Avisail Garcia passed a milestone against Boston on Wednesday. He didn’t reach any magic numbers with his 2-for-4 night, either for his career or his season, but I’d consider this one even more significant:
For the first time in his career, he had a second consecutive good month.
- April 2017: .368/.409/.621 over 93 PA
- May 2017: .301/.345/.485 over 110 PA
Everybody expected regression from Garcia after he came out posting a 1.029 OPS over the first month, but the good hitters have a way of making it gentle. Think Paul Konerko’s renaissance or Jose Abreu’s rookie season. They’d have a month where the homers flowed and the bloopers avoided every glove. Then came reality to dash the dreams of 60 homers or a .400 average, but the hit tool/batting eye and raw strength provided a safety net for that inevitable drop-off.
The clock almost struck midnight at a couple points over the second half of May for Garcia. He hit a wall by going 0-for-12 with a walk and two double plays, which was part of a larger 4-for-27 stretch with nine strikeouts. It was the kind of slump that resembled the beginnings of previous ends. This time, he rallied with a couple of two-hit games, giving him a May to be proud of.
He’s hitting .322/.374/.547 for the season, which is the kind of batting line that can easy cover for below-average play in right field, but that’s another departure from last season. Two months in, all the major metrics like his defense well enough. He’s a run above average according to both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, which more or less checks out (Adam Eaton is a tough act to follow with regards to the eye test). Just like his offense, Garcia’s early work in right field allows him to absorb a step back, rather than spending the season racing to salvage even one department.
Add it all up, and he’s already contributed about 2 WAR to the cause. That’s an All-Star start, and he’s receiving considerable consideration as a result:
Close races highlight the first American League balloting update for the 2017 @AllStarGame. Vote now at https://t.co/qd5OOxn7ED pic.twitter.com/caEZwC3uxh— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) May 31, 2017
It wasn’t always like this, as most White Sox fans are aware. If you don’t count the start of Garcia’s first full season with the Sox, when he stuck himself into Coors Field like a jart and screwed up his shoulder, he’s only had two good months for a middle-of-the-order hitter (.800 OPS, more or less).
- August 2016: .319/.360/.660 over 50 PA
- September 2016: .237/.290/.366 over 100 PA
This was Garcia at his most frustrating. Through July, he was hitting .234/.304/.344 and was a big reason why the White Sox were sellers at the deadline yet again. Just when he finally started showing signs of life, he sprained his right knee and hit the disabled list, after which he resumed his form as a non-tender candidate.
- May 2015: .333/.370/.483 over 92 PA
- June 2015: .181/.250/.298 over 104 PA
Some might count Garcia’s April — .309/.347/.397 — as a good month, but a .417 BABIP should lead to more than a .744 OPS. Case in point: his May (.394 BABIP, .852 OPS). He cut the strikeouts while finding the fence more often, making a breakout season a legitimate possibility.
Then he departed a late-May game with a knee injury, causing him to miss five games. He came back to close out the month with a couple of 1-for-4 games, but regression beat his fingers off the ledge. He finished the year hitting .232/.290/.333 over the season’s final four months, making that April even more of a mirage than it initially appeared.
Unlike two years ago, you can’t call this Garcia start fluky. It still might be unsustainable, because his approach -- few walks, opposite-field power — is still a very difficult way to make a living, but he’s making more contact, and better contact at that.
Avisail Garcia’s good starts
The BABIP is high, but it often is for Garcia due to his flat-ish swing and his good speed from home plate to first. It’s always been about the frequency and quality of his contact, which coexist comfortably enough for success, even if it may be difficult to maintain it.
From here, Garcia’s history tells us that he’s susceptible to an injury that ruins everything. He already sidestepped a groin tweak in late April and an illness in late May, so hey, maybe his approach has a strong enough foundation to weather bumps and bruises. He shouldn’t go throwing his body around to find out.