clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Deep League Thoughts: Jaime Garcia is fantasy's Mark Harelik

Have I written enough labored pop-culture references yet? CAN I BE THE NEXT BILL SIMMONS?!

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Years ago, in a column at my old newspaper, I wrote a thing about how, if you were picking a celebrity to be, you wouldn't want to be, say, Brad Pitt. Yeah, it would be cool to be him, but you're also giving up any semblance of a private life, any chance to just go out and be a person for an evening.

No, I argued, if you were picking a celebrity to be, it would be Mark Harelik. Harelik is 63, with 80-some credits on his IMDb page. Most of those are one- or two-off appearances in TV shows or small roles in movies. That means he's acted alongside some of our most famous actors. At the same time, Harelik is a very successful playwright, with multiple awards on his ledger, and he's been on Broadway many times. He's not on my mind when I'm not actively watching him, but every time he's on screen I think "Oh, that's good then."

Sure, if you asked him, I'm sure Mark Harelik would love to have Brad Pitt's money and street credibility. But he might not want Pitt's lack of a private life. If Pitt walked down the streets of my hometown, everyone he passed would call and text people and snap photos. If Harelik did the same, six people might look twice, think "Was that guy on The Big Bang Theory?" and go on about their day. He's famous, but just barely.

This isn't a perfect analogue, but there's a baseball player who has already made more than $27 million in his career, and has almost double that coming to him in the next two seasons. This despite not qualifying for the ERA title since 2011, with six DL stints on his ledger. But whenever he's been on the field, he's been more good than bad. If you were going to pick a baseball player to become, sure, you might pick Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner. But you could do a lot worse than being Jaime Garcia.

Garcia didn't even reach 100 combined innings in 2013 and 2014. In fact, his innings pitched have dropped every season since 2011. So owning him in fantasy carries the expectation of a short-term investment. You might pick up Garcia and hold him for the whole season, using him every five days. But you also might have him this week and lose him next because his shoulder issues flare back up.

But that's easy. If you're in a deeper league, where you can't just stream starters, and you own, just to name a name, Mike Leake and he gets hurt, the question of how to deal with it gets fishy. If you drop him, well, he might be back in two weeks, and you've lost a good starter. But if you hold him, that's a roster spot or a DL slot that you are burning for who knows how long.

Garcia, on the other hand, presents no such questions. If/when he gets hurt, you can just move on. Sure, there's a chance that he's out just a couple weeks, like my hypothetical Leake, but that's rare enough that is' much less of a thing to regret.

So there's that. The question then becomes whether the performance Garcia offers when he is healthy is worth the theoretically short-term investment. Well, he's never in his career (outside 16 innings as a 21-year-old in 2008) had a FIP higher than 3.82, putting up a 3.32 cumulatively from 2010 to 2014. He's never been a huge-strikeout guy, with 7.3 K/9 over his last five seasons, but he has kept his walks low enough to make that work (2.82 K:BB). Garcia might not be the 2.70 ERA guy he was in 2010 when he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, but talent and production have never been his issues; it's been health.

Garcia's first start off the DL wasn't any great shakes from a peripherals standpoint, and he did give up eight hits in six innings Tuesday, but he's at a 3.46 ERA through two starts, and you'd think his numbers would improve as the rust gets further shaken off. Garcia is only 16-percent owned, and this is a pitcher who ought to pitch well as long as he's healthy. And, like I said, the minute he's not healthy, you move on. It's a handy escape clause, and it means you can capitalize while he's there.

I just remembered my Mark Harelik metaphor at the start. Like, literally, I sat there for a second and thought "Wait, wasn't I writing about Mark Harelik earlier?" It wasn't my best metaphor, was it? Oh well, Jaime Garcia isn't Clayton Kershaw but he's still a valuable contributor. I'm standing by it.