Searching for the real Matt Garza

There are big expectations for Matt Garza this season with the Cubs. AP Photo/Matt York

Matt Garza is good. Very good. His stuff, as many a catcher will attest, is as filthy as a chimney sweep. Yet, despite this, he has produced the results of a merely above-average starter. This year, in-the-know Cubs fans have observed The Tale of Two Garzas -- the story of a devastating strikeout pitcher who just can't seem to keep the scoreboard clean.

What gives? Which is the real Matt Garza? The one who can make Albert Pujols look like Neifi Perez, or the one who watches opponents slap pitches for key double after key double? Well, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Garza is never hard to find in a dugout. Leaning on the railing, nervously spitting sunflower seeds, waiting for any reason to vault over the railing and scream a little, the Cubs third starting pitcher is always totally immersed in the game, whether he's pitching or still four days away from taking the mound. But the Cubs didn't trade a hefty slice of their farm system for a cheerleader -- they wanted Garza win some games. Unfortunately for the Cubs, that hasn't happened very often this year.

When the Cubs acquired Garza this offseason, they were getting a starter who had pitched nearly 200 innings for three straight seasons with an ERA under 4.00. So far in 2011, Garza has been decent, but not lights-out-go-to-bed-you're-grounded, sporting a 3.72 ERA.

After his trade to the North Side, the common fear surrounded his stadium change. Despite his good ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays, Garza allowed more than the league average in homers in both 2009 and 2010 -- despite playing in a park known to depress power numbers. Moving to Wrigley Field, where a windy day can transform a popup into a double and a Mohawk into a comb-over, Garza looked poised for some serious struggles.

Instead, he changed his approach and found a new form of success.