The Dodgers signed durable right-handed starter Jon Garland today, for a reported $5M over 1 year, plus bonuses, plus an $8M vesting option for 2012. The option vests if Garland throws more than 190 innings, something he has done every year since 2002. While I have never been a huge Garland fan, I do admire his incredible durability; hes virtually a lock to put up 190+ quality innings year after year.
This past season, Garland put up a Garland-esque FIP of 4.41 over 200 innings. While Fangraphs' WAR only viewed that as being worth +0.8 wins because of him pitching 108 innings in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, its worth noting that his 4.48 FIP and 4.32 xFIP on the road were still really solid. His overall xFIP of 4.35 was the lowest its been since 2004. Garland's walk rate (BB/9) jumped to a rather high 3.92, however he compensated for that with a nice boost in his strikeouts (6.12 K/9) and groundballs (51.9%), both of which were career-highs. I don't think Garland will maintain that strikeout rate, as his plate discipline stats -- outside swing%, outside contact%, contact%, swinging strike% -- were all rather the same as they usually are, but I also do not think Garland will maintain a walk rate right under 4, so it probably will balance itself out.
Fangraphs' pitch values labeled Garland's fastball, which averaged less than 90 mph in velocity, as being worth +18.2 runs, good enough to rank in the top 15 among all Major League starters in fastball effectiveness. What led to this? PitchFX claims Garland threw his 2-seam fastball 31.9% of the time, which was nearly as much as he threw his 4-seam fastball (32.1%). How often did Garland throw his 2-seamer the prior two years? 17.7% in 2009 and 0.5% in 2008. While I'm not sure those two figures are totally accurate, I think we can assume Garland threw more 2-seamers than in prior years, which also led to his career-best groundball rate.
All in all, I think this is a fine contract for the Dodgers. They get an incredibly durable arm that can be counted on for 190+ innings, at about the appropriate price of $5M. If Garland does what he typically does -- in other words, throw more than 190 innings -- he'll be rewarded with a nice salary boost with the incentives and vesting option. Garland would need to be worth about +3.3 wins in total over the next two seasons to warrant the likely $13M+ he has coming to him, which I think is quite do-able.