A New Card Carrying Ground Ball Indian

Wow, what a winter it has been for ground ball pitchers! You know times are tough when Livan Hernandez and Jon Garland settle for minor-league deals. Aaron Harang got a comfy two-year deal, but that alone can’t fund all the organization getaways and giveaways that come with being a card-carrying innings eater. At least Garland’s minor-league deal is sensible, as it comes on the heels of right shoulder surgery. Some teams seemingly subscribe to the motto that “elbows heal, shoulders kill,” so it isn’t surprising that it took until the final week before camp for Garland to latch on.

When right, Garland is your average pitch-to-contact innings sponge, having tossed fewer than 180 innings in a season in 2011 for just the first time since 2001—and even then, he completed more than 150 innings between the majors and minors. He won’t give a team many strikeouts (he has topped six strikeouts per nine just once in his career), and his strikeout-to-walk rates have sat at below 2.0 in each of the past five seasons, meaning shiny peripherals are unlikely too. What Garland will give you is 30-plus starts and more than 60 percent quality starts by changing speeds and locations and by getting batters to beat the ball into the ground.

The Tribe was primed to trot out a groundball-heavy rotation prior to Roberto Heredia’s arrest. Should Garland return to form, he could add some more ground balls to a staff that already includes Heredia (should he return this season), Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Another storyline to watch for is if Garland can out-pitch Heredia (again, should he be allowed to return to the States). Bill James’ and ZIPS projections knows not of Garland’s surgery, but Garland’s projected 4.39 earned run average is close to Carmona’s 4.33 figure. Heck, is it even silly to think Garland may have out-pitched Carmona over the past three seasons?

Pitcher

IP

QS%

ERA

SO/BB

Garland

458

65%

3.81

1.63

Heredia

524.3

51%

4.91

1.54

 * QS- Quality Start

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