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Yimi Garcia hasn’t exactly been a fan favorite over the past few years as an LA Dodger. He was very effective in 2015, but injuries derailed him the next three seasons. After finally coming back to pitch a full season in 2019, there were really no memorable moments to speak of, and plenty of lowlights. Although, he wasn’t quite as bad as some may recall.
|Yimi Garcia (2019)|
While his ERA wasn’t abhorrent, his peripherals were. This is largely due to his elite batted ball profile (which FIP and xFIP doesn’t care about), but his tendency to give up lots of fly balls and home runs (which they do).
This elite batted ball profile is worth noting, as Yimi was as good as anyone at limiting soft contact in regards to balls in play.
With this in mind, I believe Yimi Garcia has the makings to be a legitimate asset in the Dodgers ‘pen next year with a few notable tweaks. Let’s take a look at them:
Fastball Pitch Placement
Via Fangraphs, take a gander at where Yimi’s fastballs generally were.
This isn’t ideal, or even close to it. Yimi was unable to work his fastball horizontally nor vertically, leaving it down the middle of the plate far too often. Take a look at this home run, courtesy of Kole Calhoun.
— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) July 24, 2019
Or this one, from Jose Peraza.
— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) May 19, 2019
A solution for Yimi would to be to take the approach of fellow teammate Pedro Baez.
While high fastballs can be risky due to their susceptibility to home runs, they are a far better solution than Yimi’s strategy of middle-middle placement. The only problem here is that Pedro throws harder than Yimi, so the high fastball method may not work as well for him. A better idea may be to look at Padres closer, Kirby Yates, and how he utilized his fastball to the terrific year that he had.
This is very different than what we saw with Baez. Yates doesn’t throw as hard, so he throws his fastballs lower in the zone, in an attempt to induce ground balls. This is another game plan that could work for Yimi.
Slider Pitch Placement
On the bright side, Yimi’s slider placement, as seen above, has the potential of one of an elite reliever. The only problem here is we still see a moderately hot zone in the middle of the plate, which leads to outcomes like these.
— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) July 6, 2019
Simply put, Yimi just hangs his sliders far too often. When he’s not hanging them, however, he has done a terrific job of dropping them in the bottom corner of the strike zone, making it an unhittable pitch for right-handed batters.
Command in High Leverage Spots
While many sabermetricians will argue there is nothing inherently different between pitching in low and high leverage spots, this clearly was not the case for Yimi. Take a look at these absurd splits.
|Yimi Garcia (2019)||Low Leverage||Medium/High Leverage|
In nearly just a fourth as many innings in high/medium leverage situations, Yimi somehow surrendered more runs and more walks. Given the innings discrepancy, it’s hard to describe what an anomaly this is.
While Yimi was very effective in mop-up duty, he was virtually the worst pitcher in the league when elevating to important outings. While this is a very small sample size, the eye test certainly matches it. When watching the rare times Yimi would enter the game in a close spot, he never seemed to rise to the occasion.
Whether this is a mental issue or Yimi changing his mechanics when under pressure, leading to a loss of control, it is something that needs to be cleaned up by next season.
Looking back at it, Yimi suffered from the juiced ball as much as any other pitcher last season. However, this is no excuse. Pitchers have very little margin of error nowadays, meaning leaving fastballs down the middle and hanging sliders just can’t happen for him anymore. If he is able to get these pitches out of the heart of the plate, while figuring out how to find his command in big spots, I believe Yimi can be an integral piece of the Dodgers bullpen in 2020.