Cardinal Mythbusting: Jaime Garcia’s Road Woes

Jaime Garcia can’t pitch on the road.”

We’ve all said it at one time or another.  We’ve complained he’s a creature of habit, that he just can’t adjust to different routines.  He needs the home cooking, he needs to be under the Arch.  It’s a fairly accepted part of Cardinal discussion, I think.  Given that Garcia hasn’t pitched much in the last couple of years, it’s not like he’s had much chance to get that out of the narrative.

And the career numbers back that up.

Category Home Away
ERA 2.87 4.19
BA .241 .278
HR 23 23
IP 310 272.2
K/9 7.35 6.93
WHIP 1.17 1.46

Yet, as I said when I looked at Lance Lynn and his big inning reputation, so often things get into our mindset, into the narrative, and they can’t be easily uprooted.  So I wanted to see if Garcia’s recent performance indicated that, perhaps, he’s doing better away from home than we reflexively expect.

As I did with Lynn, I went through the box scores of some of Garcia’s games.  In this case, I selected a more recent sample of home and road games and jotted down some basic numbers.  What I found was pretty surprising. (As always, I apologize for any calculation errors, as I’m doing much of this by hand.)

Let’s start with this year’s splits. Garcia’s thrown five starts this year, two on the road and three at home.

Category 2014 Home 2014 Away
W 0 2
ERA 6.16 1.42
BA .254 .188
HR 5 0
IP 19 12.2
K/9 7.11 7.82
WHIP 0.95 0.95

Of course, the problem with that few games is that one bad inning can really skew things.  Garcia allowed six runs against the Royals in the fifth inning in his last home start.  Make that a scoreless frame and his home ERA dips to 3.32.  While you can’t discount that, especially not entirely, it does show that the 6+ mark might be a little inflated.

On the flip side, the road ERA is influenced by the fact that Garcia threw seven scoreless innings on Sunday against the Blue Jays.  However, that is a data point that goes toward the premise we are looking at here, because given the narrative, there is no way Garcia should have been able to have that kind of success away from home (in a foreign country, even!).  So while it’s just one game, it’s definitely interesting.

Let’s expand the scope a bit.  Let’s take the last five home starts and last five road starts (regular season) and compare them.  That gets us into last year, due to Garcia’s shoulder issues, but it helps filter out a little of the noise and makes it harder for one game to skew everything (harder, not that it doesn’t).  What do we see then?

Category L5 Home L5 Road
W 1 4
ERA 7.12 2.45
BA .267 .254
HR 9 0
IP 30.1 29.1
K/9 8.01 6.13
WHIP 1.12 1.26

Now, to be fair, included in this home total are the two starts Garcia made last year before going on the disabled list.  However, we seem to keep making excuses for bad home starts!  Even if you toss out the home/road comparison, look at just the road numbers.  Four wins in five starts, an ERA under 2.5, and no home runs allowed.  Does that sound like a guy that doesn’t want to take a road trip?

Finally, let’s run the range out to the last 10 home and road starts.  That takes us to 8/30/12 (road) and 9/20/12 (home).  Surely we’ll start seeing that headcase Garcia in these numbers.

Category L10 Home L10 Road
W 4 6
ERA 4.59 3.19
BA .256 .252
HR 10 5
IP 64.2 56.1
K/9 7.79 6.39
WHIP 1.14 1.31

The gap between some of these numbers begins to narrow, but the road numbers still are, on the whole, better than his numbers in Busch Stadium.  I think we’d take a pitcher with a 3.20 ERA who won 60% of his starts, wouldn’t we?  Especially in the back of the rotation?

I think it’s safe to say that Garcia has moved on from those early days when he seemed to have a meltdown every time he was on a strange pitcher’s mound.  Is he still going to have rough outings on the road?  Of course.  What pitcher doesn’t?  However, I think we can get away from expecting disaster every time Garcia’s name shows up during a road trip or having that be a major talking point about his career.

I’m calling this myth busted.

Other assorted things that you find when you summarize box scores:

–Garcia has won his last four road starts, dating back to 4/24/13.  His ERA in those four? 1.37.

–Garcia hasn’t allowed a home run on the road in six starts, not since his first start of the 2012 season when Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks took him yard.  That was the only run Garcia gave up in the game.

–For some reason, Garcia’s K/9 and WHIP are both better at home, even though the results seem to be better on the road.  My guess on the WHIP is that he’s getting more contact and thus getting more double plays, eliminating those extra runners, but I’ve not dug to make sure.  Why he’d strike out significantly more at home than on the road, I don’t know, unless he’s getting a little extra motivation and an extra couple of mph on the fastball from the home fans.  But you’d think his overall results would be better then too, unless he’s getting too pumped up.  Just a strange little nugget.

–Perhaps not surprisingly, given the WHIP, but Garcia’s K/BB is significantly better at home as well.  Which would actually be a point in the myth’s favor, as it would indicate he’s not quite sharp on the road, but again, I don’t know that it’s much different than other pitchers.  Over his last 10 in both locations, Garcia’s K/BB on the road is 2.4, at home 5.6.  Of course, he’s given up more home runs at home as well, so maybe staying a bit outside the zone isn’t hurting him too badly.

Thoughts?  Any other Cardinal myth we need to try to bust?

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