I know that lately, we have all had our miseries about the team’s offense and with good reason. At this point, they don’t really look like one capable of contending for a playoff spot, so that is where a lot of the current consternation is going to be at. So, instead of negativity all the time, where I want to point a lens of happiness is at a member of the bullpen who has endured the worst of times with this club, sometimes even providing those worst of times himself - Luis Garcia.
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Who cares about Garcia?” and I honestly wouldn’t blame you. Early in his career, Garcia was the guy Phillies fans least wanted to see trotting in from the bullpen since he always seemed to create more havoc than put it out. Nowadays, though, Garcia has been extremely dependable to get out when needed. We all know the story of how he got here, so there is no need to rehash that again. Instead, let’s focus on how he is actually performing.
It started last year when it seemed that all of a sudden, Luis Garcia went from a groan-inducing reliever to someone that could be trusted in high leverage situations. While he didn’t lead the team in that category (that would be the closer, of course), he was one of the top three arms to be used when the game was on the line last season. This year, he has quietly been almost as successful. 2018 for Garcia can be broken up into three separate parts which you can see here (yes, small sample sizes):
Luis Garcia 2018
|3/29 - 5/16||16||2.81||3.34||19.1%||9.5%||0||50.0%||27.5%||0.202|
|5/17 - 6/12||8.2||8.31||3.96||27.5%||0.0%||2.1||48.1%||29.6%||0.402|
|7/23 - 8/12||8||0.00||1.16||43.8%||12.5%||0||50.0%||21.4%||0.263|
The middle stretch is where Garcia found the most issues. It’s also the point right before he went on the disabled list with a wrist injury. He hadn’t given up any home runs before that, but in the midst of that stretch of time, the ones he did give up killed him, inflating his ERA well above what were some very good peripheral numbers. That stretch also marked a time when Garcia began to pitch away from what had made him successful thus far into the season:
You can see that for some reason in the middle of June, Garcia started relying more on his splitter than usual (note: Brooks Baseball calls it a changeup; everyone else calls it a splitter. I’m calling it a splitter from here on out). It could have something to do with his wrist bothering him as he wasn’t able to throw his slider as much if he was in pain, but since he has come back to the team, he has begun to show that something is different. He is striking men out at a higher clip than at any point this year, he’s generating groundballs more often and he’s been pretty much dominant since that return from the disabled list. It’s apparent that getting that wrist healthy has helped him regain trust in his best pitch as well. It stands for good reason too. According to Fangraphs, out of all 157 relievers who have thrown at least 30 innings and have registered sliders, Garcia’s slider is the 31st most effective pitch. He has been showing a repeatable ability to get whiffs on the pitch as well, watching his whiffs per swing climb on the pitch as his career has gone on. It shows a pattern of a pitcher who is, later on in his career, starting to get better.
With all the baseball that has been difficult to watch in the last week, having a bullpen that for the most part has been one of the better ones in baseball lately to fall back on is comforting. Knowing that pennant races can come down to who is better in the late innings means that a team better be prepared to handle those tough pressure situations. Luis Garcia, after being the poster boy for relief struggles from the Phillies the past few years, has shown that he has grown as a pitcher and can be relied on for most any situation. It’s refreshing to see after what we had to watch earlier in his career.