Fact or Fiction: Garko's Second Half Story

I found myself scratching my head at this exchange (watch the video) between a reporter -- not Paul Hoynes -- and Ryan Garko:

Reporter: "When you look back at last year, do you see any big difference adjustment (sic) that you made post-All Star break versus before?"

Garko: "Yeah, yeah. I went home at the All-Star break and kind of watched a lot of film, and I just saw a couple -- mechanically I had too much movement, a little bit of a push. I kind of just worked myself out of it, did everything I could to get rid of that. And I really worked hard on it this offseason, so hopefully it'll just go away."

I am not a scout, but even still, I'm not sure what the heck he's talking about. But the bigger problem, I thought, was that this reporter has swallowed the idea that Garko came out and busted loose after the All-Star break. He figured it out! It makes for an easy story.

Readers of LGT and the Annual know that this simply isn't true. However, I recall reading comments around here that Garko went nuts over the last two weeks against junk pitching (wish I could find a link to those comments, but that's the idea I've gotten). So I spent this morning digging through the numbers to figure out what was fact and what was fiction. My apologies if this has all been done before in detail.

CLAIM: Ryan Garko figured things out at the All-Star break and came out a different player.

VERDICT: Fiction. Garko posted a .715 OPS in July after the break, His OPS rose to .770 in August but his SLG remained right at .400. And for the first two weeks of September, Garko posted on OPS of .601 in 32 at bats without a single extra base hit (he seems to go long stretches without driving the ball a lick).

So, from the first game back after the break until mid-September, Garko posted an OPS of .697.

Then, in his final 12 games, Garko slugged .878, posted an OBP of .533, and raised his season OPS 59 points. (!)

CLAIM: Ryan Garko feasted on September call-ups and junk pitchers down the stretch.

VERDICT: Fiction, and this surprised me. Starters over the final 12 included Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Danks, Mark Buerhle, Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, The Cobra, Dontrelle Willis, Brian Bannister, and Robinson Tejeda. Only Tejeda has not been a major league regular.

Those starters compiled a combined ERA of 4.30 with a combined WHIP of 1.33. That's hardly bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. Garko was mashing against a strong group of starters (though some were certainly having down years), and several teams were in the playoff hunt.

CLAIM: Ryan Garko worked all throughout the second half to get rid of that "little push," and he finally did so in mid-September. Now it's championship time!

VERDICT: Who the heck knows. I have to doubt it. But at least his hot stretch run came against legit opponents, and regardless, he's not likely to have long to get into the groove in 2009.

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