If you’ve been reading this site long enough, then you know that we’re fans of evaluating players based on their process, or underlying performance. If the process is right, chances are the results will be good. A good at-bat might result in an out while a bad at-bat yields a hit, but I’ll take the guy that does more of the former over the course of the season. Same deal with pitchers, sometimes a bad pitch turns into an out and sometimes that knee-high fastball on the outside corner gets slapped down the line for a double. I briefly mentioned this in the recap last night, but I’ve stopped caring about Freddy Garcia’s process.
Usually when we talk about pitchers here we’ll reference their peripheral stats, their strikeout numbers, walk totals, ground ball percentages, the ability to get swings and misses, stuff like that. You don’t need to be a DIPS theory expert to understand that more strikeouts plus fewer walks plus fewer homeruns will lead to better individual results at the end of the day. The number of hits a pitcher gives up is impacted by the defense behind him, as is the number of runs he’s allowed. That why ERA fails to tell the whole story. Don’t even get me started with wins, why a pitcher is getting credit for something his teammates helped accomplish is beyond me.
Garcia’s underlying performance is actually pretty good this year. His 8.8% swing and miss rate is better than league average (8.5%) even though his 5.99 K/9 is well below the league standard (7.00). He doesn’t walk anyone, just 2.69 batters for every nine innings pitched. Take out intentional walks, and it’s 2.34 men per nine. In fact, Garcia has walked zero batters in three of his last four starts. An absurdly low 33.7% ground ball rate has resulted in just 0.78 homers allowed per nine innings, a rate that’s probably unsustainable in Yankee Stadium. His 3.74 FIP is six percent better than the league average, his 4.13 xFIP five percent worse than league average. But again, I don’t care.
Freddy has made 17 starts and a dozen of them have been so called quality starts. I’m not sure why three runs and six innings (a 4.50 ERA) was deemed to be “quality,” but I don’t really care. That’s the kind of game the Yankees can win because of their offense and bullpen. That’s all I care about with Garcia, did he pitch well enough to win? If so, great. I don’t care if he scattered 14 hits in six innings and recorded every out on a fly ball to the warning track. Just get it done, the process is secondary.
I’m pretty sure my thinking has shifted with Garcia just because he’s relatively unorthodox. He has no velocity these days, so it’s all about disrupting the hitter’s rhythm. It’s almost inexplicable at times, with floating changeups and rolling curveballs and occasionally some mid-80’s fastballs right over the plate, it doesn’t look like it should work. I can’t explain it, it’s just a classic example of a veteran pitcher finding a way to get outs. It’s so hideously cliche, but I don’t care. Freddy’s allowing fewer runs than the Yankees are scoring and that’s all that matters.
Because he’s not a long-term piece of the Yankees puzzle, I have no trouble looking past Garcia’s process and focusing on his results. I don’t care if what he’s doing is sustainable for the long-term because it doesn’t have to be. It just has to work the rest of the season, which is very well may not. Freddy is in a league of his own with his pitching style, so I’m not going to evaluate him like everyone else. Just get out and prevent runs, I don’t care how it looks.