His Name… Is Jaime

There are six starting pitchers who, in the first month of the season, posted a groundball rate of a little more than 60 percent, ranging from Derek Lowe (60.5%) to Tim Hudson (63.3%). None of the other names would surprise you either – Felix Hernandez, Ricky Romero, Joel Pineiro, and Jorge de la Rosa are all well known as extreme groundball pitchers, and their sinkers are working well to begin the 2010 season.

However, none of them are even close to leading the league in groundball rate. St. Louis rookie Jaime Garcia is lapping the field, with a ridiculous 71.2% groundball rate through his first four starts. The gap between Garcia and Hudson is as large as the gap between Hudson and C.J. Wilson, who ranks 15th on the list.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a Cardinal pitcher is leading the league in inducing grounders, given that we’ve recently talked about Dave Duncan‘s magic touch. However, Garcia’s not your standard pound-the-zone-with-a-sinker guy, as he has four pitches that he mixes in – a fastball, a slider, a curve, and a change. In getting his 14 groundball outs last night, he threw just under 60 percent fastballs, for instance.

Perhaps most impressively, he’s not just running up his totals by dominating left-handers. He’s faced 18 LHBs this year compared to 85 RHBs, as opposing managers have been stacking the deck against him and running out almost entirely right-handed line-ups. It hasn’t mattered, as they’re hitting the ball on the ground against him at a 68 percent clip. Of course, that’s better than the left-handers, who have hit the ball on the ground 90 percent of the time.

You don’t need a degree in regression to know that Garcia won’t finish the year with a 1.04 ERA, but given how he’s attacked hitters so far, we may have a new leader in the clubhouse for National League Rookie of the Year. Even in just 26 innings of work, he’s shown that he’s got the stuff to sustain quality performances, and he’s got the added benefit of having Dave Duncan around.

He’ll have to prove he can stay healthy for the long haul, but in terms of whether he’s good enough to get major league hitters out, Garcia is answering that question very quickly. This kid is for real.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

16 Responses to “His Name… Is Jaime”

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  1. Mojowo11 says:

    It’s a good season to be a Cardinals fan with the breakout performances of Colby Rasmus and Jaime Garcia. Unfortunately, even though this is really his first year, I believe Jaime is up for arbitration after this season. Bummer.

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  2. Matt C says:

    I really don’t follow the minor leagues or other teams farm sytems that much but I don’t remember hearing about him until this year. Was he a highly touted prospect or did he just kinda come out of nowhere?

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    • Mojowo11 says:

      He was billed as a #3, definitely been the best pitcher in the system for a while. He missed last year with TJ surgery, which is why he seems to have come from nowhere.

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  3. cpebbles says:

    Garcia was pretty well-regarded before TJ surgery in ’08. He was excellent last year after returning and likely would have been in all the top 50 lists but for concerns about the injury.

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  4. Jacob Jackson says:

    Dave Duncan is probably worth about $5M a season. When you have a position coach that is demonstrably better than the majority of his peers, it surprises me that at least one team’s owner isn’t willing to poach the man from his current job by doubling or even tripling his (relatively speaking) meager current salary, if that’s what it takes to get him to leave.

    When you think about the millions that the players make, and this pitching coach is in the best position of any person in the world to help him succeed and reach his true talent level, I find it to be one of the best investments an owner could make, second only to the obvious one of hiring away the best general managing candidate you can buy.

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    • ambill10 says:

      I believe that Duncan is already the highest paid pitching coach in the game. The Cardinals have one of the highest paid coaching staffs in baseball according to an article I read this winter after LaRussa signed his new contract.

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  5. The most shocking piece of news from this article: that it’s possible to get a degree in regression. Who knew!

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    • Joser says:

      I was wondering about that too. Do you think there’s post-grad work available? It would be cool to be Dr.Regression. Of course you’d soon discover that you’re really no better than your high school average.

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  6. Mike Rogers says:

    Jaime Garcia was a highly touted prospect a couple years ago before he needed TJ Surgery. Back then, he was 20% or better in K/PA and nearing 60% GB rate. He was filthy good. Glad to see him doing well in the majors.

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  7. mlbfan says:

    Speaking of sinkers and GB%, looks like either cahill or mazzaro will get their 2nd chance in the majors on friday w/ anderson on the DL.
    mazzaro has been dominating AAA andcqhill slowly working back after an injury ready to unleash his redeveloped curveball

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