New LA Angels reliever Luis Garcia can find success

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 25: Pitcher Luis Garcia #57 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 25, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 25: Pitcher Luis Garcia #57 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 25, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

It’s finally happened, the Angels have started the offseason off with a trade of talented reliever Jose Alvarez for….for Luis Garcia? Wait, did the Angels just commit a literal downgrade? This lateral move doesn’t do anything to add on talent from last year or improve the team in any obvious manner…at first glance.

It may not make sense at first for the LA Angels with all the factors going into this trade, but at the end of the day there is a legitimate school of thought going into this move. However, is it a viable school of thought?

So the Angels traded their best reliever from 2018 in a bullpen that fell tragically short too often for Luis Garcia, a 31 year old reliever who is coming off a 6.07 ERA season (and that isn’t even his worst season). For comparison, Jose Alvarez, a left-handed reliever, pitched to a 2.71 ERA in 63 IP. He collected 6 totals wins to four losses while striking out 45 and walking 12, he also collected a save in 5 games finished.

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Those really seem like numbers you can build a bullpen around. We’re not trying to claim Jose Alvarez is a bullpen anchor, but at the very least he’s someone who can fill the top-end of a bullpen without much worry. Especially when you consider his status as the only effective left-handed reliever given Williams Jerezs poor performance last year (6.00 ERA in 15 IP). I know it’s a little depressing seeing the Angels part ways with this extremely solid athlete, but bear with me as I unravel this tangled thread.

Luis Garcia may not have the all across the board numbers like Jose Alvarez, but he does have a few tricks up his sleeve that make him a viable option going into 2019. Let us quickly dispel that notion of him being near useless with a 6+ ERA before we continue.

In the month of June, across 3 IP (5 games total), Garcia gave up 4 runs on 7 hits alongside a homerun, creating an overall 12.00 ERA for the month. Even worse was his horrid September/October stretch, which saw him compile a total 21.00 ERA across 6.0 IP (11 total games).

Now we know that kind of awfulness isn’t sustainable, especially in the Major Leagues, so what was happening with Luis Garcia that kept him in the league despite those horrendous numbers?

It makes more sense when you see his ERA totals for the rest of the year; April/March saw Garcia post a 3.00 ERA across 12 IP, May saw a 4.66 ERA across 9.2 IP, July saw a 0 ERA across 4.2 IP, and August saw an ERA of 3.38 across 10.2 IP.

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This isn’t to disregard his terrible months of June and September/October, but it does help shed light on his overall potential effectiveness as a reliever. Hold your judgement on him for just a bit longer because this picture isn’t totally in place yet.

Luis Garcia had one of the best stranded runner rates in the National League last year, stranding 80.6% of the runners he faced for the 5th best total in the NL. Garcia sports an effective fastball which hits the high 90’s while floating around 98mph which allowed his top-notch strikeout rate of 10 K/9. When pitching with 2 outs and RISP Garcia held hitters to a .219/.308/.285 slash line.

What’s also interesting is his numbers when pitching to current free agent catcher Wilson Ramos; across 9.2 IP Ramos helped guide Garcia to holding hitters at a measly .278 OBP. Somewhat unrelated, but the Angels have stated their need for a starting catcher and Wilson Ramos finished his age 30 season with a .300+ BA next to 15 HRs.

What we can see most clearly is the fact that the Angels traded an all around reliever for someone suited for situational work. The situation for Garcia being late inning, high leverage situations which require stranded runners.

This is actually an area where the Angels faltered magnificently, among all AL teams the Angels ranked 12th in total saves, 10th in HRs allowed and total BB’s. It isn’t the worst thing in the world that the Angels landed Garcia with the plan to pitch him in late inning, must-strand situations. It is a bit lopsided given they gave up a young Jose Alvarez coming off his best season yet and I’m not going to try to justify that, I only look to highlight what value Garcia will bring to the team.

The bullpen isn’t looking any better after this trade, and while it looks like it may be worse there is actually positive value to be had here. At this point we just have to let go of what Alvarez did that Garcia didn’t and move on to what Garcia can do to make this team successful.

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After all, he did have a pretty nice 2017 season out of the pen with the Phillies, posting a 2.65 ERA across 71.1 IP, so there are hopes that he can bring much greater value than what he did for the Philles in 2018.

Only time will tell how this trade will work out, maybe Garcia will be a shut-down late inning strikeout man with proper application by Brad Ausmus. Maybe he’ll amount to nothing more than a faulty mop up man.

It honestly could go either way at a 50/50 split at this point, so all we can do is enjoy our holiday seasons and hope Santa can leave some gusto and finesse under Luis Garcias Christmas tree this year.