St. Louis Cardinals Rotation: Jaime Garcia


Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to pick up left-hander Jaime Garcia‘s option back in November was a bit of surprise to fans and media members. But no one knows him better than the people who decided to keep him.

Despite Garcia’s injury history — and repeated playoff meltdowns — the decision has plenty of merit. Garcia has not just one … not just two …  not three … but three pitches that drive opposing hitters to insanity by forcing them to hit the ball on the ground.

According to Brooks Baseball, Garcia’s sinker has coaxed more grounder balls than other pitchers’ sinkers. And it characterizes his four seamer, slider and change up as “real worm killer[s] that generate an extreme number of ground balls compared to other pitchers …”

All those grounder-inducing pitches is why Garcia can be so good.  When he was finally healthy last year, he pitched himself to a 10-6 record, posting a 2.43 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and 97 strikeouts in 129.2 innings of work. Near the end of that run, St. Louis Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

"“You think back to Garcia, and the impact that he made on our roster was extremely positive. If we were having this conversation in February, I don’t think any of us would have thought he was going to contribute, especially the way he did.”"

Right. Garcia operated under the cover of very light expectations. That won’t be the case in 2016. The St. Louis Cardinals don’t just need him to make 30-plus starts, which he’s done just once in his career (2011). They really, really need him to make those 30-plus starts and be awesome for most of them. The pressure will be on the left-hander, and we know how he handles that.

So maybe the St. Louis Cardinals should head into the 2016 season with the same expectations they had for him last year. Virtually none. Picking up the $11.5 million option was relatively cheap given that the team has no obligation to keep him around after next season. So if Garcia upchucks again, oh well.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals Rotation: Adam Wainwright

I’ve been pretty hard on Garcia. I feel bad about that. I’ve never pitched a big league game, let alone with nausea, so I’m guessing that really sucked. And he is a nice, engaging and talented pitcher. Checkered injured history be damned, I’m pulling for the guy in 2016.

He’s had a rough go of it for the last three seasons, making a combined 36 starts over that span. Garcia (and the St. Louis Cardinals) deserve a break. I hope they get it.