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Is Jaime Garcia the Best Pitcher in Rotation?

After 7 dominant shutout innings with only 2 hits allowed in yesterday’s win, Garcia is slowly making his case for the best pitcher in the Cardinals starting rotation.

In 2015, Jaime Garcia had a monster year, going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA. In 20 starts and 130 innings pitched, he only gave up a total of six home runs and 30 walks. He had such a good year that some baseball experts would argue that it would probably be the best season in his career and that there was no way he could beat those numbers again.

However, in the beginning of 2016, Garcia has picked up right where he left off. After six starts, he currently has a 3.05 ERA with a complete game shutout. He has given up one home run and 40 strikeouts in 38 and 1/3 innings.

He has already astonished Cardinals fans with two stellar pitching performances in 2016.

On April 4th against the Brewers, Garcia threw a one-hit shutout on 104 pitches and a career high 13 strikeouts. Had it not been for a bloop single in the top of the 6th inning and a walk, we might be talking about how Garcia had one of the most dominating no-hitter performances in recent memory.

Yesterday, against a scrappy Phillies team who can surprise fans with their power, Garcia pitched seven strong innings and gave up only two hits. More impressively, he pitched those innings with only 82 pitches. He likely could have pitched at least one more inning, but Mike Matheny decided to put Matt Holliday to pinch hit in a pivotal 3-run 7th inning. This was probably the smart move, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Garcia was pitching well and was on his game.

The Cardinals’ pitching rotation has faced a lot of scrutiny from die-hard fans this year. However, much of that scrutiny is unfair. Two of the top three pitchers in this rotation, Adam Wainwright (6.68 ERA) and Mike Leake (6.03 ERA), have been so bad that Cardinals fans are missing the fact that Garcia (3.05 ERA), Michael Wacha (2.65 ERA), and Carlos Martinez (2.60 ERA) are all having great years.

Even though Garcia has the highest ERA out of the Wacha/Martinez/Garcia trio, other statistics show that he might be the best pitcher thus far. Garcia’s opponents batting average is only .193, which is much lower than Wacha’s .259. Also, Garcia’s opponents slugging percentage is only .263, compared to Martinez’s .304.

Of course, Martinez right now might be the fan favorite in the rotation because of how dominant he has looked to the blind eye. Even Wainwright, though he hasn’t been up to par this year, will still be a fan favorite because of all that he has done for this franchise in the past.

However, Garcia is slowly making up ground. He has gotten off to a good start in 2016 and Cardinals fans should appreciate what he has done thus far. If, by the end of the year, Garcia can come anywhere near his 2015 statistics with the 2.43 ERA, we should all realize the fact that last year was not a fluke and that Garcia is truly one of the best pitchers in the Cardinals’ rotation.

Photo Captured by Jeff Curry- USA Today Sports