Freddy Garcia did not even make our initial AL starting pitcher rankings. After a strong start to the season, at least on the surface, in a month’s worth of work, the question is whether this old geezer has anything left to offer fantasy owners.
Including last night’s start, Garcia has posted a 23/11 K/BB ratio in 25.0 innings. His xFIP coming into the game was a serviceable 3.91, which will probably drop a bit after his latest outing. It has been a while, but Garcia has been good before. We do have to go way back to 2005 to find the last season of sub-4.00 ERA performance, which represented one of just four such seasons over his 12 year career.
Back in 2002, the earliest FanGraphs has velocity data for, his fastball averaged 93.0 miles per hour. Back then, he was a power pitcher. Then, his velocity dropped, and dropped, and dropped. Through his first 18.0 innings (excluding yesterday’s start), his fastball is down to just 86.9 miles per hour. That is one heck of a drop! Good thing Garcia appears to know this is a significant problem, as he has thrown the pitch just a bit more than 40% of the time. His main weapon has always been his slider, and he has thrown that 25% of the time this season, while featuring three other pitches as well. It is pretty rare you find a five-pitch pitcher, but even his least frequently used pitch, the curve ball, he has thrown 6.8% of the time. Hey, if your velocity is gone, then you might as well try to keep hitters guessing.
The vast array of pitches appears to be working, as he has generated a 10.2% SwStk%, a mark he matched during his short season in 2009, but had not enjoyed in a full season since 2004. This is a good sign that the now soft-tosser could see his strikeout rate rebound from his last two season’s where it stood below 6.0. His control has always been above average, but he has gotten off to a rather slow start in terms of walks. A career worst F-Strike% and extremely low Zone% support the notion that he has struggled locating his pitches in the early going. This is an issue to monitor.
Last, after last night’s start, he has now allowed more fly balls than grounders. He has always had a league average batted ball profile, so a couple of more fly balls than usual so far is nothing out of the ordinary. It does, however, highlight the risk here, especially if his control does not rebound to previous levels.
With a powerful Yankees offense behind him, the hope for improved control, and a repertoire that is inducing swinging strikes and leading to a jump in strikeout rate, I think Garcia could provide some value in AL-Only leagues. I would not recommend him in mixers, though.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.