Jarlin Garcia has performed like no other Marlins starting pitcher ever has at this early stage of his Major League journey.
Not Jose Fernandez.
Not Josh Beckett.
Not Dontrelle Willis, or Livan Hernandez, or anyone else.
In his three starts, Garcia has allowed just one earned run — Kike Hernandez’s solo home run Monday in the Marlins’ 2-1 loss to the Dodgers — and only five total hits spread over 17 innings.
Among starters, his 0.53 ERA ranks second only to the Giants’ Johnny Cueto’s figure of 0.35. He has been, by far, the Marlins’ brightest spot — one of few on the roster— in a transition season that has already swirled down the drain.
If the season ended now, Garcia would be their All-Star representative.
And he may yet be that player come July.
Just don’t expect the success to continue for the 25-year-old lefty, not at this exceptional rate.
Common sense says it can’t continue.
Advanced analytics say it won’t, either.
At some point, the law of averages will swing the numbers closer to the norm, as batted balls that have been falling into fielder’s gloves for outs now will eventually begin to drop into the empty spaces for hits.
Opposing batters are hitting just .114 against Garcia, the most anemic figure in the Majors, and one that is certain to rise.
His BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is an impossibly low .116. The league norm is closer to .300, and suggests strongly that he’s thus far been more fortunate (or “lucky,” some would say) than anything else.
It would be one thing if Garcia was a strikeout pitcher, one who misses bats. But he’s not. With a ho-hum 92 mph fastball that he maximizes with his slider and change-up, Garcia relies on contact for outs.
Garcia averages fewer than seven strikeouts per nine innings, which is nothing special, especially in this era of escalating strikeout rates. On Monday, he whiffed seven Dodgers over six innings. But he recorded eight fly ball outs, most of which were struck relatively deep — straight into Marlins’ gloves.
“It’s one of those things where outs are outs and you take them when you can,” Garcia said after Monday’s good outing. “I knew that this (Dodger Stadium) is a ballpark where the ball flies, so I was more happy to keep them all within the fences and get outs.”
All but Hernandez’s, of course, which found its way over the wall.
Garcia’s successful transition from the bullpen to the rotation has been a minor blessing for the 5-17 Marlins, whose starters have the poorest staff ERA in the National League: 5:45.
Imagine what it would be if not for Garcia?
“I feel more comfortable in my role as a starting pitcher, and now it’s just about going forward everyday and getting better and better,” Garcia said. “What I’ve learned, and what’s helped me so far, is just being aggressive with the hitters, knowing that each out matters.”
For now, the outs are coming for Garcia.
For how long is the question.