With Opening Day just two weeks away, the Yankees are closing in on decision-making time regarding their two open starter slots. At this point, I would be very surprised if Freddy Garcia did not win one of those spots, as he has the best track record of the candidates and would likely request his release if he did not make the team. Being that we might be seeing a lot of him this season, I thought it would be instructive to put together a brief scouting report on Garcia. Larry looked at Garcia’s stats and pitch values earlier this offseason, so I will stick to looking at what he throws and when he throws it.
What He Throws
Garcia has used 5 different pitches over the course of his career: Fastball, Split-finger Fastball, Change-up, Slider, and Curveball. While he used to utilize the fastball for nearly half of his pitches, he finally acknowledged his falling velocity last season and limited the heater to 30.2% of his offerings. His three premium breaking pitches all hover around 80 MPH, giving him a decent speed differential between them and his 88 MPH fastball. In 2010, he used the slider 26.5% of the time, the change in 22.8% of pitches, and the splitter in 15.6%. Finally, he used his 70 MPH curveball as a change of pace pitch, going to it for 4.9% of all offerings. The only one of his pitches with a positive run value in 2010 was the changeup, although his splitter was not terrible and has been fairly effective in recent years.
How He Uses His Stuff
The data I have on his pitch usage comes from ESPN Insider, and it does not differentiate between types of fastballs. As such, when I refer to fastballs in this section, that category includes the splitter. Furthermore, the pitch breakdown by percentage is a bit different from the one I gave above (from Fangraphs), but not enough to change the analysis in a meaningful way.
Like most pitchers, Garcia throws a lot of fastballs early in the count. Although fastballs account for 46% of his total pitches, he throws a heater on 63% of his first pitches and 52% of pitches early in the count. However, when the count gets to two strikes, he ditches the fastball and throws a lot more sliders and changeups, which account for about half of his two-strike offerings. Similarly, he throws plenty of breaking stuff when ahead in the count (just 31% fastballs), as he is not comfortable using his fastball as an out pitch and goes to his breaking stuff whenever the count allows for it. When behind, however, he feels that he needs to pound the zone with the fastball (54%), which is probably not the greatest idea being that his fastball had about as much movement and velocity as Javier Vazquez‘ did in 2010.
As for platoon splits, one interesting thing to note is that while he uses the change and slider about 36% of the time overall, he prefers the slider against righties (24% vs 11% changes) and the changeup against lefties (24% vs 13%). Here is a pitch location breakdown by platoon split, from the pitcher’s point of view:
As you can see, Garcia lives on the outer half and the corners, rarely coming inside to righties and limiting his inside stuff against lefties to pitches down and in. I would guess that he is willing to come inside with the changeup to left-handers, as I highly doubt he is throwing his fastball to that spot very often. Against righties, he might be loathe to come inside with his breaking ball because he is afraid that it will break over the middle of the plate.
The data paints the picture of a pitcher who is trying to survive in the majors despite his loss of velocity on the fastball. He has increased his usage of his breaking pitches drastically, and goes to them frequently when trying to finish off hitters. The fastball is used to set up his other pitches and to try and get ahead in the count, or when he is behind and needs to have a strike. He has largely eschewed the inner half of the plate, another symptom of velocity loss. He is not confident in his ability to throw the heater by anybody on the inside, so he throws more than half of his pitches on the outer third. Unless he experiences a strong uptick in velocity, expect most of these tendencies to persist in 2011.
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