Matt Garza’s price wasn’t that crazy

Garza

 

Many people regarded Matt Garza as the top available pitching candidate after Masahiro Tanaka this off season. With that said, many people, myself included, were surprised to see the deal that the Brewers ultimately (allegedly) gave to him yesterday. The reported terms were 4 years at $52MM, which is the same length, and a mere 3 million more than Ricky Nolasco’s deal with the Twins. Garza was more highly regarded, thanks in large part to success in the post season and a better ERA.  All graphs from this point forward are via Fangraphs. Here is the ERA comparison of Garza and Nolasco for their careers to date.

Source: FanGraphsMatt Garza, Ricky Nolasco

This season, Nolasco’s ERA took a dive and was actually better than Garza’s, but is there are significant reason for that? Well, yes. Take a look at their respective batting averages on balls in play (BABIP).

Source: FanGraphsMatt Garza, Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco spent his career in Florida with a terrible defense behind him, but last year, ended up in Los Angeles, with a significantly better outfield defense, and his BABIP and his ERA both dropped considerably. This isn’t a fluke, either. Take a look at the course of their FIP, which, if you recall, takes into account only things that the pitcher can control.

Source: FanGraphsMatt Garza, Ricky Nolasco

Yes, Nolasco got off to a tough start for his career, but since 2008, the two pitchers have been very similar, with Nolasco performing better in every year since 2011 by this metric. Really, the only thing that Garza does better than Nolasco with any regularity is strike people out. Even then, however, Ricky
Nolasco has substantially better control

Source: FanGraphsMatt Garza, Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco also allows fewer home runs.

Source: FanGraphsMatt Garza, Ricky Nolasco

If you take their careers as a whole, and dig a little deeper, it seems as though neither Garza or Nolasco were bargains as compared to one another. The Brewers paid a little more for a pitcher a year younger who will get more strikeouts. The Twins have already went down that road, so I can’t really blame them for wanting to do something different. Besides, an argument could be made that they added the better pitcher.

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