|1||2001-09-10||SEA||ANA||W 5-1||GS-8 ,W||8.0||3||0||0||0||8||0||116|
|2||2002-06-19||SEA||CIN||W 2-0||GS-8 ,W||8.0||3||0||0||0||7||0||107|
|3||2013-05-30||BAL||WSN||W 2-0||GS-8 ,W||8.0||3||0||0||0||6||0||113|
It was a dominant start from a pitcher who no longer has dominant stuff (we'll get to that). But that performance led to this comment from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports:
o's gm dan duquette hit homer with nate mclouth signing last year. will he repeat with freddy garcia (1.02 whip)?Yes, it's Twitter, and sure, Heyman is probably making a brief comment to start a discussion, but that's both overly optimistic and simplistic. After hitting rock bottom with the Pirates in the first part of the season in 2012, McLouth reversed course to not only become a valuable contributor to the O's playoff run, but now he's hitting even better and is on pace to have one of his best major league seasons. Literally no one saw that coming or predicted that. Regardless, it's important to remember that McLouth's unexpected revival is an anomaly.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) May 31, 2013
After that start against the Nationals, Garcia had a 3.57 ERA in 35.1 innings, which seems pretty good. But he had just 15 strikeouts in those innings, had already allowed seven home runs, and had a BABIP around .200 (suggesting some amount of luck, along with his still-high strand rate). One positive was the low walk rate, but Garcia just wasn't missing many bats, and a large percentage of fly balls against him were leaving the ballpark.
Garcia's next start came last Wednesday in Houston, and he did not fare well. He lasted just three innings, allowing seven hits (including four home runs) and six runs, while walking two and striking out two. Garcia's ERA jumped to 4.70, along with these unsightly numbers: 3.99 K/9, 25% HR/FB, 2.58 HR/9, 6.54 FIP. That's right, exactly a quarter of the total fly balls hit against Garcia have ended up as home runs. Things might be even worse if not for Garcia's low walk rate (1.88 BB/9).
So what are the problems? Like many 36-year-old pitchers, Garcia's dealing with the continued decline of his pitching arsenal. He currently throws six (possibly seven) pitches: a four-seam fastball, a sinker (two-seamer), a slider, a curveball, a splitter, and a changeup (and apparently an occasional cutter)). He's been mixing in all of those pitches, but he's been doing that for a while now.
Now, let's focus on velocity and movement. Per Pitch F/X, Garcia's average fastball velocity (87.0 mph) is about the same as it was last year (86.8). Still, his velocity has dropped in every season since 2008 (89.6), so he's not going to find any extra miles per hour with his pitches.
Garcia's slider, oddly enough, is the one pitch that appears to be moving more. His curveball has also held steady. His fastballs and changeup are moving slightly less than 2012, but the biggest change seems to be in his splitter, which is not moving nearly as much as last season. In fact, the horizontal movement on his splitter has been decreasing since 2010 -- not a good sign for the pitch he relies on the third most (along with his curve).
Finally, we have vertical movement:
Here we see slight increases from 2012 in both of his fastballs, and his curveball is moving more as well. But his slider and splitter are both moving less. It's possible that Garcia is relying on his split fastball too much (and maybe not enough on his curveball). His splitter isn't moving as much both horizontally and vertically, yet he's still throwing it over 16% of the time.
As you'd expect with a pitcher with declining stuff, opposing batters are making more contact against Garcia. The contact percentage of 83.3 against him would be the highest since 2007 (86.1), and while batters aren't making quite as much contact inside the zone (from 89.9% in 2012 to 88.1%), they're making much more contact on pitches outside the strikezone (from 58.1% to 70.8%). Considering that they're also swinging less often on those same pitches (27.6% to 25.1%), that's a pretty significant jump.
Picking guys up off the scrap heap is fine. Because the Orioles don't have much organizational depth, there isn't a whole lot of risk involved when it comes to taking chances on players other teams don't want and stashing them at Triple-A for a rainy day. But a platoon-able corner outfielder like McLouth is one thing (McLouth is also 31; Garcia is 36). If Garcia only had to make a handful of starts, he could have been an acceptable fill-in. But he's already made seven starts and is demonstrating why other teams stayed away.