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Armando Galarraga and the Jewel of Denial

After being designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 18th, Armando Galarraga took the assignment to pitch for the AAA Reno Aces. He is set to make his first start for the team this evening.

But before his start, Galarraga is stirring up unrest with his quotes to Reno Gazette-Journal reporter Chris Gabel:

"This year, I had four bad starts. But the first three games I won. I didn't struggle the whole year. Nobody can say that. You win your first three games, you're good. Then I lost the next four and they want to send me down here. I don't think there's anything specific I need to work on. Whatever they say, I don't care."

Well now. That's certainly a horse of a different color than the Armando Galarraga who was so calm and gracious after the blown call during his perfect game last June. Let's take a look at Galarraga's performance with the Diamondbacks, why Kevin Towers traded for him and why in the world we'd want to keep him after those statements. (Hint: we don't...)

Armando Galarraga initially signed with the Montreal Expos in 1998. He pitched in the minor leagues from 2001-2007, appeared in three September games with the Texas Rangers, and made his way to the Detroit Tigers in 2008. He pitched very well with Detroit that year, started 28 games, had a 3.73 ERA and finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting. Amidst his "perfect game" season last year, he struggled - he only averaged 5 innings a start almost always gave up at least four runs (as his ERA of 4.49 will attest to). He had high pitch counts and was clearly a fly ball pitcher who also gave up a lot of walks.

Kevin Towers traded two minor leaguers (Kevin Eichhord and Ryan Robowski) to Detroit for Armando this January and gave Galarraga a $2.3 million, 1 year contract, a significant raise from ~$430,000 he made each of the previous four years. Galarraga was signed to be our #4 or #5 starter and he had strong competition during spring training from guys like Barry Enright. Zach Duke's broken hand basically assured Galarraga of a spot in the starting rotation. But how would a fly ball pitcher like him do in the "friendly confines" of Chase Field?

Galarraga struggled with Arizona, and let's be frank, he was lucky to get those first three wins. Galarraga is a perfect example of how a pitcher's win-loss record reflects very little on a pitcher's performance. Yes, he won the first three games, but he thinks this performance is "good"?

  • Start 1 @ Chicago Cubs: 7+ innings, 4 earned runs (one of those runs was let in by Juan Gutierrez), 2 home runs given up, but the Diamondbacks had his back and scored 6 runs that game
  • Start 2 vs St Louis Cardinals: 5 innings, 5 earned runs, 3 home runs given up, and the Diamondbacks scored 13 runs that game (9 before he left the game)
  • Start 3 @ Cincinnati Reds: 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 1 home run given up - This was a "quality start" and should be good enough for a win, and it was, because the Diamondbacks scored 5 runs in support of Galarraga

So there are those first three games, that apparently, if you win, makes you a good pitcher. No, Armando, it doesn't. Your ERA was an even 6, you allowed six home runs in three games, and your teammates scored 24 runs to get you all three of those wins.

Then came his next four losses (and one no decision), in which he didn't perform any better. Yes, Armando, you struggled.

  • 3 innings, 6 runs (2 earned); 
  • 7 innings, 3 runs (all on three solo home runs)
  • 4.1 innings, 3 runs (2 earned) - Josh Collmenter didn't allow either of your last two baserunners to score
  • 5.1 innings, 4 runs (Gutierrez gave up one inherited runner)
  • 5 innings, 8 runs (5 earned)

Yes, Galarraga ran into some bad defense behind him in his 4th and 8th starts, but what separates the good pitchers from the bad is the ability to work out of those jams and support your struggling offense (the Diamondbacks scored only 16 runs in his last five starts). Your tendencies towards fly ball outs don't help when those balls aren't outs but are instead hit out of the park. It's not okay for only 40 of your 80 pitches to be strikes (which happened twice). It's also not okay to allow nearly as many walks (22) as guys you strike out (28). Yes, you struggled, and we can all say that.

When you accepted your assignment to AAA Reno, I had hope for you. I had hope that you might see that your outburst after your last start was unwarranted and that you would admit you could work on your stuff in the minor leagues instead of becoming a free agent to go to another big league club's pitching staff. But I can see now I was wrong. He explained exactly why he took the assignment to Reno:

"The money," Galarraga said. "They have to pay me $2.3 million to come here."

Wow. Telling a reporter that you are only playing for a team because they have to pay you $2 million is not a way to endear yourself to your bosses. Neither is saying that you don't care why you're in AAA and that you don't look back to the past to learn from your mistakes, let alone think you were even making mistakes to begin with.

If Armando Galarraga doesn't want to improve his career ERA of 4.69, well, that's fine with us. But don't stay here; choose not to improve with a different team.