|A Bright Light in Wrigley|
A move to the hustle and bustle of Wrigley Field should have brought Matt Garza greater fame and notoriety. Unfortunately, while his former employers (TB) continued their stellar play, Garza's Cubs continued to move in the wrong direction. His pockmarked 10-10 record put him in most fans' rearviewmirror and didn't get him much attention from the national baseball media. But 2011 was the best season of Garza's career as well as being one of the best in the National League. The Cubs won't be much better this season, but they will at least have a more clearly defined identity. And at 29, Garza is still in the prime of his career. Oh, and he's pitching for a contract, which sometimes means something.
Garza is probably the best player on the 2012 Cubs. Starlin Castro may prove himself more valuable, but right now Garza's the guy. Sadly, he only gets to play in 30-35 games. And even sadder, there is a good chance he won't finish the season with the Cubs. As Epstein and Hoyer rebuild the franchise, Garza's trade value may be too high to pass up. A mid-season trade will affect his Cy Young chances, but don't be surprised if Garza finds himself among the league's best, whichever league that turns out to be.
Matt Garza 2011 stats 198 IP
5 fWAR 118 ERA+ 8.95 K/9 2.86 BB/9 0.64 HR/9 46.3 GB% .306 BABIP 2.95 FIP
Garza stands out in K/9, HR/9, and GB%. Garza has the stuff to dominate hitters and the command to keep the ball in the ballpark. Keeping the ball on the ground is good, but he'll run into some problems with the Cubs infield again, as they are not among the best. And he still walks too many batters. But his BABIP is similar to league-average and his FIP suggests even better things to come.
The Cubs will not be competitive in 2012, but that won't affect Garza too much (except perhaps in wins). One of the hallmarks of his career thus far has been his fierce competitiveness. Pitching in a contract year on the heels of his best season, Garza is poised to be even better. It will be interesting to see where he finishes.