LOS ANGELES -- One of the bright spots in the early going for the Dodgers in 2015 has been relief pitcher Yimi Garcia, who parlayed a strong spring into a well-deserved spot on the opening day roster. Garcia continued his early season success on Monday, striking out two in a scoreless 10th inning in the Dodgers' 6-5 win over the Mariners.
It was the first major league win for Garcia, who made his major league debut last September. For his efforts, his teammates celebrated by dumping ice water on the 24-year-old in the Dodgers clubhouse.
"They threw water on me," Garcia said. "It was really cold, freezing cold, but it was really fun."
It hasn't been fun for opposing hitters against Garcia in 2015. They are 2-for-18 with two singles, a walk and eight strikeouts. The walk was intentional. Garcia credits his fastball and slider really working well for his success.
"He was one of those guys in the minor leagues that had success all the way though. His velocities aren't like the velocities that you'd think gets the punch outs he does," manager Don Mattingly explained. "But he's got a real action to his ball. It's one of the things with Andrew [Friedman, president of baseball operations] and the guys will talk about. We talk about spin rates and things like that."
Spin rates were not something that was brought up often, or even at all, in most managerial interviews I've heard in my four years of covering the team.
But even before Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, Josh Byrnes and the gang came on board in October and November, spin rates and Garcia had been mentioned before, by Chad Moryiama, now with Dodgers Digest. He mentioned spin rates in December 2013:
Common sense conclusions there, as that stuff’s basically the reason Takashi Saito (for a Dodger example) was able to miss so many bats with an average fastball. But the relevant point of the article is that Trackman can actually measure the spin in question, thus we can determine which pitchers may have this deception.
Koji Uehara is cited as a prime example of a high-spin fastball benefiting his swing-and-miss stuff with mediocre velocity, and he’s at 2427 RPM, which is quite a bit more than the 2200 RPM league average. That now takes us back to Yimi Garcia, because while in the AFL, Trackman had his fastballs at 2504 RPM. That’s promising.
Garcia had a minor league strikeout rate of 29.2 percent. In the majors, in all of 15 innings, he's at 30.9 percent. All with a fastball that usually averages 91-92 mph, though this year has climbed over 93 mph, per Brooks Baseball.
"He's real interesting when you take a little deeper look at him instead of just the velocity," Mattingly said. "He's one of those guys that the ball gets on you different than other guys."