Star player gets injured. All teammates talk about how no one person can replace the injured star, and everybody has to do their part and step up without injured star. Then, teammates perform roughly as expected and everybody makes the best of it. That is how things generally go. There is no replacing Adam Wainwright, and yet, the Cardinals have weathered the storm early on. In May, the rest of the Cardinals' pitchers have stepped up. Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez combined to average more than six innings per start with a 2.86 ERA and a 3.27 FIP. With a strong start so far in three starts, Jaime Garcia is aiming to further fill the void left by Adam Wainwright's injury.
In April, with Wainwright, the Cardinals starting staff had a 2.85 ERA a 3.33 FIP, and averaged six innings per start. Included in those games were 12 match-ups against the Brewers and Reds and another four against the Philadelphia Phillies. The scheduled toughened up in May, including nine games against the division rival Cubs and Pirates, nine games against three of the top offenses in the American League in the Tigers, Indians, and Royals, and three games against the best offense in baseball in the Dodgers. In the month of May, the Cardinals starters have managed a 3.10 ERA, a 3.51 FIP and averaged six innings per start.
Every statement, every article, every blog post about Jaime Garcia comes with same caveat: We do not how long his shoulder will hold up. Garcia has come back from major surgeries. He has attempted to pitch through pain, pitch through injuries that eventually sideline and disable him. So, yes, there is and always will be the possibility that Jaime Garcia could suddenly lose what he has, that his stuff will deteriorate, that he will wind up back on the disabled list and the Cardinals will continue their search for quality innings. There is that possibility, maybe even an eventuality. Everybody knows there is that possibility. Let's all ignore that possibility.
Jaime Garcia is throwing right now about as hard as he has at anytime throughout his career. In his last two starts, Garcia's four-seam fastball has averaged just under 92 miles per hour, per Brooks Baseball. He has only had one start in his career, where his four-seamer had an average faster velocity, and that was in 2010, more than five years ago. His sinker has averaged 92.0 and 92.1 miles per hour in his last two starts, respectively, and he has never had two consecutive starts with velocity that great. The velocity is a testament to his arm strength, but velocity was never a big part of Garcia's repertoire.
Jaime Garcia does not need velocity to be great. Garcia uses five different pitches, a four-seamer, a sinker, a change, a curve, and a slider. With a great array of pitches, he can keep hitters off balance and fool them without great velocity.
That was on a 3-2 pitch, and Parra could not pull the trigger. The gun said 90 miles per hour, but Brooks Baseball had that two-seamer above 92 miles per hour. Garcia's pitches are not yet all the way back. He has had some trouble locating his curve, and it does not have as big a break as it did earlier in his career. He has not been generating as many swings and misses so far this season, but it has been effective at times.
Poor Parra. When Garcia is at his best, he has very good control and gets ground ball after ground ball. Afte walking five hitters in his first start, Garcia has struck out nine hitters against no walks. He has also been very good at getting hitters to hit the ball on the ground. Garcia has given up just 16 hits in 71 at bats, and five of those are infield hits. His 77% ground ball rate will not continue at such a high rate but it is a very good indication that Garcia is doing what he needs to do on the mound.
Prior to this season, Garcia's change had been a major weapon for him, inducing whiffs on close to 20% of pitches. He has used it less than 10% of the time this season, and has seen a drop in its effectiveness, getting a swing and a miss on just two of his 27 changes so far this year. His slider on the other hand...
That was Garcia's final pitch of the night. He made it through seven innings on 86 pitches, an incredibly efficient 12 pitches per inning. Garcia's slider has been a great weapon for him this season. He is getting more than 20% whiffs on the pitch, and six of his 12 strikeouts have come using the slider. Jaime Garcia is back and he is effective. While Arizona and Milwaukee might not provide the most stout offenses that Garcia will face, the 2.77 ERA and 2.71 FIP due to 9 strikeouts and no walks is encouraging regardless of the opponent. He might not have swing and miss stuff on all of his pitches, but he can keep hitters off balance with five different pitches and still get strikeouts on the slider. If his curve and change catch up, it will not matter what offense he is facing.
The Cardinals need innings in their rotation. If at some point Garcia cannot keep going, then Tyler Lyons will come up, or Marco Gonzales, or a pitcher in trade. If Garcia goes down, the Cardinals will have options. There is little point in worrying about that right now. The Cardinals have Garcia. So do we.