It's not a terrible predicament for the Cardinals to find themselves in, but it's real: Two of their rookies are performing way over their heads—Garcia is performing ahead of both a reasonable projection and his peripherals, so it's really like two and a half—but these rookies are not Bo Hart or Omir Santos or Shane Spencer but actual, real prospects, players who were expected before the season to be perfectly average contributors at their positions. That's good planning, and real improvements in player development, acquisition, scouting, etc.; the Cardinals aren't just replacing the expensive-average guys like Mark DeRosa when they bring aboard a player like David Freese, they're replacing the Abraham Nuñezes, too.
Which is why Freese's early-season Mo Vaughn impression is being viewed less as the ominous beginning of another fall back to the mean than a $50 bill that the St. Louis Cardinals collectively found on the street and decided to blow at Best Buy. If Freese is not really Joe Mauer—well, he did it for a few weeks, and this team will be fine even if he's just David Freese.
Garcia, meanwhile, and too my surprise, is getting more and more national attention. That it surprises me is probably a fair reminder that I don't pay as much attention to ERA as I did ten years ago; his sub 1.2 ERA and its attendant 3-1 record is at least as impressive as J.A. Happ's start in the rotation last season, which I also paid less attention to than Baseball Tonight.
Like Happ, Garcia is not this good, and hasn't even been this good. There have been moments in his starts where I've fully expected him to finally give up a big inning, but it never happens, and in the next moment he is striking out VictoriIno, Utley, and Howard without issue. (That's
Where Garcia is now reminds me of where Adam Wainwright was in 2007; like Wainwright he has a number of useful pitches and a third starter-type strikeout rate—and while Wainwright was a one-time ace prospect consigned to third starter-dom by a few rough years in the high minors, and Garcia a third starter from birth, each of them moved beyond that in terms of fan perception before their peripherals followed.
Once Garcia allows some home runs the ESPN stories will probably stop, and his ERA will no longer look like one of Ed Walsh's leftovers. But he's been better than anyone could have expected, better enough that even with the home runs he'd be impressing us.
One of the things that stood out about Garcia in the minors is the way he was always just excellent. Some pitching prospects put up great numbers in the low minors and suffer rough adjustments as they climb the ladder, but each of Garcia's three full seasons in the minor leagues look like a season the same pitcher could have put up. They look like lines he could put up in the majors. Given his start now, they look like lines he could put up now.
This is one of my favorite stats, and although that means that most of you have already heard it I will read it, here, into the Blog Record. Most pinch hitters suck. It's some part the players who're doing it, and some part the situation into which they are called, but pinch hitters in the National League hit .230 last year, and .229 the year before.
Stavinoha's kneeling home runs aren't enough to make his season a success—he hit 5-15 with three doubles and a home run in the role last year—and given the construction of rosters in the 21st century the Mark Sweeney role is an increasingly tough sell. But it's good to see him contributing now, no matter how long it lasts or how ephemeral his role.