Faltering Freddy

Batters are hitting Garcia hard: 25.6% of the batted balls against him have been line drives, and this is the highest line drive percentage against any pitcher in baseball this year (minimum 50 innings pitched).  Earlier in the season, Garcia survived this barrage of hard-hit balls with more than a little luck: the batting average on balls in play (BABiP) against Garcia was only .204 in April; it rose to a more normal .312 in May.  In similar fashion, Garcia was able to strand an astounding 93.4% of runners on base in April; this percentage dropped to a pedestrian 79.8% in May (Garcia’s career LOB% is 73.2%).  As Garcia’s luck returned to something closer to normal, hitters raised their batting average against Garcia by more than 100 points (.182 in April, .286 in May). Garcia’s WHIP ratio (ratio of walks and hits allowed to innings pitched) rose from 1.17 in April to 1.40 in May.

Let’s look a bit longer at Garcia’s line drive percentage and BABiP against. If Garcia continues to allow line drives at a 25% clip, then even maintaining a .312 BABiP will require some luck. Some figure on average that batters will hit at around a .720 BABiP for line drives, a .231 BABiP for ground balls and a .171 BABiP for fly balls.  With Garcia’s current split between line drives, ground balls and fly balls, Garcia’s projected BABiP is .334, meaning that Garcia was still lucky to achieve the results he saw in May.

Garcia is being hit hard because he doesn’t have much left in the tank.  Garcia’s fastball is so ineffective (85 – 87 MPH on average tonight) that he cannot afford to throw it very often. Before tonight, only 35.7% of Garcia’s pitches were fastballs – that’s the second smallest percentage in the American League, behind Dan Haren (who throws more cutters than fastballs). Garcia tries to survive with a combination of splitters, sliders, curveballs, and guile.  But without a major league fastball, Garcia’s cutter and slider become his primary pitches, and those pitches need to be outstanding – or else (as his BABiP numbers would indicate) he has to get lucky and have a lot of line drives hit right at his fielders in order to survive.

Garcia did not have this kind of luck tonight. He may need his luck to return if he’s going to hold a spot in the Yankees’ rotation.

10 thoughts on “Faltering Freddy

    • Noesi to start; leave Garcia in the pen until there is a better option to bring up.

    • I completely agree with Noesi starting. But my point is that he can only replace one of the two guys who need to be replaced. Thus, we hope that Garcia/Nova can last until Hughes comes back. And if he is no better than when he left…..

    • I put "quality starts" in quotes because I know it's not everyone's favorite. But with the way the Yankees hit, the QS stat takes on meaning: the Yankees should be in every game that begins with a QS, and they should win most of them. Also, for Garcia a QS is pretty close to his ceiling.

  1. We knew the rotation was going to be a major issue this season. It was only a matter of time before it all started to fall apart. I think Noesi should take Garcia's spot, and then we hope that Nova can hold it together

  2. What happens next is that Garcia takes his next spot in the rotation, he pitches and we see what happens. It is possible that Noesi is as good as he looked last night, but we can't make starting rotation decisions based on one good long relief appearance. It is also possible that Hughes will not pitch for the Yanks again in 2011, or that he'll return in some kind of bullpen role. In any event, as the commenters above pointed out, we have two question marks in the rotation. If you review a site like FanGrpahs to check out some of Garcia's terrible peripheral numbers, you'll find that Nova has some peripheral numbers that are as bad or worse.

    Also, let's not get carried away. The top of the Yankees' rotation (and pinch me, because in my mind I have Bartolo Colon for the moment as part of the top of the rotation) has pitched well. And the guys across the diamond from us last night also have big questions at the bottom of their rotation.

    • Noesi has made more than one good relief outing though. Of course, by the same token, his peripheral numbers aren't stellar either, but some of that can be a matter of the small sample size in innings and the role he's pitched in as well. On the whole I don't really see a reason not to give him a chance.

      • Noesi's made 4 appearances this year. Last night's was the first that lasted more than 4 innings. Outside of Noesi's win in the 15 inning game against Baltimore (where Noesi pitched 4 innings, mostly because the Yankees had run out of pitchers), Noesi's longest appearance before last night was 3 innings and 35 pitches. He threw 71 pitches last night, the most he's thrown in one appearance as a Yankee, and even with last night the kid's thrown exactly 15.1 innings in the big leagues. You're also taking about a guy who'd never pitched above the A level until last year, and who has logged only 39.1 innings career-wise in AAA! He didn't exactly dominate AAA either, where he pitched to a 1.55 WHIP ratio, 3 walks per nine innings, a 1.9 strikeout to walk ratio and a K/9 ratio of only 5.7 — and all of those AAA numbers were worse in 2011 than in 2010.

        Noesi is a top prospect, but he's projected at best as a back of the rotation guy. He's a guy who relies on command more than stuff, he's a fly ball pitcher, and he doesn't really have a true "out" pitch (per FanGraphs latest review of Yankees prospects). None of this will change if we decide to "give him a chance" — he's going to scuffle at the bottom of the rotation just like Garcia. He may scuffle better, but given his low ceiling and lack of experience, I can't see Noesi offering much improvement over Garcia.