In 2010, Jon Garland struck out fewer than four batters per nine innings but managed a 3.47 ERA over 200 innings for the San Diego Padres thanks to an astronomically low walk rate and some help from his home ballpark.
The Rockies probably had those things in mind when they acquired Garland shortly before the start of the 2013 season. The team had no idea what it would get from Jorge De La Rosa and likely wasn't booming with confidence regarding Jhoulys Chacin, so the need for a proven starter was imminent.
Garland was not a bad pickup for a team whose weakness wound up being the back-end of the rotation. Through three starts, the then-33-year-old right-hander held a 3.32 ERA with 10 strikeouts and only three walks in 19 innings. He was also probably the most consistent hurler for a team that busted out of the gates with a 13-4 start.
However, right around the time things went south for the Rockies, Garland's results also began to plummet. First, he allowed three home runs in a 10-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Coors Field, Then, Garland surrendered five runs in three consecutive outings against NL West foes in late-May. That signaled the end of his tenure in Denver; by the time Garland earned his fourth victory despite allowing four runs in six innings in Cincinnati, the Rockies had committed to giving the resurgent Tyler Chatwood innings and had Roy Oswalt waiting in the wings.
Colorado designated Garland for assignment on June 8 and released him two days later. He did not resurface at the big-league level after being shown the door by the Rockies.
Grade with the Rockies: C-
In 68 innings spanning 12 starts, Garland went 4-6 with a 5.82 ERA. His strikeout rate of 4.2 per nine innings ranked second-lowest among all NL pitchers with at least 60 innings of work, ahead of only Jake Westbrook. However, his FIP of 4.93 and xFIP of 4.54 resulted in 0.4 fWAR, though Baseball-Reference's rWAR had Garland at 0.0.
While his numbers wound up being very poor due to an elevated home run rate and high amount of balls in play resulting in hits, Garland did what was expected of him most of the time: he gave his team a chance to win. In seven of his starts, Garland lasted at least five innings while surrendering three or fewer runs. That's about all you can hope for out of most No. 5 starters.
Offense has been in a steady decline around the league. It's hard to say if that helps or hurts Garland's chances of making it back to the bigs. On one hand, his pitch-to-contact approach has always been beneficial against aggressive hitters, and it seems there are more of those around now than ever before. However, that same offensive environment might have clubs thinking they can get away with filling their fifth-starter spots with players who will make the league minimum (read: rookies) rather than paying a higher price for a veteran such as Garland.
Garland has a career 4.37 ERA in 13 MLB seasons and ranks 18th on the active list with 136 victories. Only Aaron Cook and Zach Duke have lower career strikeout rate than Garland's 4.8 per nine innings.