Exit Interview: Jaime Garcia

For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.  Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

Player: Jaime Garcia

Season stats: 10-6, 2.43 ERA, 20 games, 129.2 IP, 106 H, 6 HR, 30 BB, 97 K, 1.049 WHIP, 3.00 FIP, 3.9 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Hero 10, Goat 2

Overall grade: A-

Positives: Stayed relatively healthy all year, only missing time with a quad injury after his season got started….pitched more innings than anytime since 2011 and more than the past two seasons combined….probably not coincidentally, also recorded double-digit wins for the first time since 2011….was superlative at home, with a 1.70 ERA and a 5 K/BB ratio….posted a 1.69 ERA in the first half of the season….in his four no-decisions, had an ERA of 1.85….batters hit only .224 when leading off an inning against Garcia….was devastating with two outs, limiting batters to a .188 average and a .505 OPS….in his six losses, the Cardinals scored 0 runs.

Negatives: Continued to have communication issues, not letting the club know about a tight groin in Miami (that eventually led to missing most of July) and then not letting them know until about an hour before his postseason start about being ill for the past couple of days….may have run out of steam a little in September, as he posted a 4.25 ERA over his last five starts….lefthanders actually hit him better than righties, putting up a .630 OPS compared to RH .557….hitters had an .838 OPS against him in close and late situations.

Overview: Garcia has an option for 2016 for $11.5 million.  At the beginning of the season, declining that option seemed a foregone conclusion.  After all, Garcia’s dealt with injuries a lot over the past few seasons and if there’s one place that the Cardinals don’t have to cross fingers at, it’s starting pitching.  Given the way the rotation looked before the spring started, there were some debates about whether Garcia would be able to get into that starting five at all.

Then, after a setback in spring training, the rotation changed on him.  Adam Wainwright went down and suddenly there was a spot open for Garcia, who grabbed it with both hands and didn’t let go.  The groin injury slowed him some, but the conversation on that option shifted from “no way” to “well, you have to consider it” to “oh, you have to pick it up” fairly rapidly.  Garcia proved why the Cards have dealt with his issues, dealt with his injuries, dealt with whatever he throws there way.  Because when Jaime Garcia is healthy, he is a very good, very effective left-handed pitcher.  Those things don’t come around every day.

There’s no doubt that his outing against the Cubs in the NLDS is going to leave a bad taste in many mouths.  That’s the third straight postseason outing (the other two were Game 6 of the 2011 World Series and Game 2 of the 2012 NLDS) that he hasn’t made it past the third inning.  If he’d told Matheny earlier that he hadn’t slept in two nights, would that have changed the plans of the club?  Would it have changed the series?  Probably not, but he still needed to let them know.  It’s sad to see such a good year get overshadowed by that last decision.

Outlook: The Cardinals, in fact, have picked up that option.  That doesn’t mean Garcia will be wearing the birds on the bat next season, however.  There’s still a better-than-even chance that Garcia, with his attractive contract plus another option for 2017 that’s also reasonable, could be dealt for offensive help or other fixes.  There’s plenty of pitching in St. Louis and the Cards would likely be well-served either way, either with him in their rotation or him bringing in needed talent.  Something for John Mozeliak to ponder this offseason.

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