The New Matt Garza

A few weeks ago, R.J. pointed out that Matt Garza had pitched well since he had an altercation in the dugout with catcher Dioner Navarro. At the time, Garza had been successful for a few starts; now, however, we can start to see that Garza really has turned a corner.

Garza saw noted sports psychologist Ken Ravizza in an effort to help channel his emotions.  The overall results since the fight with Navarro are pretty striking (pun intended):

 

 

Pre-Fight

Post-Fight

IP

61

48

K

34

41

BB

25

8

ERA

4.38

2.79

HR

8

3

Strike %

60.5%

66.8%

Swinging Strike %

9.5%

15.8%

 

Additionally, Garza hasn’t walked more than two batters in a start since the incident, and he has made two starts without walking a batter (including a start against the ultra-patient Red Sox) – before the incident, Garza had walked at least one in every single start.

While it does appear that Garza has turned a corner, we also have to note that Garza has a very drastic home/road split this season: in 64 innings at Tropicana Field, Garza has not allowed a homer and has a 2.10 ERA. In 45 innings on the road, however, Garza has allowed 11 (!!) homers, and has a 5.91 ERA. Since the incident with Navarro on June 8, five of Garza’s seven starts have been at home. He has had one excellent start on the road – a 10 strikeout, one hit masterpiece against the Florida Marlins – and also one poor start, allowing seven runs in five innings in Cleveland. However, even in this poor start, Garza walked only two and notched six strikeouts.

Despite the fact that Garza has had a lot of starts at home since his altercation, I still believe that he has figured something out. He is throwing far more strikes, resulting in fewer walks and more strikeouts. Furthermore, batters are swinging and missing far more often than they were earlier in the season. Garza has seemingly harnessed his fantastic fastball: he throws an average of 93.3 MPH, and he gets an average of 7.12 inches of run on his fastball (running in on righthanded batters). However, a lot of Garza’s fastballs run even more movement: many of his fastballs move ten inches, and some move up to fifteen inches. This could begin to explain some of his command problems from earlier in the year: Garza’s fastball (his primary pitch) might’ve been moving too much.

 

Maybe the sports psychologist helped him control his emotions and thus Garza is better able to control his pitches, too. Maybe Garza is finally healthy for the first time this season. Maybe he just didn’t get along with Dioner Navarro and is better now that they straightened their issues out. Whatever the reason, Matt Garza’s last seven starts have been significantly better than his first 11. His strikeouts are up, walks are (way) down, and he’s throwing more strikes and getting more swings and misses. Time will tell if Garza can take his success on the road with him, but all signs are pointing to the idea that Matt Garza is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

And to think, even if the improvement is real, he’d still likely only start game three of a playoff series.

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