Last year it felt as though Freddy Garcia possessed a remarkable ability to pitch his way out of a jam. When the going got tough, Freddy got going, amping up his arsenal and cutting down hitters when the situations mattered the most. It was through his performances with runners on base, with runners in scoring position, and in high-leverage situations that allowed him to keep his ERA shiny — and keep the Yanks out of trouble.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how Freddy fared in various situations.
|Men on Base||17.5%||6%*||0.92||.266|
*Unintentional walk rate
While the above data shows us why Garcia was able to maintain a 3.62 ERA against a 4.12 FIP and 4.36 xFIP, it also screams something to the SABR-influenced crowd: regression. Garcia’s performances when runs were at stake might have made his 2011 numbers look nice, but surely that’s not sustainable. Right? When we’re trying to project a pitcher’s numbers we should be looking for skills and not fluke performances. And so the Yankees’ decision to re-sign Garcia might appear a foolish one. How could they be so fooled by these fluky numbers?
Garcia’s situation presents one reason why you see less statistic-heavy work on RAB than you might have in the past. That is to say, there are many flaws in the SABR doctrine. A SABR-inclined analyst might come to the above conclusion, that Freddy got so incredibly lucky in specific situations last year that it simply could not last. Yet such analysis would be woefully incomplete without a reference point. Might it be that Garcia has excelled in these situations throughout his career? Turns out, that is exactly the case. Here are the same numbers, taken from Garcia’s 14-year career.
|Men on Base||16.1%||6.3%*||0.96||.284|
*Unintentional walk rate
Despite Garcia being a completely different pitcher today than he was in 2001, he still follows these trends. During the course of his entire career, comprising 8,861 batters faced, he has shown a knack for working out of jams. In fact, one of the only seasons in which he did not display these trends, 2010, was his first full season after undergoing labrum and rotator cuff surgeries. Once he familiarized himself with his new limitations, he went right back to his old trends. (That’s my narrative, and I’m sticking to it.)
This year Garcia is demonstrating similar, though not altogether the same, trends. He’s striking out more hitters with men on base than he is with the bases empty. He’s walking fewer. Both of his two home runs allowed have come with the bases empty. The killer, however, is BABIP. He’s allowed a .524 BABIP with men on base, and .471 with men in scoring position. He has a mere 47.2 percent strand rate. Absolutely nothing is going Freddy’s way this season.
While we should expect Freddy’s BABIP numbers to fall, it’s not because he’s merely getting unlucky. In his three starts Garcia has displayed a marked lack of command. It’s not as bad as his debut, in which he let loose five wild pitches. But his command is nowhere near the level it was last year. For Garcia, 35, that should be something he finds soon enough. And when he does, his performances will significantly improve. As long as nothing is wrong physically, it should just be a matter of patience.
Chances are Garcia has already pitched himself out of the rotation with these first three starts. Hell, he might have been out of a spot since the day Andy Pettitte announced his comeback. Until then, though, the Yankees can display some patience with Garcia. Unless something physical is hampering his command, he should be able to trot out there every five days and turn in quality performances, as he did in 2011.