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Scouting Pitchers: Matt Garza

James Benkard

James Benkard

James Benkard writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

This week, we'll check out one of the brightest Rays. Garza was the main prize of the Delmon Young deal in November 2007. Each had burned some bridges with their former clubs: Young said he wouldn't consider a long-term future with Tampa Bay after they didn't call him up in 2005, and Garza made some waves in May 2007 at Triple-A when he chafed over the Twins instructing him to throw more off-speed pitches. Called up to the majors in July, Garza changed his tune and told MLB.com the Twins' emphasis on his changeup was a "good choice." Yet the damage was done.

I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. These velocities are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rank as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception. Please feel free to post your thoughts below.

80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
70 Well above average (94-95 FB, 86-87 MPH SL, 80-81 MPH CB)
60 Above average (92-93 MPH FB, 84-85 MPH SL, 78-79 MPH CB)
50 Average (89-91 MPH FB, 82-84 MPH SL, 75-77 MPH CB)
40 Below average (86-88 MPH FB, 79-81 MPH SL, 73-75 MPH CB)
30 Well below average (83-85 MPH FB, 76-78 MPH SL, 71-72 MPH CB)
20 Poor (80-82 MPH FB, 71-75 MPH SL, 69-70 MPH CB)

Minnesota took Garza with a first-round pick (25th overall) of the 2005 draft out of Fresno State University. A paintball accident when he was a teenager nearly cost him his right eye. Garza was something of a late bloomer, with just 18 starts in his first two years at Fresno before he fanned 120 in 108 innings in his junior year. He signed quickly, dominated Rookie ball and then zoomed through three levels of the minors in 2006. Garza went 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA in eight Class A starts, 6-2, 2.51 in 10 Double-A starts, and 3-1, 1.85 in five starts at Triple-A. He made nine starts for the Twins (5.76 ERA) and piled up 186 innings on the year.

Despite his drama with the Twins' instructional staff in 2007, Garza pitched well between Triple-A (4-6, 3.62 in 16 starts) and the majors (5-7, 3.69 in 15 starts). He struggled at the Metrodome (5.25 ERA) and against left-handed batters (.314). This season, Garza missed most of April with a nerve irritation in his right arm, but locked into a groove in May (2.52 ERA) and has been a big part of the Rays' amazing turnaround. Garza has struggled on the road (4-5, 4.72) and dominated at the Trop (7-2, 2.47). He stands at 11-7 and his 3.53 ERA is twelfth-best among AL starters.

Matt Garza: (G/F 1.15)

		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	70		65
Curveball	60		10
Slider		65		15
Changeup	60		10
Control	55
Delivery	50
Composure	45

Garza's fastball sits at 92-94 and runs up to 96. He sinks it low and in to right-handed batters for grounders, and locates it pretty well on the outside corner. Garza creeps his fastball further and further outside to right-handers once he gets ahead in the count. Umpires appear to be giving more of the corners this year than I remember. As long as he has his control and isn't being hit, Garza sticks to moving his fastball around and prefers to be beaten with it.

Garza throws an 82-87 MPH slider, a 72-78 MPH curveball and an 82-86 MPH changeup. His slider is his main strikeout pitch of the three, and has excellent velocity and good movement. As he prefers his hard stuff, Garza mainly uses his curve as a change of pace or as a first-pitch-surprise to get ahead in the count. Garza's change doesn't have much movement, so it isn't a strikeout pitch. It's still effective when he throws it for strikes because he throws it hard enough to fool hitters into committing to a fastball.

Garza's delivery reminds me of Mike Mussina's. Both drop their forearms as they rock backwards, and they stay tall and use their height as leverage in their follow-through. Traditional drop-and-drivers are closer to the ground as they finish - Tom Seaver used to scrape his right knee on the mound. Garza does have games where he labors and appears more mechanical. These outings have mostly come on the road this year, although he threw a one-hitter in Florida on June 26th and a two-hit shutout in Texas on August 15th. Garza repeats his release point well for all his pitches and doesn't tip his changeup by slowing his arm speed. He does end up in poor fielding position. Since Garza's delivery has many working parts, he needs to stay in a groove. He is vulnerable to big innings when he gets out of whack and loses his release point. He then misses his spots and is hit when he elevates his fastball over the plate.

Garza is something of a gamesman. He often ruffles his glove while looking in for the sign, trying to convince the hitter he is digging for the grip of a breaking ball. He's just trying to get in the hitter's head, since more often than not a fastball is coming. Garza's competitive streak boils over now and then. He was removed after four innings of his June 8 start in Arlington for arguing with his catcher Dioner Navarro. It appears Garza has a habit of shaking off signs, and Navarro challenged him on the mound after Garza gave up a home run. After the inning, Garza was clearly the aggressor as he went into the dugout and ended up tussling with Navarro in the tunnel.

My main concern with Garza is his makeup. He has the repertoire of a #2 starter and can be an ace if he stays healthy. His delivery is complex but he repeats it well when he's locked in. The Rays are obviously a solid organization. Yet every pitcher gets humbled at some point, and only rare ones like Curt Schilling can pitch through these times with the same headstrong attitude they have when they were winning. The Rays' coaching staff won't mind Garza acting like Schilling as long as he's winning, but if he struggles, we'll see if he can show more maturity.

Radar Love - Heat in the last week:

96-98: Matt Lindstrom against the Mets on August 30.
95-97: Brandon League in New York on August 30.
91-95: Daisuke Matsuzaka against the White Sox on August 29.
89-94: Chad Billingsley in Arizona on August 30.
88-92: Dan Haren against the Dodgers on August 30.
89-95: Javier Vazquez in Boston on August 29.

Next week: NL East: Ricky Nolasco

 

Article first appeared 9/3/08