The Milwaukee Brewers’ shiny new toy, Matt Garza, has had a pair of rough starts to begin Cactus League play in 2014. Let me be the first to say it doesn’t matter.
In his second start Friday, Garza was knocked around by the San Diego Padres, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits over three innings. That included a home run by Alex Dickerson, a 23-year-old with one hit entering the game. Again, it doesn’t matter one bit to me, and it shouldn’t bother the Brewers’ organization.
Some fans are undoubtedly freaking out that Garza’s first four innings in a Brewers’ uniform have resulted in a 13.50 ERA and 3.00 WHIP. I’m here to tell everyone to just relax. The 30-year-old righty has taken his lumps in his spring starts before, only to recover and pitch extremely well when the games actually count. In fact, it’s most likely a matter of pitching in Arizona’s climate instead of Florida in the spring, as his numbers are far worse since leaving the Grapefruit League.
Regardless, he’s a veteran who knows there’s a process to getting his work in, figuring out his pitches and turning it on for that first regular season start. For example, the 2011 spring was especially awful for Garza as he owned a 10.38 ERA with a 2.26 WHIP, allowing 25 runs in less than 22 frames. All he did that season was have arguably the best year of his MLB career.
Garza won just 10 games that season (not his fault), but he had a 3.32 ERA in 31 starts. Over 198 frames, Garza had a career-best 9.0 K/9, good for seventh in the NL. He also allowed a career-low 0.6 HR/9 that season, fifth-best in the league.
Other than his rookie campaign in 2006, Garza has never had an ERA worse than 3.95 over the course of a regular season, so to get worked up about stats in the spring is a waste of energy. He knows what type of pitcher he is and won’t panic at all, especially because his ERA in the NL is 3.45 for his career.
Exhibition games are a funny thing, wrought full of strange occurrences, players who nobody knows and an odd combination of quasi-competition mixed in with guys easing into their routines. Sometimes players get lazy or fail to make a play they would execute flawlessly a month later. Other times, a pitcher is focusing on a new delivery and it costs him walks, hits and runs.
Thus, basing one’s projections on a handful of starts, and a slightly larger sample of innings, is a game of foolishness.
Everyone should be rest assured that Garza will continue to be the solid hurler he’s been throughout his eight years in the big leagues. The only aspect people can feel free to worry about is how many starts he may miss due to injury.
If he stays healthy through Spring Training, that’s a win in the Brewers’ book, regardless of the inflated stats. The last thing fans should be doing is fretting about a few outings in the desert, because when he makes the trek north, the temperature and his ERA will drop.