Monday, January 24, 2011

Galarraga A Mild Gamble For the Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired a starting pitcher, Armando Galarraga, today for two fringe prospects. That by itself, in this age where starting pitching is at a premium, is a good deal. But Galarraga is a mild gamble for the Diamondbacks as the pitcher has some ability and should at the very least be an upgrade over Rodrigo Lopez of a year ago. What isn't sure is if this is a good deal for Galarraga.

The Fan already profiled Galarraga this month, so you'll have to look that up instead of having it rehashed again here. But one point to make here right off the bat is that Arizona is a nice place to hit homers. As a staff last year, the D-Backs issued 1.3 homers per nine innings. Galarraga has problems with the long ball already in his career. So that's a bit scary for the pitcher and the team. Galarraga allowed 1.3 homers per nine innings in 2010, which was his best showing of his career. That's the bad news. The good news is that his homer to fly ball ratio was the lowest of his career. Galarraga is certainly a fly ball pitcher, which, again, is a bit scary since the D-Backs really need to do better at keeping the ball in the park.

The other thing that is a concern was Galarraga's plummet with his K/9 rate. He finished 2010 with a 4.61 rate, which is well below his career average. The strikeouts were there in his Triple A showings in 2010, so perhaps his majors rate was a one year fluke.

So where does Galarraga fit with the Diamondbacks? Daniel Hudson emerged as a really good starter last year, so the D-Backs are counting on good things there. So that's one spot. There is Ian Kennedy, who finally showed his promise in 2010. It was an up and down kind of year for Kennedy, but the peripherals are very good and so he comes in at number two. Joe Saunders is probably number three though he hasn't pitched well since 2008. Saunders lost seven of his ten decisions with the Diamondbacks after he was traded there in the Haren deal. But he did up his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate with the NL team. But he's not someone the Fan would count on.

Galarraga probably slots in at number four. His competition would be Aaron Heilman, who desperately wants to be a starter (though his relief pitching hasn't been good, so would you want to do that?). The Fan remembers reading somewhere that Heilman was promised a shot at the rotation. Okay, give him a few Spring Training starts and then send him back to the bullpen. The other rotation hopeful is Barry Enright, who did little right in his 2010 season. Well, yeah, he did have a 109 ERA+, but this is one of those times when the ERA+ is misleading. Enright only struck out 4.5 batters per nine and his homer rate was an atrocious 1.8 big knocks per nine.

Enright's strikeout rates were better in Triple A and the pitcher is only 24 years old. Since he was a second round draft pick who had minor league success, you've got to give him another year to see if he can be better. That being the case, the D-Backs' rotation probably looks like: Hudson, Kennedy, Saunders, Galarraga and Enright. That could work out somewhat or it could really end up looking terrible. Kennedy has had injury issues over his career, nobody knows if Hudson was a fluke and Saunders hasn't been good for a long time.

Galarraga is just one more question mark. The upside is he will be only 29 in 2011 and he had success a few years ago. Last year's record looked bad, but it was actually a sign of improvement for the pitcher. And, he could thrive making the switch to the National League. But he is iffy, just like a lot of the rotation. But, to put the best spin on this as possible, the Diamondbacks got a big league starter for almost no cost so it's not much of a risk. It is a gamble, but ultimately one worth taking.

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