Breaking Bad: Jaime Garcia

by on June 7, 2012 · 0 comments

Hi, May!

Every armchair GM and amateur medical specialist seems to have formulated an opinion on why Jaime Garcia has struggled this season.  The ideas run the gamut from “Jaime is immature” to “Garcia has an undiagnosed medical condition” and back to “Jaime stinks”.  Despite the temptation to join the Cardinal Nation Ballpark Villagers with pitchforks, I decided to look a little closer at the actual pitch data to try and discern some kind of trend or characteristic as opposed to some random errata.  Surprisingly, Jaime has probably pitched better this season than what many people would suggest.  Consider the good outings for Garcia:

  1. April 6th – 2 ER in 6.0 IP  (1st start) – 87 pitches
  2. April 18 – 1 ER in 7.0 IP  (6 days of rest) – 89 pitches
  3. April 23rd – 1 ER in 7.2 IP  (4 days of rest)  – 85 pitches
  4. April 29th – 3 ER in 7.0 IP  (5 days of rest) – 98 pitches
  5. May 16th – 1 ER in 7.1 IP  (4 days of rest) – 92 pitches
  6. May 21st – 2 ER in 7.0 IP  (4 days of rest) – 92 pitches

Contrast that information with his bad outings:

  1. April 11th – 3 ER in 4.2 IP (4 days of rest) – 81 pitches
  2. May 5th – 6 ER in 6.0 IP (5 days of rest) – 95 pitches
  3. May 11th – 4 ER in 5.2 IP (5 days of rest) – 101 pitches
  4. May 26th – 4 ER in 6.0 IP (4 days of rest) – 91 pitches
  5. June 5th – 6 ER in 2.0 IP (9 days of rest) – 43 pitches

Can you deduce anything from just 11 outings?  Maybe.  Certainly, Garcia’s game outcomes have not been really tied to pitch counts, days of rest, or a meltdown starting at a particular point in time.  Through the entire month of April, Garcia pitched like a star with a 2-1 record and a 2.78 ERA despite a batting average against of .311 (.365 BAbip).  Since then, he has gone 1-3 with a 6.09 ERA while allowing a batting average against of .296 (.365 BAbip).

If anything, BAbip looks to be a potential culprit in Jaime’s demise.  Holding down a 2.78 ERA while allowing a .311 batting average just does not typically last.  If anything, his current ERA of 4.48 better represents the kind of ERA expected from a .365 BAbip.  Consider that .365 represents a 41 point increase over his 2011 BAbip of .324.  That BAbip looks even larger when compared to the .293 BAbip Garcia posted in 2010.

Dig deeper, and you will find that Garcia’s BAbip against left-handed hitters this season has ballooned to .391.  That number aligns with the upwards trend from .294 BAbip in 2010 to .368 in 2011.  Is there anything that might explain his inability to hold down left-handed hitters these days?

Maybe.  Take a moment to look at his pitch data versus the Astros from his most recent start…

June 5th, 2012 vs Astros

Then compare the pitch data to the data from Garcia’s first start of the season….

April 6th, 2012 vs Brewers

With just a quick glance, several red flags stand out.

  • Jaime’s 4-seam fastball velocity has dropped off from 90.9 mph at the top end to 87.5 mph in his last start.  That’s a difference of 3.4 mph, and that is more than statistically significant.  That’s huge.
  • Just a guess, but it appears that Garcia’s cutter isn’t cutting nearly as much as it should.  That may be explained by the possibility that his cutters are actually being grouped with the 2-seam fastballs and greatly changing the average horizontal direction.
  • The velocity differential between both his 4-seam and his 2-seam fastballs and his changeup has narrowed enough that a bad changeup may also be mistaken for a fastball in a few cases.

In an effort to avoid boring all 3 of our loyal readers with death-by-PowerPoint, I have omitted several screenshots that cover Garcia’s release point for each game this season.  However, I strongly encourage anyone interested in that information to head on over to where the pitch data was sourced.  A couple things will stand out – Garcia no longer consistently throws over the top as much as he did at the beginning of the year, and he no longer appears to have the same “feel” for throwing his breaking pitches (another way of saying that he appears to be guiding his breaking stuff).  Both issues could be explained away as mental mistakes that appear as mechanical issues, or he could be suffering some kind of pain/discomfort that has caused him to alter his delivery.

Regardless of the reason, I think you will find that many of us are still “Honking for Jaime” all the way through the season.  May that always be the case.

Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for more nonsense about vertical components and fastball grips!

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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