume he will fall in between what he did in 2005 (21) and 2004 (11), which would give him 16 Win Shares projected for 2006. That would make him the 9th best SP in the AL and 19th in the entire Majors using 2005 WS. That would mean that he could be a #1 pitcher on quite a few teams, for 3 years and $29 million at age 26. Now how is this a bad contract for any team?

I can come up with several examples of why the Millwood and Burnett deals were bad, but this deal is not even in their league. Compared to all the other deals this off season I would have to say that this is one of the best ones.

2006-01-03 13:11:28
8.   buda

I think what is important when comparing salaries from different time periods is not the rate of inflation but the rate of revenue growth in baseball. It doesn't really matter if Garland makes 30% more than Saberhagen in inflation adjusted dollars if baseball revenues has grown by 300% since 1989. It would make more sense to compare salaries as a percentage of team payroll or revenue.

It looks like MLB has a seen a surge in revenues the past couple of years and it is only appropriate that this revenue eventually is shared by the players.

I think $7m/year is the new standard for a starting pitcher who can give you 200+ innings at league average. Considering that Garland been at this level the past 4 years with one very good year thrown in, this signing does make sense.

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