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December 17, 2013

Hot Stove Scouting Report

Matt Garza

by Ryan Parker

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Player Name: Matt Garza

Date Filed: 12/1/2013

Throws

Role

Arm Angle

Wind Up

Rubber

R

ST

High 3/4

3rd

Delivery/Mechanics

The drawbacks in his mechanics overshadow the aspects of Garza’s delivery that are positive. He generates solid momentum, has good torque and decent balance. The arm slot screams shoulder issues and high arm slot leads to all kinds of issues like farther release distances and fastball velocity decline. In the stretch he uses the mechanically inefficient slide step at all times. This slide step motion often takes several pitches to find a release point, giving hitters a window of opportunity to drive mistakes. When the pressure is on Garza ramps up the intensity of his mechanics, which ends up being a double-edged sword of increased velocity and movement with a loss of command.

Breakdown of Pitches

Fastball

Velocity

92-95

Garza brings an above-average fastball to the table. Coming from a high 3/4 arm slot his fastball sat 93-94 but Garza can reach back for 95+.

Garza will throw both a four- and two-seam fastball. The two-seam has nearly identical velocity to the four-seam with additional movement to his arm side. Garza will throw the four-seam twice as often as the two-seam. Even with the solid movement of the two-seam Garza has never been viewed as much of a groundball pitcher.

The only drawback to Garza’s fastball is his frustrating command of the pitch. Far too many two-seam fastballs find the white of the plate. This occurs when Garza tries to throw the two-seam to his glove side only to see the pitch drift back over the heart of the dish. Garza doesn’t catch as much of the plate with his four-seam but still tends to miss up in zone with the pitch.

Garza is a high-energy pitcher and when the game doesn’t go his way his effort noticeably increases leading to a further degradation of command. After allowing a runner it often takes two to three pitches for Garza to regain some semblance of command.

He loves to challenge hitters with the fastball even when ahead in the count. His fastball becomes most hittable after a first pitch ball. Garza is highly competitive and will repeat locations treating the second pitch as a mulligan and attempting to hit the same spot he previously missed.

In a vacuum Garza’s fastball is a 60 pitch. It grades lower in reality due to a lack of command. The pitch also lacks depth and deception due to the exaggerated high arm slot.

Going forward there is a legitimate concern with the pitch that has been Garza’s bread and butter. The average velocity of the fastball has declined at minimal but steady rate. The combination of this loss of velocity, a litany of arm (both shoulder and elbow) injuries, and the inherent effects of a pitcher aging, there is a risk for this pitch to lose substantial effectiveness.

Garza’s ability to generate swings and misses on the four have been on the decline every year. Over this same time batters ability to square the pitch up and create line drives has held steady until 2013, which saw batters hit line drives 10 percent more often off both his four- and two-seam. 2013 also saw Garza generate far fewer groundballs with both fastballs.

For a pitcher who works off his fastball the aforementioned trends need to be considered for any team thinking of opening the checkbook.

Curveball

Velocity

72-74

The curveball is a mid-70’s breaking ball with a very round shape that is used mostly to get “cheap” strikes rather than put the batter away. The curveball is primarily thrown with the intent to get a called strike. The movement is average but its greatest function is to throw off a hitter's timing. Lefties see this pitch more often than righties. This may seem counterintuitive but is due to Garza’s propensity to miss to his arm side with all his offerings. Throwing a soft curveball outside to a lefty and missing arm side results in a ball. Throwing a soft curveball outside to a righty and missing arm side results in a souvenir.

Slider

Velocity

82-85

The slider is Garza’s preferred breaking ball, sitting 82-85 mph. The pitch has both horizontal and vertical movement. While the slider is not a true wipeout pitch it is still quite useful. The slider is the real pitch of interest with Garza. Strikes come in the form of both swinging and called strikes. Righties see this pitch far more often than lefties. Garza will use the slider to righties in any count and with two strikes he brings the slider over 40 percent of the time. Against lefties Garza saves the slider until he has two strikes.

In games the slider is thrown down in the zone to Garza’s glove side almost exclusively. Lefties will see a backdoor slider occasionally but more as a way to get strike one or two. With two strikes Garza will try to bury the slider below the zone to his glove side.

Righties only see the pitch on the outer third. Righties see this pitch nearly a quarter of time. Garza doesn’t snap off a killer slider every time but he tends not to leave them hanging. Even when a slider does get away from Garza it ends up being a 55 footer rather than a hanging BP fastball. Garza has about the same command of the slider as he does his fastball but mistakes with his slider actually end up being less harmful than those coming from his fastball.

The slider projects better than his fastball. Garza is throwing it more often, for more strikes, and getting more swings and misses. Garza loves to go after hitters with his fastball but look for this reliance on number 1 to wane as his fastball effectiveness falls but his slider holds true. It will take some maturation on Garza’s part and this is somewhat of a gamble considering his seemingly hyper-aggressive nature.

Change-up/Split

Velocity

84-86

Garza’s changeup is thrown 84-86 mph. It’s a rare sight to witness the changeup as Garza throws this pitch less than five times in a typical game. The pitch isn’t terrible as Garza keeps his release point and arm speed when throwing the cambio. The movement is nothing to write home about.

In game situations the change up is only used as something a batter has to keep in mind. Math tells us its 5 percent harder to guess right out of 5 options as opposed to four. Fittingly the cambio shows up 5 percent of the time from Garza’s five pitches (Fastball, two seam, slider, curve, cambio). The only notable thing with this pitch is for lefties to be aware of a slight tendency to throw the pitch when ahead in the count.

There is enough deception and utility for Garza to keep using the cambio sparingly but nothing sticks out screaming for the right-hander to throw it more.

Pitch Usage

Date Range: 2013 Season

Splits

vs. LHH

vs. RHH

Total Usage

Total Usage

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

829

152

218

61

708

49

357

35

Percentage Out of Strike Zone

Percentage Out of Strike Zone

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

29.6

50.6

37.6

45.9

32.3

53

34.7

25.7

Swing/Miss Percentage

Swing/Miss Percentage

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

FB

CB

SL

CH

OTH

5.8

9.2

24.3

8.2

6.9

8.1

22.13

17.1

Approach

Fastball-heavy approach particularly the first time through the order. He will attack both sides of the plate with his fastball. He will repeat fastballs but it is a rare occurrence for him to double up on breaking balls. Never nibbles around the zone. Even when ahead in the count he will challenge hitters with fastballs. Sets him game plan before toeing the rubber. In the games used in this sample Garza never shook off the catcher.

Makeup

The best and worst aspect of his mound presence is his intensity. When he’s on he’s like a sniper in the field hitting targets with precision and putting batters down. When he’s off he channels his inner Pulp Fiction firing shots at random from around the kitchen door assured he would hit something only to be flustered when the situation turns on him.

Matt Garza and his intensity are a package deal so whatever team he ends up with needs to be willing to deal with the positive and negative ramifications of this mindset.

Brings intensity to every start. Doesn’t waste starts by taking teams for granted.

Grades and Projections

Role

Present

Future

No. 3 starter

3-4 starter. Rotations can be built with Garza but never around him due to health concerns.

Years expected to perform at current level: 2

Strengths

His slider has improved every year. He posses above-average velocity and movement with the fastball. The curveball helps keep batters off of his main two pitches (slider and fastball). A noted competitor, Garza will continue to pitch to the best of his abilities whether his team is deadlocked in a playoff race or 20 games back. Will slot as a 3 or 4 on every big league club's rotation.

Weaknesses

On the mound Garza struggles with fastball command and his aggressive nature bleeding over into bad pitch sequencing. Not all strikes are created equal and Garza throws far too many bad strikes with the fastball. This is most frustrating in counts where he has no business putting a fastball over the plate and yet he continues to do so.

There is always a concern with Garza’s health. Every year there seems to be at least one trip tp the DL for him. Combine this with his worrisome mechanics and its hard to imagine Garza turning into a reliable workhorse for a team.

He can let games get away from him when he becomes flustered. Everything ramps up when the game isn’t going his way. This is includes his mistakes. A lack of groundballs means batters aren’t likely to help him out by hitting into any double plays.

Garza’s struggle in the field is well noted. This is not due to a lack of athleticism. He moves off the mound fairly well but struggles in setting his feet properly. His aggressiveness rears its head in fielding situations and mostly in negative fashions. Garza will try and make a spectacular play as fast as he can leading to errant throws. Combine this with a tendency to fall off to the first base side and it becomes clear why bunting against Garza isn’t an entirely awful idea.

Means of Exploitation

Teams will beat Garza by going after the fastball. Lefties can beat Garza even when behind in the count thanks to fastballs inside that drift over the plate.

Early in the games lefties should be more aggressive when behind as the first time through the lineup Garza is very fastball heavy. Teams can look for the fastball up in zone, as a Garza fastball below the zone is quite rare. After missing with a first pitch fastball is the best time to attack him. Bet the farm on another fastball coming to the hitter. Double down on the pitch being in the same spot as over 70 percent of the time he goes back to the same spot.

Out of the stretch and early in the game is another time for batters to let it fly. Garza will either miss high and to his arm side or pull the pitch off the plate to his glove side. Have hitters key in on these locations and even if he doesn’t go there the chance the pitch is a strike is slim.

Righties have to be aware of Garza throwing back-to-back sliders but lefties not so much. Lefties do see the bigger curveball more often but never in back to back fashions. After seeing the bigger breaking ball a fastball coming within the next two pitches sure as the sun coming up in morning.

Conclusion

Garza’s 2013 is a great example of what to expect. 150-plus innings, one DL stint, a decent ERA and a handful of dominating starts. Teams should not expect a significant increase in value from Garza but he should be able to hold value and avoid being labeled a bust. He is a useful no. 3-4 pitcher who should be signed by a team looking for rotation depth rather than an anchor of the staff.

Ryan Parker is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ryan's other articles. You can contact Ryan by clicking here

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