For the fifth 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.
This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure. Our focus this time is Double Birds Podcast. Chase and El Maquino, joined occasionally by guests, cast a sometimes critical but always informed eye on all things Cardinals. Find them on iTunes or check out Chase’s blog.
Player: Greg Garcia
Season stats: 99 games, 257 PA, 33 R, 11 2B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 38 BB, 50 K, .276/.393/.369, 107 OPS+, 1.8 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Hero 2, Goat 4
Overall grade: B+
Positives: Played 25 or more games and started 10 or more at second, third, and short….had an .806 OPS against right-handers….hit .333 in the first half of the season, though in more limited playing time….hit .600 in April and .538 in May (32 total PA)….hit .356 with a .974 OPS coming off the bench….hit .481 on the first pitch….had a .284 average with two outs….had a .333 mark with two outs and runners in scoring position….had a .961 OPS against fly ball pitchers….hit .500 with a 1.433 OPS in four games against the Washington Nationals.
Negatives: Numbers dropped significantly when he played more, hitting .246/.353/.324 in the second half….hit just .172 in June with a .467 OPS….had a .214 mark when leading off a game….hit just .167 with a runner on third with less than two outs, though he did have six RBI in those situations (15 PA)….hit .240 in late and close situations….had a .190/.227/.190 mark against the Cubs.
Overview: It’s a function of how we so tend to look at the “now” that during the span of the 2016 season we complained that Garcia wasn’t playing enough and we then complained that Garcia was playing too much. Perhaps it is the “backup quarterback” syndrome, but when Garcia was doing well in limited play and the starters were struggling, we wanted him in there. Then, when Matheny ran him out there every day while he was struggling and at the expense of someone like Kolten Wong, a chorus of disapproval was heard.
There’s often a fine line between giving a player a free hand and maximizing the hot hands. We saw that with Wong and with Randal Grichuk this season, for instance. Garcia seems to be one that is a great person to have coming off the bench, but gets somewhat exposed playing every day. There were times this season that the situation pretty much forced him into a regular stretch of games–he started 16 games in August, for instance–but the team works best when he’s filling in. Garcia has developed into an important piece of the team, though, and not just for walk-off hit by pitches.
Outlook: The middle infield does seem to be somewhat in flux. With the stated emphasis on defense coming from the front office, that would seem to put both Jedd Gyorko and Garcia as more of the utility types. Garcia’s defensive numbers weren’t terrible, though it seems like only at short was he above average (and not by much). Having him rest players like Aledmys Diaz, Jhonny Peralta, and Wong would be the best thing going forward, keeping him sharp while giving some–but not too much–rest to everyone else.