Padres righty Jon Garland is currently tied for fifth in MLB with a 2.15 ERA through his first eleven starts. Let's take a closer look Garland's work and see if he's improved his stock in the upcoming free agent market.
Garland's rate of 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings is hardly inspiring, yet it'd mark a career high. His 4.0 walks per nine rate would be his worst since 2001. So what exactly is he doing well?
Garland is getting lots of groundballs; his 53.3% rate is a career best. On a related note, he's allowed just five home runs in 67 innings. Despite his low strikeout rate, Garland is preventing hits so far. His 7.5 hits per nine, .258 batting average on balls in play, and 80% left on base rates are not sustainable. Garland has particularly taken advantage of PETCO Park by preventing hits, stranding tons of baserunners, and getting extra grounders. Garland figures to allow hits at a higher rate from here on out, though he could balance that by cutting walks.
Assuming the walk rate comes down, Garland has made positive strides that may carry over to future seasons. More strikeouts and grounders always help. He's improved his stock at least slightly, and will get a $300K buyout if he declines his end of a $6.75MM mutual option for 2011. Represented by LSW Baseball, Garland could seek the two-year, $15MM deal Jason Marquis received. LSW's 2011 free agent group includes several other resurgent players, such as Paul Konerko, Brett Myers, and J.J. Putz.