Figuring Out Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Yovani Gallardo
The Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo is key to the Brewers having any sort of success in the tough NL Central. Gallardo has been the ace of the Brewers for the past few seasons and from his first full season in 2009 he experienced quite a bit of success. He gets better and better each season. However, 2013 was a different story for Gallardo; an alarming one too. He experienced the worst season of his big league career and it has people wondering whether Gallardo is on the decline or if 2013 was an outlier season and will get back to his old self.
When you examine Gallardo’s stats from 2009-2012 his K/9 innings was 9 or higher (8.99 in 2011). Out of nowhere, his K/9 inning rate dipped to 7.17 in 2013. This could be attributed to his declining velocity, which began after the 2011 season. His average fastball velocity was 90.7 MPH in 2013; down from 91.7 in 2012 and 92.6 in 2011. It was not just his fastball that declined in velocity either. All of his pitches declined. His two seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, and changeup all dimished by 1 MPH or more. This may not seem to be a big decline, but to a pitcher it absolutely is. The decline in velocity is a curious one as he made 31 starts in 2013 while staying pretty healthy. His ERA was the highest in his career in 2013 at 4.18. The decline in velocity cut down on his strikeouts and he was hit the hardest he has been since 2009. Gallardo only struckout 144 batters in 2013 and in the seasons prior he had always reached the 200 K plateau.
In respect to WAR, Gallardo’s best season came in 2010. He went 14-7 in 31 starts totaling 185 innings. He only allowed 178 hits and opponents hit only 12 home runs all season off of him. His ERA was also 3.84. It’s interesting to think 2010 was his best season when you look at 2011. Even though wins are a flawed statistic, he won 17 ball games and lost 10 (but his ERA was down to 3.52) and his xFIP (expected fielder independent pitching) suggested he was even better than the stats may reveal as it was 3.19. The chink in the armor for Gallardo in 2011 was the home run ball. He gave up 27 of them, but he only walked 59; the lowest total since 2009. Gallardo typically has a high HR/FB ratio (a career 11.2%) so he is prone to the long ball. Gallardo has also been a groundball pitcher in his career having a career ground ball percentage of 45.4%.
Gallardo is a very interesting pitcher. When he’s at his best he is capable of being an ace. When he’s not he’s still good enough to be a 2 or a 3 starter in a good rotation. 2013 may very well have been an outlier for Gallardo. In the first half of 2013 his ERA was barely below 5. The second half saw his ERA at 3.09, a very solid number, though it was only in 67 innings pitched. The second half allowed Gallardo to bring his ERA down to 4.18; not good, but not bad. The feeling around Milwaukee has people thinking Gallardo can get back to his normal self, around his career numbers, in 2014. That only depends if he can get ahead of batters and use his put-away pitch; a sharp 12-to-6 curveball.
It is easy to recognize Gallardo has been a good pitcher for his career, but people also want to see him take the next step and progress. He is only 27 years old and should be ready to enter into the prime of his career. However, he is a pretty unpredictable pitcher as evidenced by his stats. Personally, I think Gallardo will be back around his career norms and we should see a 15-9 record, a 3.50-3.75 ERA, and 200 or more K’s. It all depends if the velocity is back or not and if he gets ahead in the count.
I will provide another update on how Gallardo is looking in Spring Training which may serve as an indicator to how he will perform in 2014.