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 umpteenthumpeen plus one-th one, to be exactcontract 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:
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:
Average (w/o Garland)
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)?
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