I’ve given up trying to understand Adolis Garcia

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The key to enjoying Adolis Garcia is admitting that you don’t understand Adolis Garcia. And not me. Just last week I begged our fellow Jamey Newberg to explain exactly how this is still happening — how the 29-year-old, who I once described as playing baseball like it was a Slayer track, remains so impressive despite so much over his game suggests that he shouldn’t be.

Because last fall I thought I figured out El Bombi. The dirty secret of his hilariously entertaining 2021 All-Star campaign was that only a single month of it was anything special. In May, he hit 11 home runs (more than any other hitter that month), nicked five bags (two shy of the monthly MLB lead), and generally outperformed all but two position players in baseball. He hit .227 with a .272 OBP the rest of the season and hit in more than 32 percent of his at-bats. This was a Scorsese film spanning 30 days, a vagabond from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the dregs of the Cardinals’ farm system who rose to become one of baseball’s best players before falling just as dramatically. By the end of the season, he was proving to be something of a fourth outfielder, a disappointing result for a supposed All-Star but also one that exceeded any reasonable expectations the team could have had in spring training.

But when a rebuilding club doesn’t have many outfielders to begin with, supposed fourth outfielders playing capable midfield tend to find their way onto the field and so Garcia returned to his everyday role at the start of the 2022 season. Fast forward three months and El Bombi remains in full effect, hit big bombs and smashing bigger bat flips. On a $500 million midfielder team, one relatively low-earning outfielder is Texas’ momentmaker, the Ranger, whose manager aptly describes him as “righteous.” [having] a knack for being the guy.”

And yet not much has changed. His .243 batting average is identical to last year’s all-season mark, with the .290 OBP just four ticks better. The walk rate is up half a percentage point, while the strikeout rate is just a swoon away from climbing back up to the dreaded 30 percent mark. His barrel rate, hard hit percentage, swing rate and contact rates are all within a percentage point of his 2021 marks.

Hence my request for Jamey to help me in some way to make sense of it all. His assessment was not too far from mine:

Let’s face it: as fun as he is to watch, as much power as he brings to all phases of his game, and as important as he is to team energy, Garcia’s OPS+ last year was 100, which is the league average. He’ll be 98 this year. He’s not a star, at least as far as the hit numbers go.

That was before Garcia’s final mini-rip, which saw El Bombi hit nine in his next 20 plate appearances, accompanied by two home runs and two game-changing moments — a three-run bombing run on Saturday and an insurance run in the 12th inning on Sunday – in the White Sox series. He pulled the OPS+ up 16 points along the way. Then, last but not least, on Monday evening he put on another highlight track, rob Astros hitter Yordan Alvarez from a homer before hitting another clutch run in the seventh inning.

This does not change anything in the overall picture. Four games is a small selection, and little by little we’re getting a little more clarity on how dependent Garcia is on them. It’s baseball’s bitcoin, the stock keeps bouncing and fluctuating by the week. He dominated the sport for a full month last year before fading into mediocrity. Because of this, his monthly walking rate has dropped from 8 percent in March/April to 1.9 in May and back to 9.3 in June. And it underscores the folly of predicting who Adolis Garcia is other than a doer of great things, no matter how sketchy the path to get there.

You know what? I give up. I wash my hands analyzing Garcia’s process, predicting his swings and wondering why he can seem weak between them. It’s a more fun way to go about it anyway. At least not a coach would teach the flying squirrel slide that won yesterday’s game, nor would they encourage his eccentricities in the outfield. Being baseball, many of them would discourage a boisterous Cuban from expressing so much joy even during games.

And that means something in a league so resolved that entire books are being written about the detrimental effects on the game itself. Not everything in sport should be explainable, otherwise where would the magic come from? Garcia will never be a wizard on par with baseball’s best, but he is one to a degree, and his greatest trick is possessing enough fancy tools to convince us that any outcome is possible when he’s in the action involved. In a season and a half of regular recordings, the very best have delivered far more than data and conventional wisdom would lead us to expect. The unpredictability demands our attention – with every attack, every step on the basepaths, every route in the outfield. Because often he makes the obvious result disappear.

It’s one hell of a trick. Just don’t ask me to explain it to you.

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Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D magazineSports Editor of . He is a former employee at the athlete and VICEand his freelance…

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