Free Agent Fantasy Team Update: Freddy Garcia Expectations-Off the Radar

San Diego Padres’ Starting pitcher Freddy Garcia is the latest and lats addition to the all free agent fantasy team. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Many players are reporting to spring training this week (and many have already reported to team facilities), and while Kyle Lohse is the big exception (with the Indians signing Michael Bourn) most players have already found the team they are going to go to camp with. The Kraken, the all free agent fantasy team, is no exception, as I wrapped up the roster this week by making the last sign: Freddy Garcia on a MILB contract. So here is the team I am bringing into spring training:

NamePosition2013 $$Future $$fWARbWARWARPWAA
Bartolo ColonSP3 Mil
Oliver PerezRP1.5 Mil
Michael OlmstedRPMiLB
Tim WoodRPMiLB
Ryan ReidRPMiLB
Maicer IzturisSS3 Mil6 mil
Hector RondonRPMiLB
David RossCatcher3.1 Mil3.1 Mil
Mitch MaierOFMiLB
Juan PierreOF1.6 mil
Melky CabreraOF8 mil8 mil
Scott BakerSP5.5 mil
Neal CottsRPMiLB
Carlos TorresRPMiLB
Tim ByrdakRPMiLB
Brian BogusevicOFMiLB
DeWayne WiseOF.7 mil
Shawn CampRP1.35 mil
Jeremy GuthrieSP5 mil20 mil.
Hiroki KurodaSP15 mil.
Ryan MadsonRP3.5 mil
Mike Fontenot2B/IFMiLB
Rich ThompsonOFMiLB
John LannanSP2.5 mil
Andres TorresOF2 mil
Bobby WilsonCatcherMiLB
Jack Hanahan3B2 mil2 mil
Dan WheelerRPMiLB
Jason GrilliRP2.75 mil4 mil
Ryan LudwickOF7.5 mil7.5 mil
Brandon Allen1BMiLB
Randy WellsSPMiLB
Zach PhillipsRPMiLB
Jason BourgeoisOFMiLB
Nate SchierholtzOF2.25 mil
Eric Chavez3B3 mil
Nate MclouthOF2 mil
Marco Scutaro2B6.66 mil13.33 mil
Jeff Keppinger2B4 mil8 mil
Mike EkstromRPMiLB
Bill BrayRPMiLB
Geovany SotoCatcher2.75 mil
James Loney1B2 mil
Ryan SadowskiRPMiLB
Scott FeldmanSP6 mil
Travis Ishikawa1BMiLB
Zach BraddockRPMiLB
Cody RansomSSMiLB
Hisanori TakahasiRPMiLB
Endy ChavezOFMiLB
Yorvit TorrealbaCatcherMiLB
Dan Johnson1BMiLB
Thomas NealOFMiLB
Kevin SloweySPMiLB
Matt Downs2BMiLB
Chris VolstadSPMiLB
Kyle McClellanRPMiLB
Cesar IzturisSSMiLB
Ryan SweeneyOFMiLB
Freddy GarciaSPMiLB

Garcia will make up to 1.3 million dollars if he does make the San Diego Padres and plays with them all year.

Dave Cameron notes:

You can’t build a winning team around 25 Freddy Garcias, nor should anyone try. But, for a fifth starter, Garcia’s actually pretty decent, and a lot of teams are going to go into spring training with a worse pitcher penciled into their starting rotation. Garcia will probably outpitch most of them. Garcia will probably land on the DL at some point.

The Yankees famously picked Freddy Garcia over Bartolo Colon after the 2011 season, and even though Colon was eventually suspended for PEDs, he still turned out to be more valuable than Garcia (and while the Yankees let Garcia walk, and he had to settle for a minor league deal in San Diego, the Athletics gave Colon another MLB deal). Garcia had a career worst ERA – in 2011, and his worst FIP – since 2003. He really struggled with homers, was in and out of the rotation, and had the famous 5 wild pitches in 5 innings start in early April.

The good news is that his ground-ball rate went up from 2011 back to his career norms. His strike percentage has remained pretty steady throughout his career, as he has thrown strikes 62% of the time for his career, 62.3 % in 2011, and 62% in 2012. His swinging strike percentage in 2012 was better than his percentage in 2010-2011, but it still wasn’t up to his career averages, but it was about league average. He saw a big increase (2%) in giving up contact on pitches thrown inside the strike zone in 2012. While he was usually around league average, this made him worse than league average in this regard. Hitters still swing at Freddy Garcia pitches less than league average pitches, and when compared to league averages, he gets more swings on pitches outside of the strike zone than pitches in the strike zone. This is how he has consistently been able to throw less pitches in the strike zone over the last two years, and still have a respectable strike percentage and below league average walk rates.

Obviously moving from Yankee Stadium to Petco Park, even with the moved in fences, is quite a dramatic change. In 2012, he was quite a bit better on the road than at home. It wasn’t just homers, as he gave up a lot of homers on the road as well, it was his strikeouts and walks. Garcia had a 3.72 kwERA (strikeouts minus walks, divided by batters faced, multiplied by 12 and subtracted from 5.4) on the road, and a 4.37 kwERA at home. I thought that this might be just because he ended up starting more at home than away, since he also pitched out of the bullpen a significant amount of time in 2012. However, he made 11 starts on the road, and had just 6 starts at home.

There did appear to be big relief/starter splits though, as his earned run average was 3 and a half runs higher as a starter than it was as a reliever (with an ERA near 6 as a starter). However, much of this was because a big difference (16.6%) in left on base percentage. As a reliever, he would have very little control of LOB %, as many times relievers leave with runners on base, and it is up to the next pitcher (and obviously the hitters he faces) as to whether they score or not. Obviously, this would have nothing to do with Garcia, so considering anything that counts or doesn’t count these runs based just on whether they scored or not would be fallacious when trying to consider Garcia’s past value and trying to project his future value. This is why we use defensive independent metrics. As far as strikeouts, by percentage rate, Garcia was exactly the same as a starter and reliever. Even as a reliever, he still gave up quite a bit of homers, even if it was still less by rate than as a starter. The big difference was walks, as he walked 8% of batters as a starter and just 5.7% of batters as a reliever. So he had a 3.99 FIP as a reliever and a 4.86 FIP as a starter and a 4.05 kwERA as a starter, 3.77 kwERA as a reliever. The big thing you have to weigh is whether or not you want to measure homers. This is the Petco factor, as it previously played as an extremely pitcher friendly park, but they are moving in the fences this year. I haven’t come across a great study or estimation of how the park will play, but team still expects it to be a pitcher friendly park, but should be a little less extreme.

Perhaps he could be a well below average fastball/splitter/slider reliever, similar to a right-handed Hideki Okajima or Koji Uehara, both of which have had quite a bit of success in the Majors. However, whether it is the 3.77 kwERA or 3.99 FIP as a reliever, that is not extremely valuable. Obviously he would be one of the softest throwing relievers, and a 3.99 FIP would have him around Carlos Marmol, obviously a much different reliever in style, but not a very valuable one (Vicente Padilla had a 3.95 FIP and went to Japan and Hisanori Takahashi signed a minor league contract after a 3.93 FIP season). Both Oliver and Steamer projections seem to believe he will be used mainly as a starter, and are pretty optimistic, projecting his HR/9IP to fall under 1, his FIP to fall just under 4, and his walk rate to stay low (there is nearly a 1 and a half percent difference in strikeout rate, but both project him to lose some strikeouts, which you would expect if he pitches out of the rotation all year). In 2011, he pitched exclusively (other than 1 inning and 5 batters) out of the rotation and was a pretty solid starter on the road (3.79 FIP/4.11 xFIP/4.28 kwERA) and still struggled at home (4.45 FIP/4.62 xFIP/4.56 kwERA). Clearly the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium was not a very good place for Garcia, and even a neutral park should help him out. Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez lead the Padres in starts last year and they had an average park factor of parks pitched in of 93.8 and 93. Freddy Garcia had a 101 average park factor of parks pitched in. Since Petco projects to be at least a little more hitter friendly, expect Richard and Volquez’ average park factor to go up, but Garcia’s will still go down. Of course, one can dispute that while his general numbers will go down, this doesn’t mean that Garcia will be more valuable (not in a fantasy sense, in a real world sense) in 2013. However, that is why we used kwERA, we are projecting how he would have pitched without factoring homers (or assuming that giving up homers is not really a skill and is really a factor of the park), which was his problem with the Yankees. His strikeout and walks were manageable, this was not like Edinson Volquez, who just can’t throw strikes (just under 60 % in 2012 and right at 60% for his career). Garcia doesn’t walk people, even gets his share of grounders, but struggled with homers in New York, but hasn’t been too awful when it comes to homers for his career. His average batted ball distance (non bunts) since the beginning of 2007 is 259.987, which is solid. Since 2011, he has been ever better, with an averaged batted ball distance of 251.653, which is excellent.

As with all pitchers that throw a lot of moving fastballs, there are a lot of weird classification things when it comes to Garcia. Thanks to the help of Harry Pavlidis (by help, I mean that he did it all) of Brooks Baseball, I avoided the classification problems by just adding all the fastballs/sinkers together and gave up trying to separate them. So not only do we have the amount of fastballs he have thrown broken down by starts, but we also have the average velocity per every outing. In 2012, his fastballs averaged about 88.35 MPH per outing, while they averaged about 87.7 MPH in 2011 and about 88.34 MPH from 2008 to 2010. I also added the SIERA of each outing to give some comparisons. As you would expect, there is a correlation between his velocity and SIERA, as his worst 10 velocity outings had an average 5.48 SIERA and he had a 3.64 SIERA in his 10 best velocity outings. His 10 median velocity outings strangely had a 5.02 SIERA (his average SIERA per outing was 4.53). What about amount of fastballs thrown, as pitch selection will prove to be important below? We won’t be looking at the least amount of fastballs, as there is obvious selection bias, but the 10 most fastball starts had an average SIERA of 4.49, the next 10 had a SIERA of 4.23, and the 21-30 fastball starts had a SIERA of 4.38. So there doesn’t really appear to be much correlation there (the next 10 had a 4.96 SIERA).

His heat maps suggest that he likes to throw the ball high, especially high and inside to righties. His hard stuff (his different kind of fastballs) is especially thrown high, though in 2012 he lived more in the middle of the plate than he has in the past. His fastballs are well below average in both velocity and effectiveness according to the TAV maps used BP/Brooks and his curve/slider didn’t fair much better in 2012. It was his “off-speed” pitches, his change and his splitter that were much more effective when compared to league average. When looking at his whiff rates, it is hard to see how he gets any strikeouts at all. His fastballs are extremely ineffective at missing bats, and somewhat mediocre at getting ground-balls. Freddy Garcia is a junk/control pitcher plain and simple. He keeps his “off-speed” pitches away from hitters, to the left side (catcher’s view/arm side) against lefties, and the right side (glove side) to righties. Strangely, this is not how he gets whiffs at all, as if his plan is to pitch like this to get strikeouts, than he has failed miserably. Instead, this is how he gets his grounders, as hitters most likely chase and tap it (remember, he gets more swings out of the zone than an average pitcher, even though he doesn’t get many strikeouts) for a grounder. It is when he leaves these pitches over the plate is when he gives up the fly-balls. According to Baseball Heat Maps, he has given up 12 homers on the change or splitter since 2007 and 134 fly-balls (not infield fly-balls) with an average distance of about 284 feet. So this isn’t breaking news, but when he locates them well, it is a good pitch that gets him grounders, but when he doesn’t it doesn’t end well with him. They are high risk, decent reward pitches, which could be a reason that he started throwing the two pitches (combined) less (if there isn’t a pitch classification error, he threw the 2 pitches 16% of the time in 2012 after throwing them 28 % of the time in 2011 and 27% of the time in 2012). In fact, he gave up 5 homers on the two pitches in 2011, and they weren’t even in the strike zone, as they were all actually low (but not away). This probably caused him to “learn his lesson”, as he gave up just 1 homer on the two pitches in 2012, and that one he threw inside to a right-hander, which isn’t his norm (so most likely, a mistake).

Instead, in 2012, he started using his slider as more of a put away pitch. The slider was his favorite pitch to throw with 2 strikes regardless of what side the hitter was on, throwing it over 50% of the time and nearly 70% of the time against righties. The influx of sliders (just like the apparent velocity increase) could be because of relief bias. As a starter, there is less of a chance that you can rely on one pitch very heavily (heavy sinker pitchers seem to be an exception, but most of them are not very successful anyway), while you can rely on it more as a reliever in short spurts. This seems to be especially true of sliders, as it is generally thought that a pitcher that throws too many sliders (or breaking pitches in general) can lead to higher risks of injury. Since he threw (and was expected to throw) less innings in 2012, he knew he could rely on the slider more often. This could also explain the difference in movement, as the pitch had a higher vertical movement and lower horizontal movement. I am not sure why that would be the case, but just as pitchers throw harder out of the bullpen, it isn’t too unbelievable that a pitcher’s pitches would break a little different if they were coming out of the bullpen. Of course, there is a possibility that more splitters were mistaken as sliders in 2012 than 2011, which would hurt a lot of the above argumentation. The splitter broke almost exactly the same on average according to vertical movement, and moved a little less horizontally in 2012. This seems to be evidence enough that the influx of sliders is not just a classification mistake.

The change to more sliders didn’t see to be successful if the goal was to limit homers, as Garcia gave up 9 homers on breaking pitches (slider/curve), up from just 3 the year before. So it seemed that he went to a different pitch more often, just to have it be the one he gave up the homers with. Garcia’s slider is on the softer side, ranking 197th out of the 232 pitchers that have thrown at least 200 of them since the start of the Pitch F/X era. It’s horizontal movement is slightly above average, which makes some sense as he usually locates it from middle to down and away from righties. Vertically, it moves most similar to Pedro Martinez’ slider (at least the one he showed towards the end of his career, since 2007) but is also somewhat similar to the sliders of Justin Verlander and Hiroki Kuroda. It is on the higher side according to vertical movement compared to other sliders, but it seems just on a cursory look of whiff/swing and GB/FB, that the lower the number the better. So it does seem that the pitch Garcia relied on so heavy in 2012 was a below average pitch according to Pitch F/X indicators. Of course, we care more about results, but Garcia doesn’t really have that either, as he is 184th in whiffs/swings, just behind Chan Ho Park and Madison Bumgarner (whose slider could easily be called a cutter). He is a little better at getting grounders with it, but still not good, at 160th. I did want to see if anything changed in 2012, so I just looked at that year and changed the minimum to 100 sliders thrown, which includes 126 pitchers. Even the slightly improved velocity slider still ranked 101st, between those of Jered Weaver and Mike Leake. At just getting swings, he was pretty successful, ranked 51st, above Phillip Humber and Yu Darvish. At getting whiffs, he was as unsuccessful as Rick Porcello and Ubaldo Jimenez, not exactly good company when talking about strikeouts or sliders. He wasn’t any better at getting grounders either. So it really seems weird that Garcia got so slider happy. There is no evidence it was anymore successful or a decent pitch in the first place. Surely this is something that the Padres pitching coaches will recognize this and get him to throw less sliders, especially if he is in the starting rotation. His curveball is not really a better option, as it is a slow curve, about average at getting whiffs, but well below average in getting grounders.

How does the splitter stack up to other splitters in the Majors? Since there have only been 26 pitchers to throw at least 200 splitters since 2007, evaluating his splitter is much harder to do using comparative analysis. Usually around 80 MPH or slightly slower, his is one of the softest the Majors have seen. However Koji Uehara has been wildly successful with his, and his is slightly slower (Hiroki Kuroda has been extremely successful as well, and his is the hardest). Garcia’s splitter is about in the middle when it comes to whiffs/swings, but it has been one of the worst at getting grounders. Only Vicente Padilla’s has less horizontal movement, and vertically it is around the middle, similar to Ryan Dempster’s. When I wrote about Dempster for this site, I noticed that he had a lot of problems getting it down, which would hurt him at times. Even against lefties, Garcia’s splitter is a pitch he likes to throw to his glove side of the plate.

When looking at release point data, while he seemed to be fairly consistent from pitch to pitch during the game (just from looking at anecdotal game charts), but it looks like he clearly dropped his release point as well. He released the average pitch 6.85 feet high in 2012, while the average pitch he released in 2011 was about 6.98 feet high. His career average is about 6.93 feet high. I don’t know if that is a dramatic change but it is a change. More dramatic is his horizontal release point. For his career, his average horizontal release point was -1.62 feet (that is 1.62 feet to the right, since he is right-handed). In 2011 it was -1.3 feet, and in 2012 it was -2.05 feet. So it would seem, if the data is right, he was coming much more out, and a little lower that he has in the past. I cropped this picture using release point data from a random game in 2012 and a random one in 2011. The blue and green data on the right is the one from 2012, I think this better illustrates the difference:

The first question when seeing a dropped release point is (besides why, which we can’t really answer) platoon splits. Release points that are more sidearm usually lead to bigger platoon splits. In 2011, he had a 5.03 kwERA against lefties and 3.89 kwERA against righties. In 2012, he had a 4.54 kwERA against lefties and a 3.33 kwERA against righties. So it is a relatively small sample size, but it doesn’t really seem like he had platoon splits (and again, it didn’t seem that he was really worse in 2012 than in 2011). However, if the new release point is “real”, that is, if he keeps it in 2013, there are some legitimate questions about whether or not he is really a starter going forward. After all, he has had multiple shoulder issues in his career, and there is a chance that he was really compensating for something that could turn out to be a major problem going into 2013. When looking at Jeff Zimmerman’s injury factor data, his average velocity per game data has been decent over the past couple of years, but his strikezone percentage data is a little below average and he has really struggled late in games, which is supposedly a large injury factor. Garcia has a lot of redeemable qualities, and should fit in well at Petco, but there are some questions, such as elevated slider usage when it seems to be a very risky pitch, and a dropped release point shows why he was signed to a minor league contract. With all this said, there are red flags, but he is really low risk and could be a nice pick up for the back of the rotation if they aren’t expecting a lot of innings.