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.