Through the first six series of the Altoona Curve season, Willy Garcia was writing the same story for himself as he had the past three seasons in the Pirates minor league system.

Garcia turns heads with an outstanding arm from the outfield, and he had a respectable batting average last season. However, his strikeout rate was over 30%, and he did not draw walks. Those 2014 results were almost identical to his 2013 season in Bradenton, even though he hit .299 after June 1st through the end of the season. The Pirates protected him from the Rule 5 draft after the 2014 season by adding him to the 40 man roster; however, they needed Garcia to reduce his strikeouts and get on base more to move up to Triple-A Indianapolis in 2015.

Through April, it did not seem like there was any difference in Garcia’s game. He hit for a high average, but his strikeout rate continued to be too high at almost 33%. He also wasn’t hitting for power with only two extra base hits. Once May rolled around though, there seemed to be a difference in his game. In twelve games so far this month, he has only struck out three times in 47 plate appearances. As you can see below, some of his other stats may have taken a dip, but the reduced strikeout rate is a huge development to his game.

Willy Garcia
April (17 games)
May (12 games)
Batting Average
.295
.267
On-base Percentage
.353
.286
Slugging Percentage
.344
.311
Isolated Power (ISO)
.049
.044
BABIP
.462
.273
Strikeout Rate
32.9% (23 in 70 PA)
6.4% (3 in 47 PA)
Walk Rate
7.1% (5 in 70 PA)
4.3% (2 in 47 PA)

When asked about his approach recently, Garcia said that he is trying to do less with his swing in two strike counts rather than over swinging like in the past.

“I work to select a good pitch in the zone [earlier in the count], and I feel pretty good right now,” Garcia said. “I am not trying to do too much when I get two strikes, now. Last year, I tried to do too much when I had two strikes. Now, I swing just to try to get the ball in play.”

Coming out of major league camp, the biggest thing stressed to Garcia was to slow down his body and attack pitches in the strike zone with two strikes. Hitting coach Kevin Riggs said that Garcia’s mental approach has needed to change when getting into a two strike situation.

“Willy has worked on cutting down his body movement,” Riggs said. “We talked with the guys about slowing their bodies down so they can be better visually and attack pitches in the strike zone with two strikes.”

With Garcia’s skillset, he was still trying to do major damage with two strikes. When he began to cut down the moving parts, it has allowed him to get the barrel to the ball more consistently.

Getting ahead in the count seems to be the key to success for Garcia moving forward. Up to this point in the season, he is batting .343 with an OPS of .881 when he is ahead in the count. When falling behind in the count, his batting average takes a major drop to .205 and his OPS is a measly .426.

It is obvious that Garcia has a long way to go to round out his game, but the reduction in strikeouts is very encouraging. If he can continue like he has so far this month, the next question for his development would be whether he can maintain a high average and begin hitting for power. Also, before the Curve’s afternoon game on Wednesday, he had not drawn any walks in the month of May. His 4.3% walk rate this year is not far from his career average, and that number will simply not cut it moving forward. Yes, the strikeouts are down, but the lack of walks and extra base hits is a real problem. Only time and more at-bats will tell the story on if the month of May is an anomaly for Garcia concerning strikeouts. Next, he needs to find a way to maintain that strikeout rate while raising his average and slugging percentage.

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1 COMMENT

  1. some players just dont have swing which nets contact…others just have no plate patience…. some have no pitch recognition. The first really cant be helped, the second can! the third really cant eiher. These stats and this article sho he does fall into that category or at least seems to. this type of approach will not end in more walks, actually it will lead to less from being aggressive early in the count, but it will also take away strikeouts to a reasonable degree. This is very similar to the way Russell Martin hit with two strikes, what they are trying to do with Kang with 2 strikes, and the way you’ve seen Marte change his swing with 2 strikes as well. It works, and if his 2 strike OPS was already so horrible, taking away power with 2 strikes to remove strikeouts really shouldn’t hurt his power at all.

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