Complaints about Garcia don’t match reality

Pick up your head, Freddy. You weren't that bad. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

During and after last night’s game, I noticed a deluge of complaints rendered against Freddy Garcia. When they came during the game it was understandable. He put the Yankees in an early hole, and with a non-functioning offense he might as well have given up 10 runs. But he didn’t. Following Magglio Ordonez’s third-inning homer Garcia didn’t allow another run, and actually struck out seven in the next four innings. (Well, five, since two were Austin Jackson.) His line on the night was actually pretty decent: 7 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 8 GB. And the second walk came in the eighth, which he wouldn’t have pitched at all if the Yankees had scored some runs.

It’s easy to get frustrated with Garcia, because he’s the misfit of the group. The Yankees piled up veteran starters on minor league deals, because they couldn’t get Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte retired. That’s strike one. Garcia doesn’t tantalize with his stuff, basically throwing slow, slower, and slowest pitches. That’s strike two. When he gives up runs — and he absolutely will give up his fair share — that’s strike three. And so the frustrations can run high, and they’ll run higher when the Yankees aren’t doing anything on offense. Hence, the reaction to last night.

As is the case so frequently, the reaction far exceeded the infraction. Garcia actually pitched better than CC Sabathia the night before. CC clearly gets a pass, because he’s the ace and he has already contributed so much to the team. But any way you measure it, Garcia had better numbers. He allowed the same number of hits, runs, and unintentional walks, and had more strikeouts than Sabathia. Neither was stellar, and really, neither was quite good. But neither was horrible, either. That seems to get lost with Garcia.

To this point, Garcia has given the Yankees everything they could have hoped for, and perhaps more. after all, he’s thrown 25 innings to a 2.88 ERA, including two six-inning, no-run performances to start his season. Even by fielding independent numbers he’s doing fine, a 3.98 FIP and 3.70 xFIP. There is really nothing to not like about Garcia right now. Yet he generates plenty of complaints, because he happen to turn in last night’s performance when the Yankees offense had nothing.

I don’t particularly enjoy writing in response to fan reaction, but we’re all fans and we all want the same things. As it stands, Freddy Garcia is helping the Yankees towards their goal of winning the division and eventually the World Series. He’s highly flawed, which makes him an easier target. He also symbolizes the failures of the off-season, which further hurts his case. But to this point he has been better than the Yankees could have expected. Even last night he wasn’t bad. He was just not great. Which, really, is what we should get from Garcia at his best. It’s not the ideal solution, but it’s better than many of the alternatives.

Silva makes his first minor league start

And the next contestant on "Scrap Heap Sweepstakes" is... (AP Photo/Jim Bryant)

Apologies for the lack of a DotF last night, but I’ll make it up to you today with a short version…

  • Both Triple-A Scranton and Low-A Charleston had scheduled off days. Easy enough.
  • Double-A Trenton won. Cody Johnson and Corban Joseph were your offensive stars of the night; both had two hits including a homer. Austin Romine also picked up a pair of base knocks, and both CoJo and Jose Pirela tripled. Dellin Betances allowed one run across five innings, striking out five and walking no one. He also generated nine ground outs and just two air outs. Dominant, yo.
  • High-A Tampa lost again, making it 13 losses in their last 14 games. Rob Lyerly and Luke Murton each had a pair of hits, but that’s about it on offense. No extra base hits at all, just a bunch of singles all around. Carlos Silva made his first minor league appearance, allowing two runs in three innings of work. He got five ground balls and zero fly balls, striking out five and walking one. Jairo Heredia made his not-so-triumphant return from the disabled list, allowing five runs in 2.1 IP. He walked three and whiffed just one. First game back from the DL, he gets a mulligan.

Obviously Silva’s first appearance was the story of the night, as he’s now officially making his case to join the big league team. I have no idea how he looked stuff-wise, but he wasn’t exactly a blow-you-away kind of guy anyway. Silva will pound the strike zone with the sinker, and when he’s at his best he’s getting ground balls and not walking anyone. Here’s some other news and notes…

  • Remember Jose Ortegano? The Yankees re-signed him to a minor league contract after designating him for assignment and releasing him within the last two weeks. He might actually pitch this time around instead of sitting on (what I assume was) the phantom disabled list because…
  • Both Steve Garrison and Brian Anderson were placed on Double-A Trenton’s disabled list. Garrison left Tuesday’s start with a groin injury, though I’m not sure what’s up with Anderson. He’s not a phantom DL kind of guy. Poor Josh Schmidt was sent from Triple-A Scranton down to Trenton to fill one of the roster spots, that guy has done everything he’s needed to do at that level over the last season or two. Such is the life of an org arm.
  • With Garrison’s injury, four of Trenton’s five starting pitchers from the Opening Day rotation have been on the disabled list already. Betances and Manny Banuelos had the blisters, and Graham Stoneburner is still out with a sore/still neck. Shaeffer Hall is the lone survivor. Both Garrison and Stoneburner are heading to Tampa to rehab.

Even with the DL stints, Trenton’s rotation should be just fine. Both Kei Igawa and Cory Arbiso have experience starting and could move out of the bullpen temporarily, and now there’s Ortegano as well. Plus Silva figures to move up at some point, though I suspect he’ll make at least one more start for Tampa before moving up a level. Might even be two more starts just to make sure he’s stretched out to five innings properly. Hopefully he turns out better than Kevin Millwood.

Yanks offense can’t get going in second straight loss

Peekaboo! Sorry, it was the only Yanks picture available. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

In some games there is no joy. Last night that was exactly the case. For instance, getting seven innings out of Freddy Garcia, even if he allows four runs, would be perfectly fine on most nights. Hell, he struck out eight, including Miguel Cabrera twice. But no, with the offense only able to muster four hits, there was nothing remotely resembling joy in Yankee land last night. It made Monday’s game look like a route.

Only once in the evening did the Yankees have two runners on base at the same time. That came in the eighth, when they were already down 4-0 and the situation looked pretty hopeless. And, as if there couldn’t have been any other outcome, Curtis Granderson grounded into a double play. The only other real chance they had was in the fourth, when Mark Teixeira doubled with one out. But, again, they were already in a 4-0 hole. Nothing felt particularly optimistic at that point.

Some games are full of homers and fist pumps. Others are full of curses and head-hanging. The past few nights have brought much of the latter. Of course, the Yanks aren’t going to go 4 for 35 every night. There is tomorrow, of course, which is part of baseball’s beauty. Best yet, the Yanks get another crack at the Tigers and the chance to split a four-game series on the road. That isn’t all that bad an outcome, considering how they’ve played the past few nights, is it?

Jeter day-to-day with sore hip

When Joe Girardi removed Derek Jeter from the game in the bottom of the eighth, I assumed he had done so for defensive purposes. After all, Jeter had made the second out in the eighth and wouldn’t come up again in the ninth unless the Yanks had managed a rally. But alas, I was wrong as Girardi said after the game that Jeter left the game with a sore hip. The Yanks’ short stop, hitting .250/.308/.269 on the season, is now listed as day-to-day, and although he says his hip just got stiff and he’ll play tomorrow, I’d bet he’s going to miss a game or two. Hello, Eduardo Nuñez.

Hughes out at least 6-8 more weeks

Phil Hughes is at least another six weeks away from rejoining the Yankees, and the young right-hander, battling shoulder inflammation, received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder, team officials revealed before tonight’s game. While the Yankees were very concerned that Hughes was suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, the club has been more worried about Hughes’ right shoulder inflammation than they were letting on, and on April 28, they gave their number three starter an injection.

Hughes will now rest for two weeks before beginning a throwing program. If all goes according to plan, Hughes could rejoin the team in six weeks, but Brian Cashman said it could be at least another eight weeks until the starter is back on the mound in the Bronx. “Clearly he’ll have to build his arm strength up again, and that will be that true test if we’re through the woods,” the Yanks’ GM said. “Hopefully, this is just a bump in the road.” The club does not plan to send their pitcher for more tests right now, and hopefully, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon can hold the fort in his absence.

Game 28: No Curveballs

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

It’s no secret that the Yankees have been having trouble against curveballs this year, hell I’ve written two posts about it in the last week. Thankfully they don’t have to worry about that tonight since Tigers’ starter Max Scherzer is a pure fastball-changeup-slider pitcher that has never thrown anything remotely resembling a curve. So be happy for that. Scherzer’s season has been a mixed bag of really really good starts and really really bad ones. Hopefully he’s due for the later. Here’s your starting nine…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Jorge Posada, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Frankie Cervelli, C – second game in four days, it’s already begun…

Freddy Garcia, SP

Tonight’s game will air on YES at 7:05pm ET, but if you’re in the city, come hang out with Ben and I (and plenty of others) at Foley’s (33rd St. between 5th & 6th Ave.) to bitch about the game and what not. Enjoy.

Look for Swisher to break out in the coming weeks

More of this, coming soon. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

It appears as though Mark Teixeira didn’t simply buck his trend of slow Aprils. Instead, he might have handed them off to Nick Swisher. Through the team’s first 27 games Swisher is hitting .231/.348/.297, with just one home run among his 17 hits. This isn’t anything new, really. Swisher finished last April at .250/.345/.434, hitting only two home runs and four doubles in the month. What’s the difference, then, between .250 and .231 at this point in the season? Probably two measly hits. And we all know how Swisher turned it around last year.

Amid the weak outs, there are signs of encouragement from Swisher. For instance, he has 17 walks already, which is nearly a third of his total from last season. That’s in large part because he’s laying off more pitches out of the zone, both compared to last year and compared to the league average (which is important, because the league average spiked last year). That allows him to remain somewhat productive when he’s not hitting, and it will come in much more handy when he is hitting.

On area where Swisher has lagged this season is in his performance against fastballs. Even during his horrible 2008 season he produced a positive pitch type value score on fastballs. In the last two years he has been at 25.3 and 21.9 runs. This year, though, he’s a -4.2. It could be, then, that this is just a timing issue. He has also hit a disproportionate number of infield pops, which further points to a timing issue. He’s just missing on some pitches, and it’s hurting his line. There’s little reason to think this will continue, given his career numbers.

You know what else stands to improve? His BABIP. It is currently at .267, which doesn’t seem all that out of line for Swish. He did, after all, finish 2009 with a .272 BABIP. But in order to get a grasp of BABIP we need a baseline for comparison. Swisher’s current xBABIP is .309, which is far ahead of his current pace. This could again be tied to the timing issue, where he’s just making poorer contact on pitches he’d otherwise drive. It’s frustrating for now, but it’s not likely that it will continue for much longer.

We know that Swisher, like many other players, is prone to slumps. Yet he has always seemed to rally after them and put up big numbers. This year his slump is a bit more noticeable because it started early and has lasted a few weeks. Last year he had a similarly slow start, and then broke out in a big way. In a span of eight games in early May he went 14 for 32 with a double and five homers. Maybe his breakout this year won’t be quite as dramatic, but it will happen. And it doesn’t seem as though it’s that far off.