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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

TCN Blog 2015 Top Story #15: Jaime Garcia’s Comeback

If I was Jaime Garcia, I would request a recount.

The St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced that the 29-year-old left-hander is sharing the team’s 2015 Bauman Physical Comeback Award with fellow starting pitcher Adam Wainwright*.

While Wainwright is indisputably the team’s ace and mounted an inspirational early in-season return from an Achilles injury, his actual impact on the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals’ 100-win season was minimal – 0.9 WAR, to be precise.

On the other hand, Garcia made 20 starts and contributed 2.8 WAR to his team. Jaime went 10-6 with a rotation-best 2.43 ERA and threw 129 2/3 innings, his most since 2011.

He turned that performance into something that coming into the season, no one, myself included, expected would possibly happen.

Garcia earned the team’s pick up of his 2016 contract option, valued at $11.5 million.

Talk about a comeback!

With Garcia heading into 2015 spring training with injury questions for the third straight year, few were counting on him to deliver much of anything. July 2014 thoracic outlet surgery had been the latest in a long string of physical ailments suffered by the left-hander.

Through three spring outings, however, Garcia was pitching well enough to apparently take the lead in the fifth starter competition with Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales. Then the club decided to push Garcia in an 80-pitch simulated game on March 24th (see photo). The lefty felt discomfort afterward and did not throw again in camp. He was placed on the disabled list to open the season.

On May 21, Garcia was activated for the first time since spring training. Essentially, the lefty took the injured Wainwright’s rotation spot that neither Tim Cooney nor Tyler Lyons could hold. Later, Garcia missed three weeks in July with a groin injury.

When healthy, Garcia was fantastic during the regular season. He led the rotation in both ERA (2.43) and FIP (3.00) and had the lowest walk rate (2.1 per nine innings). Garcia excelled despite having to often pitch on the edge, with the lowest average run support among Cardinals starters (3.1 runs). He pitched deeply into games with his 6 1/3 inning average just 1/3 of a frame behind team leader John Lackey.

For the NLDS, with Martinez out and Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn less than 100 percent, the starting burden fell to Lackey and Garcia.

It did not end well for the latter, however.

Battling the flu in silence, Garcia did not inform manager Mike Matheny of his illness until one hour before first pitch of his scheduled Game 2 start. A quick decision was made to stay the course.

After getting through the first unscathed, Garcia fell apart in the second inning, allowing five unearned runs, with his own throwing error playing a crucial role. Still, Chicago’s first three scores came on balls that did not leave the infield – until Jorge Soler’s two-run home run put the final dagger into Garcia’s outing. The Cardinals lost the lead, dropped Game 2, and three days later, their 2015 was over.

To some observers, the NLDS flu incident undid all the good Garcia accomplished during the regular season.

I do not see it that way, however. While the flu situation was definitely poorly-handled, Garcia proved to be the team’s best starter when healthy in 2015 while filling in admirably for Wainwright.

Garcia’s next step is to aim to pitch a full season in 2016 – something he has accomplished only once in his career – to earn his $12 million team option for 2017. Of course, there will still be plenty of doubters.

* Tickets for the 58th annual St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner, to be held on January 17, 2016, can be purchased online at stlouisbbwaa.com or by calling Brown Paper Tickets (1-800-838-3006).

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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5 Responses to “TCN Blog 2015 Top Story #15: Jaime Garcia’s Comeback”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Garcia illustrates how it’s hard for doctors to know why a pitcher is feeling shoulder pain. Garcia decided not to suffer, but to try an operation that saved him. The cards did not have a clue and objected to the operation. Happily Jaime ignored them and fair weather fans.
    He has long been a nifty, clever pitcher when able to throw, a great find in the 2005 draft. With luck, Jaime might win 20 in 2016.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Just say no to drugs Jumbo. The only way Jaime Garcia wins 20 games is to add 2 or 3 seasons together.Cards made a 12 million dollar mistake IMHO.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Good thing I did not estimate 26 wins and was more realistic.

      • Bw52 says:

        Jaime Garcia has made 162 innings pitched 2 times in his career.
        Jaime Garcia has made 28 starts or more just 2 times in his career.Jaime has not won more than 10 games since 2010.
        Garcia won 26 in his first and only two complete season added together.I hope all 5 Cardinal starters win 20 games each……………………but one thing I am sure of is that Jaime Garcia won`t be one of them to win 20.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          You don’t factor health. Garcia had three years (2012-14) curtailed by an injury. He had a successful surgery and came back to be an effective pitcher. There is no reason to think he cannot enjoy a fuller campaign during 2016.

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