The Right Decision?

There were some questions going into the 2008 off-season with regards to the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitching. The front of the rotation was set with co-aces Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. The back-end of the rotation was also likely set with Doug Davis and rookie sensation Max Scherzer.

The big question was what Arizona would do with the number 3 spot in the rotation. Would they attempt to re-sign Randy Johnson and allow him to complete his quest for 300 games or would they try to find another option that gave them more flexibility?

Almost immediately the fans were told that the Diamondbacks would be holding tight to the fiscal reigns of player payroll and would not be active participants in the free agent market. This of course was a mixed signal as far as the fans were concerned.

On one hand tight fiscal reigns gave the impression that the Diamondbacks had very little money to spend on free agents. This would lead fans to assume that there was no way the Diamondbacks would re-sign Randy Johnson due to his salary requirements.

On the other hand not being active participants in the free agent market would lead one to believe that they would try to re-sign those players they could and therefore would be reunited with Johnson.

The fans were not the only ones who were confused by this seeming double talk. Randy Johnson likewise was left with an uncertain decision. To his credit, Johnson did what he could to try and re-sign with the hometown team offering to accept a contract that was half what he was making the previous season. The Diamondbacks didn’t seem that interested and in the end the Big Unit ended up leaving the desert signing a one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants.

The Diamondbacks held out looking for just the right deal and the right player.

Their decision to sign Jon Garland was met with equal parts of excitement and confusion. On one hand Garland has been a workhorse and would definitely give the Diamondbacks a pitcher that was durable and capable of eating up innings. On the other hand the contract that Garland was awarded was more than what Randy Johnson had offered to sign for leading the fans to wonder how interested Arizona was in re-signing the future hall of famer.

Now with the season nearly 2 months old it may be interesting to see how these two pitchers compare and whether the Arizona Diamondbacks made the right decision.

Jon Garland 4 4 5.75 10 56.1 71 39 36 24 21 1.69
Randy Johnson 4 4 5.71 10 52.0 56 33 33 19 54 1.44

After ten starts each, I was very surprised to see how closely these two pitchers compare. They have identical records of 4-4 and their ERA is within 0.04 of each other with Johnson having a slight edge. Garland has more innings pitched which is what the Diamondbacks had anticipated but the edge is only 4.1 innings which is not that significant. Randy has the edge in nearly every category having given up fewer hits, fewer walks, and most importantly fewer runs.

From this analysis it seems questionable whether Arizona upgraded its pitching staff at all by passing up Randy Johnson and going for the younger Jon Garland. Add to this the fact that Randy will be going for career win number 300 in his next start and the fan excitement that would have generated and you have to believe that the Diamondbacks front office might have missed this one.

Considering how closely these two pitchers compare, it will be interesting to monitor this throughout the year to see which of these two pitchers end up with better statistics and which had the ability to keep their team in the post season race the longest.

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