Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

Garcia is Cardinals’ X factor

Of the Cardinals’ several players with strong but unpredictable influence (among them Lance Berkman and David Freese), Jaime Garcia is their no-1 X Factor because of his rookie campaign featuring a superb 2.70 ERA but an xFIP of 3.73, an uninspiring spring, and the rotation’s need for him to perform in the wake of losing ace Adam Wainwright.

Which Garcia will the Cardinals get in 2011? If he comes anywhere close to his rookie ERA — his Marcels projection is most favorable, with a 3.36 ERA — the team will be in great shape. But that full point gap between his 2010 ERA and expected FIP represents a lot of room for variance — as in a much higher ERA. Although spring numbers are notoriously unreliable, El Gato certainly hasn’t inspired confidence in Jupiter, posting Barry Zito-like rates of 1.00 K/BB and 3.18 K/9.

Sophomore slumps happen, but, given that the Cardinals are asking all of their pitchers to bump up a slot in the rotation without Adam Wainwright, this would be a particularly bad time for Garcia to have one. The stakes therefore are heightened: If he succeeds, the Cardinals will contend; if he fades, the Cardinals will have hard decisions to make at the trade deadline in order to keep up with the Brewers and Reds.

Nearly as vital as Garcia to the Cardinals’ hopes of a division title are Berkman, Freese and even perhaps Jason Motte. If he’s the Big Puma of as recently as 2008, when he pumped in 7.5 WAR, the Cardinals boast one of the most potent offenses in the league. But if he misses time to injury and his righthanded hitting renders his dual platoon advantage half-useful, the lineup begins to depend on unproven talents like Allen Craig. Ditto Freese, who if healthy could improve on his .341 wOBA from 2010 but also could just as easily find himself on the shelf again. And Motte could be an X factor. As Nathan Grimm notes, Kyle McClellan‘s move to the rotation ups the ante for the eighth-inning reliever, and Motte will have a chance to make a big impact there, or even as close if Ryan Franklin falters.

3 Responses to “Garcia is Cardinals’ X factor”

  1. Danny S Says:

    I have to go with Freese, but it’s hard to argue with Garcia. Retrospectively, who do you think have been the Cardinal’s X factor the last several years? Last big one I can think of is Wainwright in 2006.

  2. Cause For Concern? « Redbird Rants | A St. Louis Cardinals Blog Says:

    […] is sure to have a major influence on this team’s success this year, so he must avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. With that said, […]

  3. Austin's Astros 290 Blog » Blog Archive » Season Preview: Cards have the bats, Astros have the pitching Says:

    […] or Jordan Lyles) ends up taking over the fifth starter’s role.  As Philip wrote well in his analysis of the Cardinals’ X-factor, they’re in a precarious position leaning on Jaime Garcia as their No. 2 starter.  These are […]

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