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Cubs Tue Feb 15 2011

Cubs Preview: Part Five -- Matt Garza

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifPart of a series previewing the 2011 Cubs.

It's been eight years since Mark Prior and Kerry Wood threw lightning bolts for the 2003 NL Central champions and nearly as long since Carlos Zambrano was at the peak of his powers. In recent seasons, the Cubs pitching staff hasn't really had a true ace.

But the Cubbie faithful hope that has changed with the arrival of the 2008 ALCS MVP. Matt Garza pitched in the toughest division in baseball, the AL East, for three seasons as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. His electric stuff should translate very favorably to the National League, which annually features less potent lineups than the American League.

Fan Graphs analyst Albert Lyu isn't a huge fan -- Garza is "anything but a potential ace," he writes -- but pitch selection clearly will play a big role for the 27-year-old right-hander. Wrigley Field is a complete 180 compared to Tampa's Tropicana Field. Garza is a fly-ball pitcher moving to a stadium that allows home runs by the bushel.

Most 2011 projections anticipate Garza will improve slightly on last year's numbers (3.91 ERA, 150 strikeouts, 63 walks in 204.2 innings), but I expect he will have a Roy Halladay-esque season in his first year in the NL. I'm not saying he'll be as dominant as Halladay, because let's face it, Halladay is a beast, but Garza is a decent enough pitcher who will give you 200 innings as he's done the past two years and give you a chance to win every time he goes out there.

I said when the Cubs traded for him that he could be an 18-game winner. Of course, me saying it and him doing it are two different things, but he has the capability to do so. He's young and should be entering his prime, which could make this signing all the more better down the road. To some the Cubs gave up a lot, but they got a pretty good pitcher in return and there are no guarantees with prospects they traded to get Garza. See Bobby Hill, the prospect-turned-washout who brought in Aramis Ramirez.

Is Garza the ace of this team? I would say no at this point in time. The Cubs are without a true ace as they go into the season, but that doesn't mean he can't become one in time. He has too much talent not to be an ace. As the season rolls on he could slide into that role and at the very least become one by next season.

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Danny / February 18, 2011 3:36 PM

Expecting Garza to be like Halladay?

I would expect Garza to slightly regress next season. He's going from the best defensive team in baseball to one of the VERY WORST.

Going from a Pitchers paradise to a home-run haven...for a top 3 pitcher in Home-runs allowed per 9 innings? Yikes!

If he pitched identical to his last 3 years, he would be a quality #2/#3 guy in the rotation, and that's what is fair to expect from him.

Anything much more than that, and you're greatly overvaluing his potential.

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