It's August 26, which means we're at the point in the season in which we start legitimately thinking about how things will be if Texas should advance to the postseason. From the playoff status of Nelson Cruz to the pitching rotation, between now and September 29 -- and assuming the Rangers continue to remain in the playoff picture -- we'll find ourselves entertaining all kinds of scenarios regarding how things will align come October.
That, in a nutshell, brings me to Matt Garza. Since bringing his wicked soul patch hawk to Arlington, Garza has been a mixed bag of sorts, looking dominant at times, but also leaving much to be desired during other stretches. To be fair, Matt Garza has been that for most of his career, and it's quite plausible that in this situation, overexpectation on our part has led to a disappointment with the reality.
During his first outing in a Texas uniform back on July 24 against the Yankees, Garza was stellar, giving up no earned runs on 5 hits in 7.1 innings of work. His second start against the Angels was solid as well, as he pitched 7 innings while giving up 3 earned runs. Since then however, is where we've been let down in a sense.
Starting with a start in Oakland on August 3 in which the Athletics exploited a perceived weakness in Garza's fielding defense, we began to see a stretch of 5 starts in which Garza has given up at least 4 runs each time out. While many were quick to praise Garza's fire and passion in the aftermath of a Twitter outburst that had him attacking Eric Sogard and Sogard's wife -- after Sogard helped Oakland beat Garza with a bunt -- I've maintained that his actions during and after that game were childish and immature. Say what you want, but fire and passion are only as good as the results on the field, and lately, the results aren't matching the attitude.
Since arriving in Texas, Garza's HR/9 has jumped to 1.48, nearly a half-run above what it was during his 11 starts for Chicago. Many will point to the fact that Garza jumped from the National League to the American League, and while there does tend to be a slight dropoff for pitchers switching to the American League, Garza has pitched in the AL before, and more than anything, I'd contend that this is simply who Garza is. No, the Rangers didn't get duped by trading for yet another Chicago Cubs pitcher that faltered in the AL (we're looking at you, Ryan Dempster), rather, Garza has always been a #3-4 starter on a contending team anyways.
In his 11 starts for Chicago this season, Garza put up a 3.17 ERA, while his career average to this point is 3.82. More than that, however, his xFIP this season in Chicago was over a half-run over his ERA, sitting at 3.82. In other words, Garza was more likely than not destined to come back down to earth a bit, which is exactly what has happened since arriving in Texas. On the flipside, his ERA for Texas has been 4.44, while his xFIP is a much more respectable 3.55. And that, more than anything, is exactly what Matt Garza is. He's going to frustrate at times with poor innings and too many home runs, but at other times, he'll dazzle and look like an ace. It's what he's done for his entire career, and in a sense, I think it gives the Rangers a bit of something to look forward to.
At some point down the stretch, it's likely that we'll see a few dazzling starts from Matt Garza, and for just a little while, we'll forget all about his recent struggles. Sure, he'll likely mix in a clunker or two, but in the end, he provides an upside that leaves some hope that he can go out and win a few big games.
The most interesting part of all of this, I think, is where this all leaves Matt Garza as it relates to any potential postseason rotation. Barring injury (knock on wood), Yu Darvish and Derek Holland take up the first two slots, and from there, you have Garza and Martin Perez. Given what I've seen so far, I'm not too certain Perez isn't your Game 3 starter.
Again, we're a little more than a month away from having to seriously talk about Garza vs. Perez, but whatever the case may be, I'm just not convinced we've seen the best of Matt Garza yet. I think, before it's all said and done, he'll end up providing some value, eating some innings, and possibly mixing in some dazzling results in the process. As much as he may frustrate me at times with his attitude and "fire", I'm willing to accept that he's more likely than not to win a big game or two down the stretch. Matt Garza is what he is, and I think, rather hope, that it might just be enough during the final month of the season.