Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why can't Jaime Garcia pitch on the road?

Jaime Garcia's home/road splits have gotten to the point of ridiculous. And after three years of such happenings, it is not a fluke. Garcia has pitched at home 42 times in his career and in those games is 18-11 with an ERA of 2.42 with a WHIP of 1.178. Garcia has pitched 44 times on the road in his career and is 13-12 in those games with an ERA of 4.69 and a WHIP of 1.540. If Garcia's home games were in Dodgers Stadium or at Petco Park in San Diego, that might be more understandable. But his home games are in Busch Stadium which is really a pitching neutral site. So what gives here? It is bizarre, isn't it?

In Jaime Garcia's last two home starts, he has allowed no earned runs in fifteen and a third innings. In his last three road starts, he has given up fourteen runs in a combined fourteen an a third innings. Freaky. And yesterday, he pitched at said PetCo Park, a known pitcher's ballpark and ralphed in his three innings of work. His home/road problem is getting worse with each passing season.

In his first full season of 2010, Garcia had an ERA of 1.74 at home in fourteen starts with a WHIP of 1.148. On the road in 2010, his ERA was 3.82--still somewhat respectable--with a high WHIP of 1.516. In 2011, he had an ERA of 2.55 at home with a WHIP of 1.111. On the road in 2011, his ERA was 4.61 with a WHIP of 1.537. This season, his ERA at home is 2.63 with a WHIP of 1.271. On the road this year, his ERA is 6.19 with a WHIP of 1.661. Garcia has given up no homers at home and six on the road this season.

This is definitely a thing. 

And this thing is definitely a problem since the Cardinals have to pitch him on the road at least half the time. It's not like they can just save him for home games. And with the Cardinals fighting for a wild card spot, they need to win on the road just as much as they win at home. They need to at least have a chance in those road games. Garcia has not given them a chance to win.

So what is the problem? Garcia is not a hard thrower. He is a pitcher who has to hit his spots and keep batters off balance. His best showing on the road was 2010 and that is not a surprise as his fastball back then had two miles per hours more gittyup back then than he does now. With less velocity, it is even more important for Garcia to pitch on the margins. He is simply better at doing so at home than he is on the road.

Take a look at his pitching chart against right-handed batters in his last two starts. The first is from his home game and the second from his Padres' start:

As you can see, his pitches at home against right-handed batters were much more on the edges with few left out over the middle of the plate. You don't see the same kind of sharpness in the San Diego start. Let's do two more. The first is his home start against the Pirates and the other is away against the Nationals:

Pictures courtesy of Fangraphs.com

See how against the Nationals, he left many more pitches over the heart of the plate? The other thing to notice is that in the two home starts, there is a much greater use of the two-seam fastball than there is on the road. In fact, in the two road game charts shown above, his two-seam fastball is nonexistent. Why is that? Why would he throw that pitch at home but not on the road?

Whatever the case, this thing that is a thing is not working for Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals. The team locked up Garcia for a pretty good contract, so they are going to have to live with a guy who is only effective in half his games unless they can get the road thing figured out. Until then, Garcia's home/road splits will continue to vex.

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