Archive for Freddy Garcia
During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?
Although the Yankees have the best record in baseball, they have yet to really fire on all cylinders. They have a number of players who have not produced as expected so far, including some high-profile guys in prominent roles.
Father Time catches up to everyone, even players who were once historically great. A-Rod was able to avoid the DL in the first half thanks to Joe Girardi‘s plan of regular rest, but the production has not improved as hoped. Alex is hitting just .269/.357/.436 with 13 homers overall, on pace for what will likely become the worst season of career after setting a new low-water mark a year ago. His strikeout rate (22.0%) is his highest since 1996, his walk rate (10.3%) his second lowest since 2001, and his ISO (.167) his lowest ever.
Obviously there’s a lot going on here. A-Rod will turn 37 later this month, so age-related decline as already set in. Numerous lower body injuries in recent years — torn hip labrum and knee surgery chief among them — have impacted his ability to incorporate his lower half into his swing, resulting in the power decline. He’s more of an arms hitter than ever before. His struggles with runners in scoring position (.215/.354/.367) only exacerbate the problem. There’s no BABIP correction coming (he’s at .318 right now) and the power is unlikely to re-emerge. A-Rod is not a superstar anymore, get used to it.
Teixeira’s offseason and Spring Training work drew lots of attention as he focused on hitting the ball the other way to beat the shift and improve his declining batting average. Everything looked fine during the first two weeks of the season, as he hit a solid .288/.354/.508 through the team’s first 15 games. Teixeira fell off in a big way after that, hitting just .135/.185/.220 in his next 16 games. He got hot a few games after that, but then Girardi decided to sit him for three games due to an ongoing cough that has since been diagnosed as nerve damage to his vocal cords.
The rest helped the cough and at some point during those three days, Teixeira decided to abandon everything he’d been working on and get back to being a pull-happy slugger. What he was doing before just wasn’t working. The early returns were positive — four homers in his next seven games — but Teixeira’s production soon slowed down once again. Through the team’s first 85 games, their first baseman is hitting .250/.334/.473 after putting up a .248/.341/.494 batting line last year, the second worst of his career outside of his rookie season.
Teixeira’s production has been better than league average but again, below his normal standards even if you were expecting him to simply repeat last year. His 15 homers are well behind his usual pace — he had 25 at the break last summer — and his walk rate has dipped from 13.1% in 2010 to 11.1% in 2011 to 10.7% in 2010. A ten-point boost in BABIP from last year hasn’t helped his average much, unsurprisingly. The big problem right now is that not only has his average and OBP suffered, but he’s not hitting the ball out of the park as often either. His defense is still all-world, but Teixeira’s production at the plate has declined for the fourth straight season.
Nick Swisher & Russell Martin
The Yankees can survive a few sluggish bats because they have a deep lineup, but even the production from lower down in the order has suffered. Swisher is in the middle of a contract year but is hitting just .262/.336/.477 so far. The power production is obviously fine, but his 10.1% walk rate is the second lowest of his career and well below his 13.3% career average. Swisher’s strikeout rate (22.0%) is up slightly compared to recent years, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he’s swinging at 23.6% of the pitches he sees outside of the strike zone. Last year it was just 17.5%. He’s doing damage when he makes contact, but a big part of Swisher’s value is his ability to be get on-base in ways other than a hit. He hasn’t done much of that in 2012.
Martin, on the other hand, hasn’t done much offensively at all. His .179/.300/.348 batting line is below average even for a catcher, and although he’s shown signs of breaking out on occasion, it never lasted. Martin will have a good game or two every once in a while then slide back into a prolonged slump. He’s striking out way more than usual (20.2% strikeouts this year, 14.6% career) despite swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (15.4%) than ever before. His .193 (!) BABIP should improve in the second half just by pure luck, but the quality of Martin’s contact has not been good all year. You really can’t understate how awful he was in the first half.
Although he just turned in a damn fine start against the Red Sox in Fenway Park, Garcia has been a disappointment overall. His first four starts in April were a total disaster, I’m talking a 20 runs in 13.2 innings kind of disaster. The Yankees shipped him off to the bullpen where he worked sparingly in low-leverage situations, then reinserted him into back into the rotation once CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte hit the disabled list. Freddy has pitched well in his two starts back, but that doesn’t wash away the stench of April. Overall, Garcia has pitched to a 5.23 ERA (4.16 FIP) in 43 innings. Here’s to a much more successful second half.
When the season opened, the Yankees planned to give A-Rod and Derek Jeter time at DH against left-handed pitchers while Nunez filled in on the infield. They did just that for a few weeks, but Nunez’s defense — four errors in 20 games plus several other botched plays — became such an issue that he had to be demoted to Triple-A in early-May. He was hitting just fine, especially for a utility infielder (.294/.356/.373), but the glovework just could not be tolerated anymore. Nunez committed two errors in four Triple-A games before being placed on the DL with a thumb injury. He had a chance to really step up and force his way into the team’s long-term plans this season, but now he doesn’t even have much trade value.
For the first two months of the season, Wade was absolutely lights out while David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were on the DL. He also threw a lot of innings and made a lot of appearances, and that may have contributed to one of the worst pitched months in recent Yankees history. Wade has allowed 25 hits and 18 runs in 10.1 innings since the calendar flipped to June, earning him a demotion to Triple-A. His ERA climbed from 3.34 to 6.48 in his last three appearances alone (13 runs in 3.2 IP). It’s all about command with him; when he missed his spots with his soft stuff, it got hammered. Wade was tremendously useful last year and at the start of this year, but now the Yankees have to be wondering if he’s even salvageable.
Lost in the frustration of last night’s loss was Freddy Garcia‘s strong performance in his return to the rotation. The injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte forced the Yankees to remove Freddy from the long man role and essentially make him the fourth starter, and he responded by allowing just two runs in 5.1 innings while being held to a 75-pitch limit. His last pitch was a game-tying solo homer by Carlos Pena, so his night ended on a sour note, but otherwise he did exactly what the team needed him to do.
“I need to step up,” said Garcia after last night’s game. “We’ve got a couple of guys hurt. I want to do good. That’s all, man. I want to pitch good. I’ve got the chance again, and I want to take my opportunity to prove I can be in the starting rotation.”
Of course, Freddy was banished to the bullpen because he was a disaster in April. He pitched to a 12.51 ERA (5.39 FIP) in his four starts, failing to complete even two full innings twice. Joe Girardi used him very sparingly during May and June — ten appearances (17.1 IP) in the team’s 54 games — and very rarely in a close game. Seven of those ten appearances came with the score separated by three or more runs. Freddy pitched well though (1.57 ERA and 2.94 FIP) and despite all that talk about his fastball velocity coming back, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it in the PitchFX data. I think that might have to do with the system’s issues classifying his repertoire more than anything.
For a while I was on the “just release Garcia” bandwagon, which was really born out of frustration as the team struggled in mid-May. When the Yankees are losing we want to see changes made, it’s human nature, and Freddy was an easy move to make. Obviously the club is smarter than me (and you) and they decided to keep the pitching depth, which is coming in mighty handy right now. The fact that Freddy isn’t some kid they have to baby is a plus as well; the Yankees can be aggressive with him and run him out there for 74 pitches after he hadn’t thrown more than 33 in a month like they did last night.
The Garcia we saw last night was pretty much the guy we saw all of last season, a super-finesse guy who generated some weak contact, some hard-hit outs, and kept the Yankees in the game. With Sabathia and Pettitte out for the time being, that’s what the team is going to need Freddy to do in his spot starts. Given his track record and the general unpredictability of young pitchers like David Phelps and Adam Warren, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the sweaty one assumed Pettitte’s rotation spot in the long-term, or at least until the Yankees go out and make a trade.
In the span of about five hours yesterday, the Yankees lost their two best starting pitchers to injury. First CC Sabathia was placed on the DL with a left adductor strain, then Andy Pettitte was struck by a batted ball and suffered a fractured left ankle. Brian Cashman said Sabathia could have pitched through his injury if this was the stretch drive or postseason, but they decided to play it safe. Obviously they didn’t have the same choice with Pettitte.
“CC is due back right after the (All-Star break),” said Cashman after yesterday’s game. “Andy, you’re talking about a minimum of six weeks of healing, and as a starter you have to get him going again, so I’ll throw two months in there in Andy’s case. We’ll just have to figure it out and see what happens. I would prefer not to go outside. Obviously if we do go outside, we’ve done that before. This is part of the process. You have to have alternatives. This gives opportunities for people to step up. Just like some guys in the bullpen have allowed us to step up and withstand some injuries — that’s what Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, and [Cody Eppley] have done — we’re going to have to ask for some other guys to do that for the rotation, as well. Let’s play it out and see where it takes us.”
The plan right now calls for Adam Warren to start in Sabathia’s place on Friday — he started for Triple-A Empire State on Sunday and lines up perfectly for tomorrow — and for Freddy Garcia to take Pettitte’s place on Monday. Ryota Igarashi is coming up from Triple-A to take Garcia’s spot in the bullpen, leaving the team without a true long reliever for the time being. In the short-term, the rotation shakes out like this…
- Thursday, 6/28 vs. White Sox: Ivan Nova
- Friday, 6/29 vs. White Sox: Warren
- Saturday, 6/30 vs. White Sox: Hiroki Kuroda
- Sunday, 7/1 vs. White Sox: Phil Hughes
- Monday, 7/2 @ Rays: Garcia
- Tuesday, 7/3 @ Rays: Nova
- Wednesday, 7/4 @ Rays: Warren
- Thursday, 7/5: scheduled day off
- Friday, 7/6 @ Red Sox: Kuroda
- Saturday, 7/7 @ Red Sox (doubleheader): Hughes and Garcia*
- Sunday, 7/8 @ Red Sox: Nova
* Garcia will be on regular rest for the July 7th doubleheader thanks to that scheduled day off.
That takes the Yankees right to the All-Star break, after which Sabathia is scheduled to return. Assuming all goes well with CC, he’ll take either Garcia’s or Warren’s spot depending on how each guy performs in their two-start audition. If both guys are performing poorly, the Yankees will also have the option of bringing David Phelps back, who will be five starts into his minor league stint by then and presumably able to throw 95+ pitches. There’s always D.J. Mitchell as well, but he could wind up taking Igarashi’s spot sooner rather than later if the braintrust feels a long man is needed. Given Garcia’s short leash due to his time in the pen and the general unpredictability associated with a young guy like Warren, having a long man would probably be a pretty good idea.
The Yankees don’t rush into panic moves, at least not under Cashman in recent years. They have enough arms to get them to the All-Star break, then they can re-evaluate things once Sabathia returns. If neither Garcia, Warren, Phelps, or Mitchell distinguishes themselves in the rotation, they’ll still have plenty of time to explore the trade market. They could go big (Cole Hamels, Matt Garza or Zack Greinke), go medium (Ryan Dempster or Wandy Dempster), or go small (Jeremy Guthrie or Francisco Liriano). I suppose it depends on Pettitte’s rehab and how Hughes is holding up because frankly, we have reason to doubt his ability to remain effective over the course of a full season.
The Bombers have the makings of a really strong rotation on the DL with Sabathia and Pettitte joining Michael Pineda, so their big league staff has been compromised. The starters have been carrying the team for the last six weeks or so and now the offense is going to have to return the favor a bit, simply because there is no reasonable way to expect anyone to replace the two guys the Yankees lost yesterday. The good news is that they’re in a better position to absorb these losses than at any point in the last like, ten years really. For a while there were no internal options — hence Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon and Sidney Ponson– now there’s several. The Yankees will cycle through them and tread water for a few weeks, at least until Sabathia gets healthy and maybe until the trade deadline.
The Yankees have received some pretty stellar pitching over the last three weeks or so, and it’s about to get a whole lot better. David Robertson aced his second minor league rehab appearances yesterday afternoon, and afterward Joe Girardi confirmed that his top setup man will rejoin the team today and be activated off the DL on Friday. Cory Wade and Boone Logan have done a superb job setting up Rafael Soriano in recent weeks, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve all missed Robertson in the late innings.
Getting Robertson back on the roster won’t be a problem but the Yankees do have some roster flexibility and a number of different options. We know Wade, Logan, and Rafael Soriano aren’t going anywhere, but there’s a case to be made that everyone else in the bullpen should be replaced. Each has their own pros and cons, of course.
Sending Eppley back to Triple-A seems like the most obvious move since he’s been the designated up-and-down guy early this season. He hasn’t pitched great but he hasn’t been ineffective either — 3.55 ERA with a 4.55 FIP and a 67.5% ground ball rate — and lately Joe Girardi has been using him as a right-handed/ground ball specialist in the sixth and seventh innings. That’s the best way to use the sidewinder, though a ROOGY isn’t exactly the most efficient use of roster space. The Yankees could send Eppley down on Friday and call him up at a later point without a problem.
Do you know how long it’s been since Phelps has appeared in a game? Eleven days now. He hasn’t pitched since game two of the Tigers series in Detroit, when he started the bottom of the ninth inning in the eventual walk-off loss. Phelps has made two appearances totaling five outs in the last 20 days, and his brief warm-up session last night was the first time he’s even done that much since the Tigers’ game. The Yankees don’t need to carry two long-men and although Phelps has done nothing to lose his job — 2.94 ERA and 4.50 FIP — they could opt to send him to Triple-A to make sure he gets regulars innings as a starting pitcher. Winning is always the number one goal, but the Yankees could send him down to focus on his development without weakening the big league club.
Since being banished to the bullpen, Sweaty Freddy has worked sparingly in mop-up duty. He missed a few days following the death of his grandfather but has otherwise appeared in just six of the club’s last 41 games, and only once in those six games was the score separated by fewer than three runs. It’s been pure mop-up work and is totally redundant with Phelps on the roster. Freddy has no trade value so the Yankees would have to just cut ties with him, a legitimate option but probably not the smartest thing in the world. Pitching depth has a way of disappearing quickly and Garcia can do a lot of different things if needed, particularly start.
Cutting Rapada was unlikely even before his recent stretch of solid pitching (despite a heavy workload). The Yankees obviously place some value on having two left-handers out in the bullpen given how much money they’ve spent on those guys in recent years, and for the most part Rapada has done the job. He is out of minor league options, so the Yankees wouldn’t be able to send him to the minors without first passing him through waivers. Rapada ain’t clearing waivers, I can promise you that.
* * *
The Yankees have enough bullpen depth that there’s no obvious candidate to go once Robertson is healthy. They’re going to shed one solid bullpen arm in favor of an elite reliever, and that’s pretty awesome. Since we polled you folks about replacing Brett Gardner internally yesterday, we might as well do the same for getting Robertson back on the roster.
The Yankees have place Freddy Garcia on the bereavement list and recalled Ryota Igarashi from Triple-A. Garcia is returning home to Venezuela following the death of his grandfather, so condolences to him and his family. He can remain on the bereavement list for up to eight days. Igarashi was claimed off waivers a little more than a week ago and is expected to arrive in the Bronx in time for first pitch. He threw 18 pitches in Triple-A just last night.
Freddy Garcia would probably like a mulligan on 2012. Things started to look down for him as early as January, when the Yankees traded for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda on the same night. With those two added to the rotation, it appeared that Garcia might have been the odd man out. In fact, throughout spring training it appeared that he’d end up in the bullpen, giving chances to Pineda and Phil Hughes.
Pineda’s injury opened up that rotation spot for Garcia, and given his spring performance he seemed to deserve it. But the season has been anything but kind to him. It started with an outing against Baltimore in which he uncorked five wild pitches while allowing four runs in 4.2 innings. After allowing at least five run in each of his next three outings, the Yankees removed him from the rotation. Now he languishes in the bullpen, reserved for true mop-up situations.
Yet in his three relief appearances, all consisting of two innings, he has pitched very well. All in all he has allowed one unearned run on three hits and two walks. He has struck out four, though three of them came in his last outing. Oddly enough, though, he’s generated just one swing and miss during that period. But even without the whiffs he’s still thrown strikes, 64 percent of his 88 pitches. He’s also seen an uptick in his velocity, averaging just under 90 mph with his sinker — about 2 mph faster than it was in April while in the rotation.
With the bullpen injuries, many players will see their roles change. Boone Logan could see some higher leverage spots. As Dan Barbarisi writes in the Wall Street Journal, Cory Wade has become more vital. Yet as with the previous setup corps of Robertson and Soriano, these guys can’t take all of the setup innings. The Yanks will need others to step up. While se might see potential in the young Phelps, there is still Garcia to consider. The Yanks are paying him and apparently aren’t going to cut him. So why not see what he can deliver out of the pen? The results so far have been encouraging, at least.
Update (12:09pm): As expected, Eppley has been sent down to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Mitchell.
11:42am: Freddy Garcia has been bumped from the rotation and will pitch out of the bullpen for the first time in his career. Joe Girardi hinted at both Mitchell and David Phelps being candidates to fill the rotation void, probably depending on who is needed out of the bullpen the next few days.
10:48am:The Yankees have recalled D.J. Mitchell from Triple-A, the team announced. There’s no word on the corresponding roster move, but I suspect Cody Eppley will be sent down after throwing three innings and 37 pitches yesterday. No 40-man roster move is required.
Mitchell, 24, was scheduled to start for Triple-A Empire State today, so he’s fresh and available for a whole lot of innings. He had been the best starter on the club’s top minor league affiliate in the early going, pitching to a 3.13 ERA with 8.22 K/9 (24.1 K%), 2.74 BB/9 (8.1 BB%), and a 48% ground ball rate in 21 IP across four starts. I ranked him as the Yankees’ 16th best prospect before the season.
Following tonight’s game, Joe Girardi announced that the Yankees will remain on rotation and Freddy Garcia will start Saturday’s game against the Tigers. Ivan Nova will pitch Friday and CC Sabathia will pitch Sunday. The Yankees could have used Thursday’s off day to skip Garcia and delay his next start until next Monday against the Orioles. That’s what I would have done given how awful Freddy’s been, but whatever.
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.