Jon Garland is, on his career, six games under .500. He has a lofty ERA of 4.84. These are not the numbers of a GREAT
There have, however, been some encouraging signs out of Jon this season. He's multiple times told Ozzie that he would "take one for the team" on a given day to save the bullpen. Part of that is the reason why his ERA is as high as it is. In his last two outings he has been just short of great, losing concentration, making the wrong pitch in a key situation, and giving up runs when it looked like he was in control.
I took a look at Jon's WHIP(walk plus hits/innings pitched) over the past 3 seasons. That is, when he has been a full time starter. Jon currently has a WHIP of 1.33, currently the best of any of the starting staff of the Sox, save Garcia, who put up his numbers in Seattle. Here's Jon's WHIP by month for the last three seasons.
2002 2003 2004
April 1.70 1.50 1.41
May 1.36 1.20 1.37
June 1.31 1.41 1.20
July 1.74 1.29
August 1.24 1.39
September 1.23 1.41
As you can see, he generally starts out the season a little shaky, then settles in nicely. This season he opened with a 1.41WHIP in April, his best in that month over the last 3 seasons. He then lowered his WHIP in May, before posting the best month of his career in terms of WHIP.
WHIP is not the "End-all-be-all" for evaluating pitchers. It is however a good tool that idicates a pitchers effectiveness. A pitchers job is to keep the other team from scoring. The best way to do that is to prevent anyone from reaching base, and that's what WHIP measures, how many baserunners you allow. Jon has been keeping runners off of the basepaths better this year than at any other point in his career.
With Ozzie willing to let Jon work deeper into games, coupled with Jon's willingness to "take one for the team", his ERA may not show it, but Jon Garland is a better pitcher this year than in years past.
I have observed it with my own two eyes in his last two outings. The first one in Montreal, Jon was perfect through 5, then got too careful in the 6th. He walked the bases loaded, and the first hit he allowed scored two. In the 9th of the same game, Jon had allowed a 1 out "double" off of Frank Thomas' leg. Then, I think he was being careful to Cabrera, who took a ball off of his shoetops out of the yard. In the second game vs. the Cubs, Jon had the best "stuff" I think I have ever seen him have. His curve looked unhittable, and his sinker was biting sharply. A couple of errors cost him in that games, one of his own doing.
I'm looking for him to learn from his mistakes, and come up with some big games down the stretch for the Sox. Here's to hoping he starts with a great outing tomorrow.