Freddy Garcia wants another chance at wearing Pintripes and deserves the opportunity; a merit that’s warranted considering last season he became a valuable member of the pitching staff. In spring the Yankees needed to fill the remaining fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation. The first three were comprised of: CC Sabathia, who had earned his pitching-ace salary with two awesome seasons under his belt; Phil Huges had won 18 games and appeared destined to win many more wearing pinstripes; and, A.J. Burnett shored up the third spot. It was apparent that Andy Pettite was not returning and in camp the Yankees had the likes of Mark Prior, Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia showcasing their wares for a chance to make the not only the team but the starting rotation. The Yankees couldn't be sure what Freddy Garcia might offer them, but his solid campaign in 2010 with the White Sox (12-6 with 4.64 ERA), assured him a look at the very least.
In the eyes of many - Garcia 35 years old - didn’t have a good chance of making the team. In spring training Garcia certainly didn’t provide much of a promise and fans were yearning for Andy Pettitte at whatever cost necessary. At the time the market was devoid of worthy pitching talent and the Yankees were trying to buy time until the July 31, 2011 trade deadline for a better scenario to develop. Garcia was a risk and reward signing, but at the minimum he could hold down the fifth spot until the trade deadline.
The chatter regarding Garcia: he was not going to be the permanent solution because he doesn’t strikeout enough batters and gives up too many home-runs. Especially, in the AL East, he will be overwhelmed. He not only fared well, but he pitched respectively against the top offenses in the AL. Garcia’s days of being a power pitcher with a formidable arsenal are gone as is the velocity on his fastball. As far back as 2002, his fastball averaged 93 miles per hour and since then has dropped considerably down to an average of 87 miles per hour. Essentially, he relies on a fastball that performs in the mid to high 80’s, a split-fingered fastball and has increase the use of his breaking pitches – which include a bitting slider – his main weapon. With the explosive attributes gone, he has learned to rely on his pitching experience and proper alignment of pitches.
Garcia not only challenged expectations going 12-8 with 3.62 ERA during the season, he was actually very solid against the top five offenses: Sporting a 5-3 record with a 3.87 ERA in 11GS vs Texas, Boston, Detroit, Kansas City and Baltimore. In his one start in the ALDS vs Detroit, he performed competently – giving up only 3ER in 5.1IP. This was a representative start considering he allowed 3ER of fewer in 19 of his 25 starts during the season.
Some symbolic stats about "Steady Freddy":
- Was 12-8 (.600) with a 3.62ERA in 2011 and had the second lowest single season ERA of his career (3.05 w/Seattle in 2001).
- Left with a lead in 15 of 25 starts…the Yankees went 15-10 in his starts.
- Lost just once in his last ning starts of the regular season from 7/20-9/24, going 5-1 with a 3.99 ERA. During this span the Yankees went 7-2
- Went 6-2 with 3.20 ERA in 12 daytime starts.
- Limited opponents to a .193BA with RISP and .167BA with RISP and 2 outs.
- Allowed 3ER or fewer in 19 of 25 Starts.
- Surrendered just 34ER in his last 15GS from 6/12-9/24, going 8-3 with 3.46ERA
- Allowed two or fewer walks in 19 of his 25 starts in 2011
- At home was 8-4 with 3.98ERA in 13 starts at Yankee Stadium, making his most home wins since 2006 w/Chicago-AL.
- Has at least 12 wins in nine seasons, tying Derek Lowe and Roy Halladay for the most 12 win seasons among active Major League Pitchers. CC Sabathia, Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle each have 10 such seasons.
- Has tossed at least 6.0 innings and limited opponents to 3ER or less in 33 or less of his 52 starts over the last two seasons (2010w/Chicago and 2011w/Yankees) and has gone 22-3 in those starts with his posting a 28-5 record in those games.
- Had a career high 68.1IP stretch without allowing a HR – snapped on 8/29 at Baltimore. Was the longest current streak among Major League starters at the time it was broken.
- Has the most career innings pitched (2065.2) of any active pitcher who has never allowed a grand slam. In his career, opponents have batted .212 with bases loaded.
Brian Cashman explored every possibility at the trade deadline, but he felt duty-bound not to effect change - primarily on the performance of Fredy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. Cashman banked on Garcia and Colon to continue defying all expectations and for the most part they succeeded and at one point during the season, Garcia was the second best starter on the team.
“Despite the anxiety the marketplace can create,” Cashman said, “and the demands that we have as an organization to always want the best you can possibly have, at some point you also have to reflect that what you’ve got is pretty good.”
Overall - Freddy pitched well for most of the season and while plenty can occur in the next couple of months leading up to spring training (voluntary reporting - 2/19/2012, 102 days) - he has earned a chance to be part of the Yankees in 2012. With a powerful Yankee offense, "The Chief" can potentially win another 10 to 12 games next season as the fifth starter.