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Yovani Gallardo And The No “K” Corral

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Yovani Gallardo And The No “K” Corral

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Sometimes you may not notice certain things about certain players because you don’t pay attention to their every at bat, inning pitched, or whatever. Even in this wonderful age, where so much information is at our fingertips at virtually all times, things can slip past and go unnoticed to the baseball-loving masses. I mean, sure, if it is a “superstar” that is struggling mightily or a mighty struggler producing like a “superstar” then, yeah, the media and talking heads will notice and sort of force feed this information down our proverbial throats. However, for the majority of players, you know the tweeners or those on the cusp of stardom or, for that matter, mediocrity, certain statistics or information can be widely missed. All of this, as you should have guessed from the title, brings to me to the ever talented, Yovani Gallardo.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers, must frustrating pitcher ever?

First, let me set the scene, even though many of you reading this are probably familiar with YoGa’s tale. Yovanni Gallardo broke into the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, with ace-like potential. A young stud ready to become the Brewers’ ace of the future. Well, Yovani has never quite made the jump from very good to superstardom. Gallardo has been very solid in his almost six (he missed almost all of 2008) major league seasons with Milwaukee. Gallardo has not posted an ERA over four since coming onto the scene, however he also has not posted an ERA below 3.52 in the majors. Okay, well, YoGa did have an ERA of 1.88 in ’08, but that was in only four starts, so I am not really going to count that, if you don’t mind. Of course, as you may also know, I don’t hold complete faith in the statistic that is ERA, so to really paint you a picture, his SIERA has fallen between 3.22 and 4.08 in those seasons. Surprisingly, that 4.08 SIERA was during that extremely short ’08 season, so again, I don’t hold much stock in that year’s numbers. Regardless, you can kind of see that Gallardo was decent, solid, or any number of synonyms for decent or solid, but never quite made the leap to stardom. Many probably thought of Yovani as an ace coming into 2013 and, to be fair, he is the Brewer’s ace. Gallardo, definitely was thought of as a guy who was very close to becoming that breakout stud picther. Gallardo has been better than a great deal of starting pitchers in his career, that is for darned sure. Gallardo’s, ERAs, WHIPs, FIPs and K/9s have regularly been a good deal ahead of the league averages each season that he has pitched. Still, Yovani was not quite in that first tier of starting pitchers and there were still folks waiting for a big breakout season from the Brewers’ ace.

The Brewers tried to stack the cards in their favor, by adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to their rotation, which would definitely take some pressure off of young Gallardo, where he would not be expected to carry the rotation on his back. Now those guys are gone and the “ace” label was now, without question, affixed to Gallardo in Milwaukee. So would this be the breakout season? Sure, Yovani does have control issues and little lapses at times, but every picther does, at least every now and then, right? Well, fast forward to today. Gallardo, possibly poised to take the next step, has struggled a bit in this young 2013 season.  Gallardo’s current ERA is 4.25, with a WHIP of 1.47, which of course will not tell us the whole story. The SIERA at 4.48 does give one pause here though. Seems like his ERA is pretty much an accurate depiction of Gallard’s season thus far. Now, it is early in the season, so generally I would not be ready to push the panic button on Yovani just yet. However, here is the thing, regardless of those fluctuating ERAs or WHIPs, bits of wildness here and there, or anything else that could be simply attributed to a slow start, my main concern falls more with Gallardo’s strikeouts, or lack thereof.

See, a lot of mistakes can me covered up/ fixed by a good strikeout picture and this tried and true mantra has certainly applied to YoGa throughout his career. Yovani Gallardo is a strikeout pitcher. Well, perhaps it should be was? Yovani Gallardo, was a strikeout pitcher. Below are YoGa’s K/9 numbers for his career coming into 2013:

2007- 8.24

2008- 7.50*

2009- 9.89

2010- 9.73

2011- 8.99

2012- 9.00

So basically throught his career Gallardo could generally be counted on to strikeout roughly a batter per inning pitched. That, right there, is a good strikeout pitcher, folks! So, what the heck (pardon my French) is happening now?

Gallardo, went into Monday night’s start not only having been very hittable in his first five starts, but posting a K/9 of 5.28. In fact in four of his first five starts, Gallardo struck out three or fewer batters. Could this be a cause for concern? Well, kind of depends on why this is happening, I suppose. First place I look, when I notice a big strikeout drop is  velocity. in 2010, Gallardo’s average fastball was clocked at 92.6. It was the exact same in 2011. In 2012, it dropped almost a mile per hour, to 91.7. This year? Another drop of about a mile per hour on his average fastball, to 90.6. All of his other pitches have also dropped roughly the same amount in velocity. I am not sure this drop should be a huge concern just yet, as it is still early in the season and YoGa may need to still work the arm out a bit. I am not entirely sure, in that regards, but here is another interesting nugget, Gallardo’s four seam fastball percentage thus far in 2013 is 31.9%, which is almost ten precent less than his percentage last year. Gallardo has instead been going to the two seamer much more than he has in the past, 25.4% in ’13 as opposed to 14.5% in ’12.  So, is it possible, that Gallardo is not as confident in the four seamer and or is not fooling many hitters with his two seamers? Or maybe he is just not fooling hitters, much at all? With any of his pitches? Batters are making contact on just about 75% of Yovani’s pitches they chase out of the zone. Now, I don’t have any data with how hard these balls have been hit, but considering this percentage was 65% last year and has only been higher than that once in his previous six seasons, I think we can make the general assumption that Yovani is just not baffling hitters nearly as much as he has been in the past.

Now, again, it is early and maybe this is absolutely something that can be worked on and adjusted. Heck (there’s that potty mouth of mine again), maybe it is just an early season slump that is not indicative of how the season will pan out for Gallardo. The sample size is very small and it is always dangerous to read much into early season numbers, but I think you can see some things that may bear monitoring with Gallardo as the season progresses. Gallardo did put together a very good outing on Monday, against the Pirates, and while I don’t see updated pitch data from that game, it should be pointed out that in his previous start against the Padres, his average fastball was the fastest it has been all season, at 91.4%. Interestingly, in the Padres start, Gallardo threw far more changeups than any other previous 2013 start, but also only struckout two batters, while walking five, so not sure what is really going on with Yoga. Hopefully Monday’s outing, in which he finished by striking out three of the last five batters he faced, will be more indicative of things to come for Gallardo, even if those three batters were Gaby Sanchez, Clint Barmes and Jonathan Sanchez.

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Knuckleball hits your screens as Dickey hits his 20th.

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Knuckleball hits your screens as Dickey hits his 20th.

Posted on 01 October 2012 by Trish Vignola

Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern didn’t know much about baseball before the 2011 major league season. The co-directors of the documentary “Knuckleball!” had different views of the pitch that would be the centerpiece of their film. “I knew only that it was a disparaged pitch,” Sundberg said to ESPN. “My husband’s old friend from college had nothing good to say about the knuckleball, so that’s all I knew. It has a lot to do with this idea that it’s not a real pitch, that it shouldn’t be held up to the same effect as some of the other pitches like the curveball or fastball.”

“I walked into my kitchen and told my kids about making a film about Tim Wakefield and knuckleball pitchers, and my kids picked up apples and started knuckling them around the kitchen,” Stern said to ESPN. “They were New York City kids who grew up as Red Sox fans and so they had to be very strong in their convictions, and they love Tim Wakefield and the knuckleball, so their reaction was, ‘Woohoo let’s do it!’”

Despite their lack of familiarity with the subject, the two women, best known for their Emmy-nominated documentary films “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” (an amazing piece within itself) and “The Devil Came On Horseback” (about the genocide in Darfur) jumped at the chance to bring the story of the controversial, oft-misunderstood pitch that has baffled batters and catchers for decades to the big screen. “We’re really attracted to the characters — the individuals and people who have obstacles and something to overcome in pursuit of their dreams,” Stern said. “For us, that just makes strong storytelling. The essence of what the symbolic meaning of the knuckleball embodies. These guys are outliers in baseball who struggle against all odds to stay in the game to pursue their dreams. They kind of clawed their way, as they say, with their fingertips — just like one holds the ball with one’s fingertips — back into the major leagues.”

“These guys” refers primarily to Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey, the two knuckleball pitchers in the majors during the 2011 season. The documentary also includes retired knuckleballers, Charlie Hough, Jim Bouton, Tom Candiotti, Wilbur Wood and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who are a handful of the approximately 80 men who have been members of the knuckleball fraternity. “You need the fingertips of a safecracker and the mind of a Zen Buddhist,” longtime major leaguer Bouton says at the top of the film, describing the talents required to master the unpredictable pitch.
With unprecedented access to Wakefield and Dickey, as well as their families, from spring training through the end of the 2011 season, Stern and Sundberg directed an endearing, engaging 90-minute documentary about the knuckleball and the men who have managed to make their careers throwing a baseball that doesn’t spin.

I challenge the idea that critics proclaim “Knuckleball” as an anti-baseball movie. Why? There’s no homerun montage? There’s no Bob Uecker?

Not that I don’t love Bob Uecker.

The film is filled with lots of beautifully shot baseball footage (MLB is a co-producer), a rich soundtrack and intricate discussions of the pitch with former players and baseball beat writers. Not only is it a great baseball movie, it’s easily one of the best baseball movies I’ve seen. This is the movie I wanted “Moneyball” to be.

“Knuckleball” is very SABR, slightly geeky and never takes itself too seriously. Does this make the film commercially friendly? Absolutely not.

Although Charlie Hough is pretty much a matinee model in my eyes.

R.A. Dickey got an ovation from the crowd the first time he appears on screen. Ok. Grant it, I saw it at the Montclair Film Festival the same day Dickey got his 20th win. That’s neither here nor there. In all truthfulness, “Knuckleball” is one of the most satisfying baseball films I’ve seen in years. If it’s not coming to a film festival near you, it’s available on iTunes and on Video On Demand through November.

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Drafting From The Dark Side: A Newbie’s View Of First Real Fantasy Action

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Drafting From The Dark Side: A Newbie’s View Of First Real Fantasy Action

Posted on 07 April 2012 by Jeff Coleman

Chapter 1: “The (Clumsy) Arrival Of The Korriban Sith Lords”

As one of the writers for Full Spectrum, and a bit of a baseball / stats nut, I jumped at the chance Daniel offered to be a part of the inaugural FSBB Fantasy Baseball League. I figured it would be a fun and interesting way to interact with my fellow writers and readers, doing something we all feel passionate about. But then it dawned on me.

This would be my first major foray into fantasy baseball. You know, with one’s credibility and heart and knowledge on the line. And since I’m writing for a fantasy baseball site about fantasy baseball…

Hoo’boy.

SO, I decided to do my due diligence and research, looked at some of my normal sites for news and views, and tried to catch the buzz around spring training. But even with all that done, I felt a little under-prepared once March 25th, 5pm rolled around. However, it was too late to turn around at that point… Well, I was the #5 pick of the draft, so I still had time to turn around.

I heard the little jingle that signified it was my turn to pick. Too late now.

So with injury reports in hand (or more appropriately, at my fingertips), a little insider information at my back, and the voice of David Stern in my head…

“With the fifth pick in the 2012 Full Spectrum Fantasy Baseball League, the Korriban Sith Lords select… Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees.”

I hear several of you saying, “Uhm… Jeff…? Wasn’t the Grandy-Man out recently with a sore elbow?” Yes. Yes he was. But not at the time of the draft.

I hear others of you saying, “Jeff…? He’s a Yankee! Why?” These are probably my fellow Indians fans… And the folks that won’t like my second round pick, either.

Granderson is a talent. Good power, above average speed… He’s a run-producer and coming into his own in the peak of his career at age 31. I wouldn’t say keeper league material; the natural fall-off of players is coming soon for him, he has a high number of strikeouts, and his average is a little less than stellar. Overall though, he’s definitely good for a one-year contract for the Sith Lords. Besides… The Yankees, the Evil Empire, Sith Lords. It all makes sense.

Grandy is my Darth Vader.

In the second round, I picked up Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox. Now this is the pick of my top five that I’m dreading down the road. Youk is known for his hitting prowess, hitting around .280 or above his whole career (save his rookie season and last season). Decent RBI numbers and a reasonable K/BB ratio give a solid overall performer. The only nagging thing is that Youk has been a bit of a ‘porcelain god’ the last few seasons. Injuries have robbed him of some time during those crucial peak years, and he’s already banged up this spring (stiff lower back a few days after the draft). To quote ESPN’s fantasy assessment of Youk: “… While the injury risk is still quite prevalent, when he is on the field, Youkilis should perform at his customary levels…”. I would expect a little tail-off of his numbers due to age and normal decline, but the injury bug distresses me. That is the one thing I can see Spring Training being a sign of, as injuries there tend to either affect a player longer, remain nagging all season, or (at worst) re-occur during the season. I’m hoping for the best from Youk (purely for my team’s sake, of course), but am already plotting out an ‘emergency exit strategy’ as we speak.

My first pitcher came in the next round in the guise of Milwaukee’s Zack Greinke. Transitioning from one league to another is usually a pain for a pitcher, having to learn new batters and getting used to not batting (or in this case, now batting). Zack seemed to take it well in stride, posting numbers (16-6, 3.83 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 19 HR, 201 K, 45 BB) that were comparable to his career averages (10-9, 3.82, 1.26, 16, 142, 41). Greinke was showing signs of steady improvement in Kansas City (save 2010), and I see no reason that Greinke won’t continue that trend with his first year in the NL behind him. Zack is 28, still young;  he bounced back from a fractured rib quite handily in ’10, displaying a resiliency that should keep him in the Brew Crew’s rotation for several full seasons to come. Barring any major arm or elbow injury, he should enjoy continued success at the peak of his career.

A couple of other solid picks in the draft were the Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki (Round 5) and Carlos Beltran from the St. Louis Cardinals (Round 9). Ichiro had an atypical off-year batting average wise. At 38 years of age, most fans would probably say that Ichiro is on the verge of becoming a non-factor. However, he was his normal speedster self (40/47 SB), and most of the rest of his offensive production was similar to his career averages with only one game played less. While Ichiro is certainly in the twilight of his career, he is more than capable of touching .300 again, adding in solid production numbers across the board and his trademark speed. Carlos Beltran came back like gangbusters after microfracture surgery, batting .300 overall in 142 games. Beltran played in more games last season than he had since ’08 (161). Another player that has crested his best years, the fact that he played the majority of the season after major surgery gives good hope for continued resiliency and opportunity to produce for the Cards. His overall numbers may diminish, and he is definitely not the running threat he once was, but Carlos is still a viable, solid hitter. The Cards will need a good year out of Beltran to return to playoff contention in the post-Pujols era, and Carlos looks poised to deliver.

While I managed to avoid the “Home Team Syndrome” that new fantasy players can fall into, I did pick up two familiar names to Cleveland Indians fans: Ubaldo Jimenez and Vinnie Pestano. Pestano I have lauded over in two of my previous articles, and was a pretty easy choice to make: I have to back up all my love for the “Bullpen Mafioso”. Ubaldo, however, would seem like a head-scratcher of a choice, given the league and team adjustment after a mid-season trade, diminished velocity on his fastball, and now a looming 5-game suspension from the MLB front offices. Looking at Jimenez in Spring Training this year, he found a good chunk of the speed he had originally “lost”. This bodes well in a pitcher’s park like Progressive Field. Ubaldo also showed a bit for fire and vinegar with the plunk of Troy Tulowitzki in his last spring start. I won’t vilify or condone the action itself, but I will say that it is nice to see someone with a fire in them on the Indians squad. That kind of thing is contagious, and was something the team lacked a bit of last year as they were plummeting out of the AL Central race. Jimenez won’t be a leader in the clubhouse, but I feel he will be a much-needed spark and a more than serviceable pitcher. Not league-best, but mid-3 ERA with 150+ Ks.

Here is the complete rundown of how my draft evolved:

Pick #5 (Round #1) Curtis Granderson (CF, NYY)
Pick #28 (Round #2) Kevin Youkilis (3B, BOS)
Pick #37 (Round #3) Zack Greinke (SP, MIL)
Pick #60 (Round #4) Chris Young (CF, ARI)
Pick #69 (Round #5) Ichiro Suzuki (RF, SEA)
Pick #92 (Round #6) Howard Kendrick (2B, LAA)
Pick #101 (Round #7) Ubaldo Jimenez (SP, CLE)
Pick #124 (Round #8) Neil Walker (2B, PIT)
Pick #133 (Round #9) Carlos Beltran (RF, STL)
Pick #156 (Round #10) Brandon Beachy (SP, ATL)
Pick #165 (Round #11) Jordan Walden (RP, LAA)
Pick #188 (Round #12) Adam Dunn (1B, CWS)
Pick #197 (Round #13) Daniel Bard (RP, BOS)
Pick #220 (Round #14) Yadier Molina (C, STL)
Pick #229 (Round #15) Vinnie Pestano (RP, CLE)
Pick #252 (Round #16) Sean Rodriguez (SS, TB)
Pick #261 (Round #17) Alex Rios (CF, CWS)
Pick #284 (Round #18) Chris Davis (3B, BAL)
Pick #293 (Round #19) J.D. Martinez (LF, HOU)
Pick #316 (Round #20) Scott Downs (RP, LAA)
Pick #325 (Round #21) Will Venable (RF, SD)
Pick #348 (Round #22) Fernando Salas (RP, STL)
Pick #357 (Round #23) Alfredo Aceves (RP, BOS)
Pick #380 (Round #24) Chris Capuano (SP, LAD)
Pick #389 (Round #25) Brad Peacock (SP, OAK)

 

Overall not too bad of a draft. I only had to make one post-draft move (Brad Peacock didn’t make the Oakland roster, so he was dropped in favor of Matt Harrison, starting pitcher from Texas). But I could always use a little draft grading.

Any pick-ups that look suspect? Any sleepers I stumbled upon? Give me a comment below, or hit me up at Twitter at @JCPronkFan48!

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