Armando Galarraga Leads Tigers to Yet Another Home Loss


Tampa Bay 6, Detroit 3 (box)

The Tigers had a solid approach against David Price. They were able to get to him for two runs and worked counts effectively to drive his pitch count up. Price was done after five.

The offense was okay, but not great. Monday’s heroes were Gerald Laird who had a double among his two hits and an RBI. Ryan Raburn also knocked in a run with one of his two hits and Brennan Boesch clubbed a long home run in the eighth. Unfortunately, The Tigers got little help from the pitching staff, most notably Ryan Perry and Armando Galarraga.

Monday’s starter, Galarraga, needs to trust his stuff and attack the strike zone. Jim Leyland said as much before tonight’s game, just as he has said several times recently about his right hander. It’s not a new problem for the then-unknown that became the best pitcher on a bad staff in 2008. After dazzling Tigers fans to the tune of 13 wins in his rookie season, Galarraga crashed down to Earth after roaring out of the gates in 2009.

With his five inning, five hit, four walk, four run effort on Monday, Galarraga showed he’s not yet been able to recapture the form that made him a success. In fact, he’s shown once again that he’s no better than the guy who lost his rotation spot last year. Read that last part again, I’m not sure many of you have an idea just how bad he has been, and continues to be. I’ll explain after the jump.

Galarraga began 2009 with a 1.85 ERA and a 3-0 record in his first four starts. At the end of April it was Galarraga, not Justin Verlander, that was in the (very) early conversation for Cy Young candidates. That didn’t last.

His strong 2008, and strong start to 2009, earned Galarraga quite a bit of rope in Leyland’s rotation. And he used every inch of it to hang himself. Before being banished to AAA and then to the big league bullpen, Galarraga made 21 more starts after his blistering April. In that time (plus his four relief outings), Galarraga pitched to a 3-10 record and 6.41 ERA. He walked 56  batters in 119.1 innings and fanned just 71.

A quick glance at the numbers this year would show a much-improved pitcher. A quick glance would be wrong. Sure, Galarraga has a 3-5 record, that’s not as bad as 3-10, is it? His ERA is over two runs lower than his post-April ’09 numbers (he entered play at 4.32). and his strikeout to walk ratio is better (1.48:1 to 1.26:1), but still bad. Bear in mind that his 2010 numbers do include his “almost perfect” outing, take away that game and I’d bet the numbers get a whole lot shakier.

You want to real kicker? In his final 25 appearances of 2009, Galarraga had an opponent’s average on balls in play of .301, which is almost exactly average for the league. He wasn’t unlucky in putting up those ghastly numbers, he had simply regressed to the mean. When he was dazzling the league in 2008, Galarraga held opponents BABiP to .237, which is astonishingly low. Certainly, his hard numbers on the mound reflected the vast amount of luck* that he pitched in that season. As for 2010? How’s about .265 on BABiP. That’s right, Galarraga’s been very lucky again this year. What that tells me is that this season’s version of Galarraga is every bit as bad as last year’s model. That he keeps getting the ball every fifth day shows just how little Leyland and company care to really look at the numbers.

In the end, I guess maybe Galarraga knows something we all haven’t figured out yet. Maybe he pitches like he doesn’t trust his stuff because he knows that sooner or later his luck is going to run out, then he’ll be back in Toledo. Maybe his stuff really isn’t good enough to get big league hitters out consistently. The sooner the Tigers realize that, the better off they’ll be.

*- I hate the use of the term “luck” in the saber-based community. In my estimation, there is a good deal of skill involved in getting a batter to miss the sweet part of the bat, causing pop-ups and weak grounders. Of course, it doesn’t appear to be easily quantifiable, nor easily repeatable, so for the purpose of this discussion, and until I find a better way to express the phenomenon of BABiP, I’ll suck it up and “accept” it as “luck”. Whatever.