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”!