Breaking Down Jaime Garcia

by on October 15, 2011 · 4 comments

 

The Rally Squirrel does not approve of the wave.

Jaime Garcia held the Brewers to just 1 run in 4 2/3 innings last night, and the bullpen finished off the rest of game to put the Cardinals just 1 win away from the World Series.  Unfortunately, Garcia’s performance did little to silence those who have voiced concern about his ability to pitch his way out of rough innings to go deeper into games.  For a guy who hasn’t pitched 8 innings or more in a game since June 3rd, this is a valid concern.  Considering Garcia set career high marks for innings pitched (194 2/3), hits per 9 innings (9.6), and home runs allowed (15) during the regular season, I believe some of his recent trends to be cause for concern as well.  Just chew on some of these tidbits for a moment:

  • Prior to the All-Star break, Garcia went 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA and .309 BAbip.  Opponents had managed .254/.304/.354/.658 batting line against him, and the Cardinals were 12-7 in his starts before the break.  Shortly after the break, the wheels on the bus went from going “round and round” to going “upside down”.  Garcia went 4-4 with a 4.07 ERA and .344 BAbip.  The opponent’s collective battling line improved to .300/.337/.453/.790, and the Cardinals were 7-6 in his last 13 starts.
  • If you think that wins matter, then Garcia’s 3-0 finish in September represents a huge positive.  He posted a 2.64 ERA with a .308 BAbip during that time, and the Cardinals went 4-1 in his 5 starts.  It’s not that I don’t consider wins to be important, but I’m much more enthused about his ERA and drop in BAbip.  However, Garcia averaged just slightly above 6 innings per game, so the relievers threw quite a few innings to back Jaime.  That total of 30 2/3 innings pitched for September was signifcantly better than the 26 1/3 innings he pitched in 5 starts for the month of August. 
  • In Garcia’s 2 starts against the Brewers in the NLCS, he only made it through 4 innings in game 1 and 4 2/3 innings in game 5.  Considering that he only threw 82 and 68 pitches in those games respectively, I can’t help but wonder about whether or not his workload throughout the season has taken its toll.
  • In that NLCS game 1 loss to the Brewers, Garcia relied heavily on his changeup and curveball which he threw a combined 31 times for 19 strikes.  In the NLCS game 5 win, he opted to use his curveball less in favor of his slider which he threw for a strike 7 out of 13 times.  Even though he threw 14 fewer pitches in game 5, he threw almost as many fastballs (32) as he did in game 1 (34 fastballs).  More importantly, 24 out of 32 fastballs in game 5 were thrown for strikes while only 22 of 34 were strikes in game 1. 
  • The phrase “shutdown inning” is often used to describe the half inning that follows a half inning in which a pitcher’s team scores.  Maybe the sample size is relatively small, but it seems that Garcia has had trouble with “shutdown innings” recently.  In game 1 of the NLCS, the Cardinals scored once in the top of the 1st inning, and Garcia promptly gave up 2 runs in return.  When the Cardinals scored a run in the 5th inning, the wheels came completely off, and Garcia allowed the Brewers to blow the game wide open.  Something similar happened in game 5 after the Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the 4th.  Garcia took the mound in the top of the 5th and surrendered a run before departing with runners on 1st and 2nd with Ryan Braun at the plate.  It’s not like every run scored by the Cardinals is immediately followed by a rough inning for Garcia, but it’s curious to note the possible relationship. 

There is certainly a danger in overanalyzing anything, especially when you are working with relatively small sample sizes.  However, I have a theory about Jaime’s recent problems with shutdown innings that isn’t solely based on statistics.  I believe that to a great extent Jaime is a pace/rhythm pitcher.  He is great at settling into a groove which basically consists of him throwing 14-18 pitches, returning to the dugout for 10 minutes, and wash/rinse/repeat.  When that rhythm is broken, or when the pace changes due to a long half inning by the Cardinals on offense, I perceive that Jaime has trouble getting locked back in when he returns to the mound.  It’s just to consider the next time you watch him pitch. 

TIDBIT:  The seemingly nonstop chatter about the Brewers / Cardinals “rivalry” needs to go away.  It’s easy for the media to play up the notion that the teams hate each other and that a “huge rivalry” now exists.  This is purely an attempt to manufacture something that does not really exist by using sensationalism as the catalyst.  A few years of competitive baseball do not a rivalry make.  Wait until the teams have met a few hundred more times to start the “rivalry” talk. 

EXTRA BIT OF TID:  Since moving to the NL prior to the 1994 season, the Brewers have made the playoffs just twice.  During that same timespan, the Cardinals have participated in the postseason 9 times. 

FINAL BIT OF TID:  The story behind the “beast mode” thing is absolutely wonderful, touching, and blah blah blah.  I don’t care one bit about the explanation.  Performing a celebratory move after every positive outcome just screams of egotism.  “Hey, look at me and praise me for doing my job!  No, keep looking at me, me, me!”  Yes, congratulations on getting hit by a pitch.  By all means, please draw more attention to yourself.  Don’t mistake my cold-hearted reaction to Brewer family time as hypocrisy, though.  While so many people pause and admire many home runs by Albert Pujols, it’s easy to forget that he is also pausing to admire them as well.  Then Pujols flips his bat like as though it represents the disdain he has for the baseball, and both must be discarded.  Hit ball.  Run.  If you happen to enjoy the pause accompanied by the bat flip, then by all means enjoy it.  Just don’t get on your soapbox when the “beast mode” thing happens. 

I somehow doubt that all Brewer fans enjoy “beast mode”, Nyjer Morgan‘s antics, and the stuff that Zach Greinke spews forth occasionally.  Collectively, their fans are better than that.  So are we.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for suggestions on how to replace “beast mode”!

Not that I talked to a squirrel....just heard it..from a guy.

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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{ 4 comments }

Bob Netherton October 15, 2011

Excellent analysis and other stuff :) I’m not overly concerned about Garcia in the long run, and the September run you highlight makes me feel a lot better about his future. He’s still a young pitcher and that stands out in things like lack of focus and innings related fatigue. I hope that both will become a lesser part of Garcia’s 2012 and beyond story.

I’m totally with you on the Pujols home run admiration. It’s one thing when you hit it into Big Mac Land, but something else when you hit it to a guy named Mack sitting in the first row of the bleachers. Remember when he hit one that he admired all the way to the outfield wall and got thrown out at second. Play the game and let us fans do the admiration.

Love your work here – keep up the good work!

Dennis October 15, 2011

Like you, I’m not too worried in the long term about Garcia, although I would like to see him consistently get through 6 innings with some room to breathe.

The Pujols pose bothers me a bit more than I realized. I guess I just always liked the Barry Sanders approach to doing something big. Score the touchdown, an then hand the ball to the official. I just don’t see anything to be gained by watching. As you pointed out, there are times when it comes back to bite people.

Thanks for reading, Bob.

Otter October 15, 2011

It’s hard for me to say one way or the other. I don’t really mind the whole “Beast Mode” thing, because the annoying side (as with most team fads) is all media and writer driven. The players just have it as a fun thing they do to build team unity and have a little fun. If TLR can get his head around that with the Bird’s stupid “happy flight” chant, then I think I need to try the same attitude.
Having said that, I don’t know if Pujols needs to stop or not. I mean, I only hit 6 HRs all through college, so I felt okay pimping an especially good one in a close situation. But the guy’s gotta get bored of watching the ball fly screaming in the stands after a while, right?

PS, if the Birds blow this series and Nyjer Morgan gets put into the ICU from a line drive to the head, I’ll call it a win.

Dennis October 15, 2011

If the “beast mode” thing was limited to locker room celebrations, then I would consider it on par with “happy flight”. However, it occurs on the field, and to me it’s just another way of showing up the pitcher. That’s the same reason I have issues with posing after home runs. When someone on another team does it, there are often complaints from the Cardinal dugout and/or fans.

As for Morgan, I can only hope he’s basically irrelevant as the Brewers lose. That would be the ultimate reward for a marginal platoon player with more ego than talent.

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