Luis Garcia had a breakout season in 2021, posting a 3.30 ERA and a 3.85 FIP in 155.2 innings for the Houston Astros. The 24-year-old right-hander was a key contributor to the Astros’ run to the World Series, where he pitched six scoreless innings in Game 3 against the Atlanta Braves.
However, Garcia’s performance in 2021 was not without some flaws. One of them was his four-seam fastball, which was one of the worst pitches in baseball by some metrics.
According to Statcast, Garcia’s four-seamer had a -9.4 run value per 100 pitches, ranking 131st out of 136 qualified pitchers. His four-seamer also had a .303 batting average against, a .541 slugging percentage against, and a .369 expected wOBA against, all well above the league averages.
So what went wrong with Garcia’s four-seamer? There are several possible factors that could explain its ineffectiveness. One of them is the lack of velocity and spin rate.
Garcia’s four-seamer averaged 93.6 mph and 2,263 rpm in 2021, both below the league averages of 94.1 mph and 2,323 rpm for four-seamers. A low velocity and spin rate combination can make a fastball easier to hit, especially if it does not have much movement or deception.
Another factor is the location and usage of the pitch. Garcia tended to throw his four-seamer up in the zone or above it, which can be an effective strategy for some pitchers who have high velocity or spin rate.
However, Garcia did not have either of those attributes, and his four-seamer did not generate enough swings and misses or pop-ups to justify throwing it so high.
In fact, Garcia had a 9.4% whiff rate and a 6.4% pop-up rate on his four-seamer, both below the league averages of 11.8% and 7.7% for four-seamers.
Garcia also threw his four-seamer too often in some situations where it was not optimal. For example, he threw his four-seamer 51.9% of the time when he was behind in the count, which was the highest rate among qualified pitchers.
This made him predictable and vulnerable to hitters who were looking for a fastball in a hitter’s count. Garcia also threw his four-seamer 40.4% of the time with two strikes, which was the ninth-highest rate among qualified pitchers.
This reduced his chances of getting strikeouts with his secondary pitches, which were more effective than his fastball.
Garcia’s four-seamer was clearly his weakest pitch in 2021, and he will need to make some adjustments to improve it in 2022. He could try to increase his velocity or spin rate on the pitch, or he could change his location and usage patterns to make it more unpredictable and deceptive.
He could also rely more on his other pitches, such as his cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball, which all had positive run values per 100 pitches in 2021.
Garcia has shown that he has the talent and potential to be a successful pitcher in the majors, but he will have to overcome his four-seam fastball problem if he wants to take the next step in his development.
Final Thoughts: Luis Garcia Needs to Improve His Four-Seam Fastball
Luis Garcia had an impressive 2021 season for the Houston Astros, but his four-seam fastball was a major weakness. The pitch had a negative run value per 100 pitches and was hit hard by opposing batters.
Several factors contributed to its ineffectiveness, including a lack of velocity and spin rate, poor location and usage patterns, and predictability in certain situations.
To improve his four-seam fastball, Garcia will need to make some adjustments. He could try to increase its velocity or spin rate, or he could change his location and usage patterns to make it more unpredictable and deceptive.
He could also rely more on his other pitches, which were more effective in 2021.
Overall, Garcia has the talent and potential to be a successful pitcher in the majors, but he will need to overcome his four-seam fastball problem if he wants to continue his development and contribute to the Astros’ success in the future.