The Mariners sign Garland, Former Mariners Disperse Elsewhere

jon garland mariners

The past couple of days have been extremely busy when it comes to Mariner notes, so here is another collection of information and thoughts.

Friday evening, it was announced that the Mariners had signed Jon Garland to a minor league deal. Jason Churchill had been talking about how the Mariners were interested in him and watched him throw. Evidently they liked what they saw. I don’t have any info on the throwing session, and Garland didn’t pitch in 2012, so here I will just look at what Garland was when he was pitching. This is limited info and it is hard to currently know what is and isn’t relevant, but, just like with the Jeremy Bonderman signing, but less extreme since Bonderman hasn’t pitched in two years.

It is possible that with a year off, one or both have gained a lot of velocity and gotten healthy. It could technically be possible that both have lost a lot of velocity or stuff, but it would be unlikely they would be signed, even on a minor league deal, if they had lost a lot of velocity. So here, we will just assume (or infer from the data that he was signed) Garland is about the same when it comes to stuff as he was in 2011. Garland originally looked like he had a MiLB deal with the Indians in 2012, but strangely refused to take the physical and was released. In 2011, he made 9 starts in the Majors with the Dodgers, throwing 54 innings (limited thanks to shoulder issues).

While his actual run prevention numbers weren’t bad, he struck out just 12.2 % of batters and walked 8.7% of them. His fastball lost a full MPH, sitting at just 88.2 MPH, well below average for a right-hander and lower than new Mariner Joe Saunders. His sinker lost 2 MPH according to basic Pitch F/X data and he seemed to use it more as well (though Brooks Baseball suggests he didn’t. The classifications of the different kind of fastballs remains the most pervasive scouting problem in Pitch F/X). He also used the combination of his curve and slider more. He was a 200 inning pitcher as recently as 2010, when the Padres made a magical run that ended in a one game playoff. His peripherals still weren’t good, but thanks mostly to Petco, he did a good job of limiting homers. He has also consistently outperformed his peripherals in his career, thanks to a low BABIP, lower than average OPS on ground-balls and fly-balls, and solid IFFB%.

Again, since we don’t know what he looks like scouting wise, projecting Garland for 2013 is hard, but Oliver projects a .297 BABIP for some reason (almost .015 points higher than his career and recent averages) and 4.29 ERA/4.19 FIP (again, why is he predicted to under perform his peripherals?). I don’t think you should take that very seriously. When he has pitched in the past, his heat maps have shown that he keeps the ball low, avoiding high and inside to righties especially. With Safeco projecting to play like a normal park in 2013 (according to my estimation and batted ball studies), this will be helpful, especially if he can get a lot of ground-balls for Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley to eat up.

I am extremely interested in seeing the Pitch F/X data of both Garland and Bonderman when they pitch in Pitch F/X Spring Training parks this year. The obvious comparisons for these two veterans is Kevin Millwood’s 2012, but he actually pitched the previous year, and even though I didn’t believe it at the time, showed signs of competence in Colorado in 2011. Expecting either of these two to perform like Millwood did is just unrealistic and unlikely. The Mariners have got a lot of help from players that were expected to do nothing over the last 2 seasons (Wilhelmsen, Delabar, Perez, and Kinney come to mind), so maybe they have a good eye for this kind of talent, but that doesn’t explain why they have had serious problems evaluating prospects in trades (Chiang and Smoak come to mind). It would seem, that while evaluating skill certainly plays a role, they have also been pretty lucky in this regard.

The Orioles designated Trayvon Robinson for assignment for Todd Redmond. I wrote about Todd Redmond here and find it a little odd, that even with the Orioles mediocre rotation depth, that they would trade Redmond for Robinson. I don’t think Redmond is a big league pitcher. Of course, I thought at the time of the Robert Andino/Robinson trade that the Orioles got the better part of the deal. I think I am the last Robinson believer. It is funny that both players in the trade have already been exposed since the trade before ever playing for the team (Andino was non-tendered before a deal was quickly reached). It won’t happen, but it would be cool to see the Mariners claim Robinson and have him replace Peguero, and designate Jason Bay to make room for Joe Saunders (or as Churchill suggested, trade Yoervis Medina or Mike Carp for low level prospects not on 40 man rosters).

Chone Figgins signed a minor league deal with the Marlins. This is a pretty obvious destination as the team seriously needs a 3rd baseman. Obviously Figgins was a disaster in Seattle, and there isn’t any real reason to believe that he will return to the form he showed with the Angels that got him the contract with Seattle, but NRIs are designed to work this way. They aren’t married to him, just like Seattle isn’t married to Garland or Bonderman, and the Marlins were not married to the obviously washed up Aaron Rowand last season.

Mark Lowe signed a minor league deal with Dodgers. Lowe was the other pitcher Seattle sent to Texas in the Cliff Lee/Justin Smoak trade. He was an interesting case because he was injured at the time with a back injury and didn’t come back until late September and really struggled for the Rangers. Overall, he pitched 87.1 innings with Texas, at a .3 WAR and -.2 WAA pace. In 2012, despite an injury that cost him time, he was excellent in 39.1 innings, with a .6 WAA, pitching pretty successfully despite pitching in an average park factor of 111.9, which is over 20% of a more offensive friendly environment than what Safeco played. With that said, he did see a drop in strikeouts and velocity. His FIP – was about career average, and he clearly knew he wasn’t throwing as hard, as he threw more sliders than he ever has.

He has always been known as a hard thrower, but hasn’t really put it all together in the Majors, at least not like you would think. Just on statistics, you would think he was worth a MLB deal, but teams seem to be concerned with the injury risk, and the decreased velocity. Churchill reported that the Mariners were one of the teams that were interested in Lowe and watched in throw in a recent workout in Arizona (along with former Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith). Evidently they were not impressed, or the Dodgers came with a better offer. At a random AA Frisco game I went to in 2012, he pitched on a rehab assignment and happened to give up a monster home run to Padres prospect Edinson Rincon. Enjoy.

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