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The Velocity gamble: Analyzing the Jose Alvarez / Luis Garcia trade

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Feeling the need for speed

Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

On the surface, the swap between Garcia and Alvarez looks bad. After all, Garcia put up a 6.07 ERA with a NEGATIVE WAR in 2018, while Alvarez was arguable the Angels’ best bullpen piece with a 2.71 ERA and 1.4 WAR. Seems a bit lopsided, right?

See a fanpost take on this trade here

Both pitchers are around the same salary and both are arbitration eligible for two more years. Alvarez is 29 year old while Garcia is 31.

Pitch Repertoire

Jose Alvarez throws 5 pitches (fastball, curve, slider, changeup, cutter). His fastball tops out around 94 MPH and his velocity really hasn’t changed over the past 3 years, in fact his fastball velocity ticked up ever so slightly in 2018. Despite throwing 5 pitches, Alvarez doesn’t really have a big wow factor on any of them, however, his slider gave him good success in 2018 with a 15.2% whiff rate and .171 BAA.

Luis Garcia has some bigger stuff than Alvarez and only throws 3 pitches (fastball, slider, changeup). Garcia’s bread and butter is his his sinking fastball that touched 100 in 2018.

Despite the nastiness factor on that pitch, it only generated whiffs 8.9% of the time and opponents teed off with a .340 average against his heater. Heat is only good if opponents can’t hit it. The secret to great success for Garcia may be to mix in his slider and changeup a bit more - both of which generated a near 20% whiff rate

Platoon Splits

King of matchups, Mr. Mike Scioscia is gone and new era has set on this team. Jose Alvarez was the bullpen’s sole lefty arm and he was certainly tough on lefty hitters with a .206 BAA in 2018, though he did give up a few home runs.

Garcia looks pretty much the same vs. lefties or righties with a .777 and .768 OPS against either.

Stat Comparison

At first glance, ERA looks BAAAAD. But many modern baseball stat geeks prefer FIP, which takes fielders out of the equation, at that number looks much closer together. However, if you wan to feel good about this trade, you might want to ignore some of those other stats.

Summary

Luis Garcia has some good qualities like blazing speed and some nasty pitches but he’s proven to be no dominant force on the mound and has suffered from control issues most of his career. His BB/9 was down in 2018 which is perhaps a good sign but he’s still getting tagged for a lot of hits. He has the velocity and the movement on his pitches but is not always missing bats. Perhaps Eppler thinks he can put all that together and turn Garcia around.

This trade for me really comes down to trading away a younger known pitcher for one that is two years older and “might” be good. Billy Eppler is essential gambling on some advanced metrics and velocity that Garcia will be an answer for the Angels pen in 2019. Velocity if great - if you can control your pitches - but there certainly is more to pitching that just throwing hard. Let’s see how this trade shapes up over the early months in the 2019 seasons.