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.
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:
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.