Tony Blengino on Ryan Garko

Tony Blengino, on the radio, had some interesting thoughts on Ryan Garko.  His enthusiasm was contagious...


=== Starting-quality first baseman ===

Was surprised (and pleased) to hear Blengino enthuse about Garko a la "we think we got a starting-caliber player there, who will be targeted to a role, at least at first."

Garko, of course, switched from the AL to the NL in 2009, and struggled badly late in the year.  The M's give Garko a pass on this.


=== League-average offensive first baseman ===

Blengino emphasized that "the bar is very high at first base" and that he regards Garko an "average offensive" major league first baseman.

At the age of 28 last year in Cleveland, Garko hit for a 121 OPS+ against all pitchers, and at 26 he did the same.

Supposing that you were bullish on Garko's hitting -- as Blengino is -- and rather than just averaging his past results, you predict him to hit at his age-26 and age-28 AL levels?

Garko would then be a .285/.360/.475 hitter, that is, .285 with 20 homers, 30 doubles and 50-60 walks.


=== vs. Left hand Pitching ===

How good is a "starting caliber player" if he's filling a role for you?   If you take Garko's 2007 and 09 in the American League as representative, he gives the M's a .300/.400/.500 hitter when lefties are on the mound.


The .500 SLG isn't hard to find in a platoon guy.  The .400 OBP, however, is.

Against lefties, Garko is liable to be the appropriate cleanup hitter. 

By comparison, Jose Lopez was .286/.327/.432 against lefties last season.  Granted, in 2009 Franklin Gutierrez smashed LHP's for a 150 OPS+, but check his 2008 splits vs LHP.

The point is, if Garko's a legit .300/.400/.500 guy against lefties, and he probably is, then yeah.  He's probably the M's best hitter those days.


Blengino offered that Garko has pop to all fields and that the M's don't regard him as likely to be punished by Safeco as much as would most righties.  And, of course, there are 81 road games.


=== In Mariner Context ===

120 OPS+ certainly ain't nothin' to sneeze at; Russell Branyan was 128 last year.  Admittedly, Russ was at 150 in the first half of the year, so I probably shouldn'ta brought that up.  

Anyway, a 120 OPS+ for the Mariners?  Other than Branyan and Ichiro, the highest Mariner OPS+ last season was 103, by Guti and Lopez.


=== Roster Versatility ===

In this Larry Stone article as well as in interviews on the radio, Garko has been serious about providing the M's some games at catcher.

Dr. D's ears perked up on Blengino's remark that Garko will be platooned "at least at first."  Garko's age is still pre-30; his CT% is rising; his EYE is improving; he's a big guy.  Give Ryan Garko a little momentum at the start of the year and he could wind up the M's starting 1B.

Maybe even providing them a 120 OPS+.  For 500 grand that would work.


Dr D


misterjonez's picture

the idea of bringing in Garko for some reason.  I'm not sure why, but I'm starting to see the value there.  Like, alot.
To me, he's kind of like what I imagine most of us think Casey Kotchman is supposed to represent.  A pre-peak player, signed for cheap at a position of need who offers some specific strengths as-is, and possesses the ability to leap a plateau sometime soon.  I just don't see it with Kotchman, but I absolutely see it with Garko.
His upside is what, a 1.5-2.0 win player, his middle ground is ~1 and the downside is practically non-existent.  If he's still shellshocked from last year's miserable performance in SF, he's easy to abandon and move on from.

misterjonez's picture

that Garko was also part of one of the koolest names I've seen for a fantasy baseball team in that AL only league I was part of a few years ago.  Gonnie Garko, I believe it was.  That was a lot of fun.


Then that's alltime.  :- )
One time our Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid BABVA boys had Travis Hafner in a down year.  We went with Be Haf Afraid.


The 1.5 - 2.0 WAR for peanuts is a pertinent observation.
As we all know, one of SSI's pet peeves is the attachment of WAR to targeted-role players.
If Eric Byrnes and Ryan Garko hit 200 times each, and mash LHP's, they won't even show up on WAR.  But they will save the M's season in terms of contending.  Let the M's bring ZERO righty hitters to the table and the critical-mass principle will come into play.
Same with a bullpen stud in the 8th inning.  What were the WAR's of Nelson and Rhodes in 2001?  They keyed the 116 wins.  They affected the entire game from the 4th-5th inning on.
WAR is a real good stat, as is its relative, RC/27, but I hate to see them overemphasized.  Not that you did here Jonezie.
If Garko gives the M's 250 AB's of 300/400/500 offense and keeps LHP pass-rushers off the Wakamatsu QB, he's going to hit this pennant race a lot harder than his WAR would indicate.

shields's picture

I really like when you talk about radio interviews, Doc, because I don't get a chance to listen to Seattle radio much and forget to dig through the archives.

misterjonez's picture

of upside, rather than the re-iterating the simple WAR paradigm we see way, way, WAY too often in our local scene. I was, however, approaching the discussion from that particular angle for just a moment. The greater point being "Hey, even if this guy doesn't do anything to improve, he's still a valuable piece. And there's the very real possibility that he comes out an .850's from a spot we have literally zero high-upside depth at.
But yeah, his leveraged value would be, theoretically, the kind of piece you can build up against when executing in-game strategy. Knowing he's sitting on the bench when Jr., Kotchman or whoever is scheduled to bat might just belay that middling LOOGY's call, giving the current guys a better chance at it.
Byrnes is the same sans positional flexibility. These are two guys who present ~equal offensive skills in a limited, late-inning role that can absolutely change the complexion of a game, if not the actual outcome.
The thing I really like about Garko is the C flexibility. Even if he's nothing more than a bad catcher, he still allows you to at least threaten him late in the game at the C spot, in addition to 1B and COF. That's huge compared to a guy like Byrnes, who is probably better off as a platoon/4th OF type in the bigger picture if he breaks camp with the club.

misterjonez's picture

I'm in SE Asia (and have been since last fall, when I completed my first solo Pacific crossing in the family sailboat) so radio is awfully hard to get to, due to the time difference of ~15 hours.
I can find some transcripts, but usually only when they're linked at MC, here or there's a breakdown on one of the other sites like BBT (proballnw?) or LL.

Taro's picture

I think Branyan is a bigger upgrade over Kotchman or Garko (as a full-time player) than people realize.
Garko doesn't have any GIDP issues, but his poor defense (-5 to 10 runs) and poor baserunning make him only barely better than Kotchman as a full-time player despite the edge in hitting.
I like Garko as a strict platoon guy personally... although I do think he has more offensive upside than Kotchman (if he hits righties too hes the starter).
A Branyan-Garko platoon is what I'm rooting for.. but we're likely stuck with Kotchman for now (who doesn't even hit righties well).


Lot of times I'm doing mindless data work in my #2 job :- ) and to get thru it, fire up the Hot Stove stuff, which then becomes an easy couple of articles... this week the LL podcast was included, LOL...
Will keep the radio stuff alive, I spose...


Is that the M's just have to be rejecting Branyan because of the medical reports.  Otherwise this one is completely baffling.
Branyan had a 150 OPS+ in the first half last year for what, a couple million. 
Even including the slump he was worth $100,000 per game in 2009.  It's incomprehensible.  Gotta be the med reports...
But then why offer him 1 year, as they did earlier?   Only *logical* thing is that Branyan still wasn't taking 1 year at the time they signed, er, Kotchman.

M's Watcher's picture

It's Branyan's downside risk that concerns me and probably the rest of MLB.  In reality, that shouldn't be a problem unless the team doesn't have the guts to DL him when he's hurt.  That was the 2009 problem, along with no back-up plan.  The team was so strapped for bats that they were reluctant to sit Russ when hurt in favor of Hannahan, Lopez, or Carp.  Now the point is moot, as the roster is full.

Hoquiamite's picture

the idea of Garko moving to catcher a lot more than as an emergency appeals to me...gets his potent bat in the lineup far more than if he were to just platoon v lefties.  Don't you think?  We are weak at catcher when it comes to hitting.

blade316's picture

Now Im not going ot say Garko is a GG. But watching some of his fielding highlights he strikes me as a smart fielder. 
Watch his videos on the MLB website and you will see. 
He is the type of player that is thinking ahead to the next play. When he was a Giant and dropped a infield opo up which was not great but recovered and got the forced out at 2nd.
He picks himself up and moves on the next play I appreciate that.

Anonymous's picture

I was the Gonnie Garko owner. I had to switch over - it was too much fun not to.
I had a lot of fun that year - I think it was 2007. Didn't know as much as I do now but still managed to be competitive.

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