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The second installment in our 2014 award season is for the Brewers Newcomer of the Year. The first installment, on the Brewers Comeback Player of the Year can be found here. The Newcomer of the Year Award is available to any qualified rookie, or any other first-time Brewer.
Our victor for this year is Matt Garza, who came to the Brewers via the largest free agent contract in Brewers history. Despite dealing with injuries in the past, Garza had been consistently good with four franchises, and Milwaukee bit to the tune of 4 years, $50 million.
From 2008-2013, Garza had posted a 3.76 ERA, and in combination with his numbers this season, he is easy to trust as a 2-3 guy in the rotation. This year, Garza posted a 3.64 ERA in 163 1/2 innings, furthering his reputation as a reliable pitcher in the middle of the rotation.
Garza did miss time due to an oblique injury in 2014, but still managed make 27 starts and lead Brewers starters with a 2.5 fWAR. He was at least as good as advertised, and the Brewers hope that his best season since 2011 means good things for his future.
Despite a solid career, Garza has never received any Cy Young votes or a call to represent his team in an All-Star Game, despite having the 8th lowest FIP in the Majors in 2011 (2.95). Since then, though Garza’s strikeout rates have fallen every year, he has adapted well, leading to his highest infield fly ball rate since 2011.
He has also benefited from the highest first-pitch strike rate of his career, meaning he has increased his focus on getting ahead of hitters, which is critical with falling strikeout numbers. This is a transformation similar to fellow Brewer Yovani Gallardo, who has likewise succeeded despite being less of a flamethrower than in the past.
Garza does not attract a ton of attention from around the league, but that simply means that he fits in with the Brewers. Aside from his fielding, Garza is solid on the mound, and the Brewers look astute in their signing of the former Cub.
The results of the Newcomer voting will be released tomorrow along with a write-up detailing the runner-up’s season.