Friday, May 19, 2006

The Value of 8 Good Starts

I just noticed that we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the end of Jon Garland's hot start to the 2005 season, in which he won his first eight starts. Those were heady days. Garland cooled off considerably from that point, going 10-10 the rest of the way with a 3.90 ERA to finish with an 18-10 record and an overall 3.50 ERA.

During the offseason, Garland signed a 3 year, $29 million contract extension based on his very good 2005 season.

Last year, I mused that Sox fans have been fooled by hot starts by mediocre pitchers before. And I compared - perhaps flippantly - Jon Garland's hot start to that of Jon Snyder in 1999. Snyder collapsed to the tune of a 6+ ERA and was basically never heard from again.

But there is a lesson to be learned from Snyder's collapse, and it is shown in Garland's performance since his perfecto start last year. Since May 23rd last year, Garland's line has been this:

13-12 W-L, 212 1/3 IP, 231 Hits, 105 ER, 33 HR, 47 BB, 112 K, 4.45 ERA

Does that remind you of anyone? Like the Jon Garland of 2002-2004? With the exception of the walk column, the Jon Garland since 5/23/05 has been the Jon Garland of 2002-2004. Almost exactly what you would expect.

It's not that Garland is incapable of being a good pitcher. But it's also true that if Garland is really nothing more than he was in 2002-2004 and 5/23/2005 through today, it's also entirely possible that he could have a good, 8-start run like he did in early 2005 and have it be no more than a fluke. Indeed, given a long career, every pitcher has bouts of respectability, even quality.

But it's another thing to turn that bout of respectability into $29 million over three years. I think Sox fans should have been more critical of the Garland contract, and I guess I regret not being more critical myself. I have a feeling it is going to wind up being a bad deal. $11 million per year in 2007-2008 for a league-average pitcher.

Comments-[ comments.]
Great post! A World Series championship (and a couple fine pitching performances in the playoffs) will blind us fans to a lot of things.
$11 million may well be the average salary for an average pitcher by 2008. Not a criticism, just a comment. (Obviously, we all want our team to be "smarter" than that.)
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