It’s Not Your Fault, Frank Garces

Sunday afternoon at Petco Park, with two outs and nobody on in the top of the 6th inning and the Padres trailing 4-3, Odrisamer Despaigne hit Yasmany Tomas with a pitch to bring up the D-Backs’ young left-handed hitting third baseman Jake Lamb. Although Despaigne had pitched well despite the four earned runs allowed, allowing just 3 hits and no walks to go along with 6 strikeouts and just 84 pitches, Padres interim manager Pat Murphy made the decision that this was an important situation, and he called to the bullpen for young lefty specialist Frank Garces.

It’s not your fault, Frank Garces.

Garces has just barely hung onto a bullpen spot by a thread since the start of the season. He made the opening day roster, was optioned to AAA El Paso on April 25th, and then was recalled from AAA on May 5th. He’s never been better than the 6th or 7th best option in the bullpen (it’s also not Cory Mazzoni’s fault), and at many points in the season better relievers have been sent down to AAA while he’s stuck on the roster because he’s left-handed and he’s the only left-handed reliever they’ve got.

It’s not your fault, Frank Garces.

Garces got ahead of Lamb with two curveballs, then missed with a third curve after throwing over to check on Tomas, who wasn’t going anywhere. The fourth pitch of the at-bat was a fastball. It wasn’t a good one. Lamb laced it over the right-field wall for a two-run home run to give the Diamondbacks a 6-3 lead.

That was your fault, Frank Garces.

Or maybe it wasn’t.

Why would Murphy call Garces’ name in that situation, other than that Garces is left-handed, Lamb is left-handed, and Despaigne is not left-handed? Lamb, predictably, struggles against left-handed pitching, so that’s good. He was 1-2 with a single and a ground out against Despaigne to that point. Garces hasn’t been particularly good against left-handed hitters though. While that was the first home run he’d given up against a lefty, lefties had a .404 OBP and a .328 wOBA against him. When called upon to get lefties out, he’s not doing a very good job.

After Lamb’s home run, Garces allowed a single to Aaron Hill, and he was then replaced by Kevin Quackenbush. Quack hasn’t exactly been great against lefties either, allowing a .385 OBP and a .315 wOBA to left-handed hitters, but it’s still better than Garces. In his two seasons in the big leagues, he’s never allowed a home run at Petco Park. Maybe Murphy should have just called for Quack instead of Garces.

But if Garces can’t get lefties out, and he’s not all that effective against righties either, why does he continue to stick on the active roster? We know he has options left, so it’s not that he’s out of those. Is it just that he’s left-handed? Is that a good enough reason?

Nick Vincent, who had seemed destined for a role as a late-inning reliever up until he struggled a little in 2014, has spent most of this season in AAA. He was optioned back to AAA on the 24th after not allowing a run in five appearances since being called back up two weeks prior. What if instead of optioning Vincent, the Padres had optioned Garces instead, and with 2 outs in the 6th yesterday had called on Vincent to face Lamb? While Vincent has been especially hard on right-handed batters over the course of his career, he’s certainly been much better than Garces against lefties.

Why go to a reliever at all? As I previously noted, Despaigne was only at 84 pitches on the outing and it’s not like Lamb had crushed him all day, or that the young Lamb was such a huge threat that he required a specialist to get him out. He’s not a bad young player, but he’s certainly not Bryce Harper either. With two outs and just a runner on first, wouldn’t it make more sense to let Despaigne try to get Lamb out himself, and if he had allowed Lamb another single, then bring in Quackenbush to face Aaron Hill and his .599 OPS?

Most of the time when a manager makes a questionable decision during a game nobody notices, because most of the time nothing of note happens. Not this time though, and Lamb’s two-run home run turned out to be the difference in the game, as the Padres lost 6-4, missing out on a series sweep that would have been a huge confidence boost to this team. As it turned out, Murphy’s call to the bullpen for Garces was the key moment in the game.

It’s not your fault, Pat Murphy.

Two weeks ago, Pat Murphy was still managing in El Paso. When he looks out to the bullpen and sees a lefty reliever, he’s going to use that lefty reliever. When bad players are left on the roster, they are going to be used. There are only 25 roster spots, and managers need to use each one. Garces being on the roster is not Pat Murphy’s fault.

It’s up to Padres General Manager AJ Preller and his staff to make sure the best seven guys are out there in the bullpen every night. If it’s that important to have a lefty out there, go out and get an effective one. If it’s not that important, recall Nick Vincent and get Garces back to AAA as soon as possible, not because Garces is lacking in potential, just that he’s clearly not ready to be a major leaguer, and identifying and removing bad players from your roster can be just as important as finding and keeping talented players.

The Padres are 37-41, and are guaranteed to finish the first 81 games of the season under .500. It’s not that they don’t have talented players, they have much more talent on the roster this season than they have had in the recent past. They’re being dragged down by bad players being put in situations they shouldn’t be in.

It’s not your fault, Frank Garces.

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