Luis Garcia Has Become the Phillies Bullpen Workhorse

Luis Garcia was a great story back in 2013. He was a 26 year old who had been out of affiliated baseball for 2 full seasons, had barely pitched above low-A, and was working as a barber. After destroying three levels of the Phillies’ system, Garcia reached the majors in July. He had a hard fastball and nowhere to throw it. He would spent 2014 for the most part in Lehigh Valley, winning the Paul Owens Award in a weak farm system. His 2015 season would yield major league success, but also a bunch of walks and inconsistent game to game results. In 2016 he posted an ERA over 6 in the majors in 15.1 innings, and spent most of the year in AAA. When the Phillies faced a 40 man roster crunch in the fall of 2016, it looked like Garcia and Adam Morgan were on the outside. The Phillies kept Garcia, citing his new splitter and their lack of major league ready relief depth. He pitched in 5 games for the Phillies in April before being in AAA until May. Garcia has been in the majors since.

He has been good since then as well. In the last calendar year here is how Luis Garcia ranks among pitchers with 0 starts and at least 50 innings pitched (157 qualified):

Games Pitched – 10th (75)
Innings Pitched – 12th (78.1)
ERA – 38th (2.76)
GB% – 17th (56.5%)
HR/9 – 4th (0.34)

It is easy on some level to see why Garcia has success. He throws really hard, averaging about 97mph on his fastball. The pitch has movement on it too. The problem is that Garcia doesn’t actually miss bats. He has a 20.9% K% this season, following up a 20.3% rate last season. The league average strikeout rate for relievers is 24.2%, and Garcia is in the bottom third of relievers in the majors in striking out batters. A lot of that blame lies with his fastball, which has a whiff percentage of 7.6% and 8.3% the last two years. What the pitch does have going for it is a great groundball percentage with about 60% of all balls in play off of it ending up on the ground. Now Garcia isn’t just pounding the strike zone with fastballs hoping for a weak ground ball. He has a slider and a splitter, both of which are good pitches, generating decent numbers on swings and misses on their own. This has helped reduce Garcia’s walk rate and allow him to be efficient, because batters are getting behind in counts and having to put the fastball in play.

This all makes Garcia kind of a weird pitcher in the modern game. He has power stuff, but his entire success model hinges on poor contact. It has really worked so far with opposing batters hitting 13 extra bases total off of him in the past two seasons. He has been especially devastating to righties, but the development of his splitter has led to slightly better success against lefties than early in his career. The lack of overpowering swing and miss stuff does cap Garcia’s ceiling. He is never going to be a closer, he is probably not going to be the shut down 8th inning guy on his own. What he has been is a guy that the Phillies have been able to rely on against tough right handed batters in high leverage situations. It will likely change as Tommy Hunter gets established and Pat Neshek gets back, but Garcia, Arano, and Morgan have been Kapler’s go to 7th-8th inning bridge relievers and so far they have been up to the task. All that isn’t bad for a guy who has seen career almost end a few times.

Stats from Fangraphs and Brooksbaseball

 

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12 comments

  1. Walt

    April 26, 2018 05:14 PM

    The new Phillie manager is a big plus and a beautiful thing to behold. This guy is as close to Pete Rose as they can get and I love how he goes against convention and totally mixes it up. Just a fantastic addition. The fans who down grade him are simply not very sophisticated. I bet he does not think these are LudicrouS concepts: southpaws, bunt for base hit, scroogies, roles of mercenaries and their negative effects on Whiz Kid culture, switch hitter training, base stealing at top of order, platoon systems to play percentages, throw the entire staff at opponent if needed in key situational series’; pinch hit specialists, three backstop option, play the kids at all costs for bonafide 2020 run to World Series ad infinitum. LudicrouS concepts. One thing that the new field general needs to focus on to earn that critical base on balls; a midget needs to be called up pronto.

    • Steve

      April 26, 2018 07:40 PM

      You can pitch Lively, Pivetta, VV, Eshelman, any SP not named Nola as much as you want, none of them will be better than “the mercenary” Arrieta. I would love a WS run in 2020, but that’s not exclusive to us contending, or even making the playoffs in 18 or 19. In fact, Pivetta credited Arrieta and Hunter for his improved efficiency and attacking the strike zone.

    • Romus

      April 27, 2018 08:59 AM

      Walt……you say Pete Rose…I say Gene Mauch…..except for the last ten games in ’64.
      Kapler seems to want to take the risk.

    • Steve

      April 27, 2018 10:38 AM

      blah, blah, blah….man you like to wind and rewind the same monologue over and over. You do know they won’t tag you with “Frequent writer ” status no mater how much you blather on here, don’t you?

  2. Walt

    April 26, 2018 09:10 PM

    Attendance has gone from 3.7mil to 1.9mil. The mercenaries are an experiment to spike it. If the experiment does not produce desired incremental revenue results as the season reaches benchmarks; the mercenary contracts will be dumped on desperate contenders thinking they need one arm or bat to get over the top. The Phils will realize the experiment is too risky to alienate the new Whiz Kids’ culture. The Phils need real pitching coaches and not a 75mil dollar man to give out a few crumbs of advice here and there. Who is this Hutchison? He does not have much of a track record. Neshek at 37 and Hunter are not very encouraging. The Phils need to seriously evaluate their South American scouting objectives and pair them with coaching strengths. The results to justify this investment are not there. If this is a Fortune 200, this department would have been downsized or eliminated years ago. Baseball is simply a young man’s game. The hope of this franchise is to keep getting younger; not older. They need to find an Al Kaline out of high school for the big impact; not discarded and down trending, aging mercenaries with limited track records .

    • Steve

      April 26, 2018 11:44 PM

      You hit the nail on the head. Honestly, Kingery is even old for a rookie. They should trade him now for a package of 16yr old South Americans. Fortunately, they have cap room to eat most of Arrieta’s contract when we need to dump him midseason for minimal return. Get younger, learn to bunt, build for 2025

      • awh

        April 27, 2018 11:26 AM

        Steve, screw 2025. Dump them all and spend millions scouting little leagues globally.

        2030 or bust!

      • Steve

        April 27, 2018 12:02 PM

        Thats aggressive, but I like it. It would really help build the Whiz Kids mentality if we could get all these kids playing AAU on the same team. They could really build that clubhouse chemistry, while developing their switch hitting and bunting skills throughout their teens.

  3. Aaron Warren

    April 27, 2018 01:15 AM

    Nice article on one of the more over-looked pieces of the rebuild. I think there might be a bit more ceiling here, however, as it seems like Garcia doesn’t have a “put-away” pitch but is young enough (26) to still tinker.

    Also, we are looking for writers over at the Phorum (phillyphorum.blogspot.com/). We’re not in the same league as you guys, more whimsical, opinion, type stuff. If anyone is interested, or if you know someone, please send them our way.

  4. Aaron Warren

    April 27, 2018 01:45 AM

    Err.. ah..er… so (deep sigh of shame).. yeah, I know Garcia’s not 26 anymore… but still hold to the idea that he might be able to tinker and find a put-away pitch.

  5. Romus

    April 27, 2018 09:06 AM

    Great analysis.
    What I find pretty amazing with Luis Garcia and the results he has produced so far…..he does not throw a 2SMr at all……and still gets a high GB%.
    The slider/splitter must have great action to get the occasional off the barrel contacts but really the high swing and miss.

  6. Bob D

    April 27, 2018 03:47 PM

    Neris has been shaky this year

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