What’s Wrong with Yovani Gallardo?

The Milwaukee Brewers entered the 2011 season with some of the biggest expectations in team history. Behind a strong 1-2 punch of Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo (not to mention Shaun Marcum), the team finally had a pitching staff strong enough to match their offense. Things haven’t gone exactly as planned for the Brewers, however. Greinke made his first start for the team last night, while Gallardo has struggled in seven starts. While Greinke should be fine as long as he’s healthy, it’s tough to pinpoint whether Gallardo will turn things around this season.

Gallardo’s numbers through seven starts have been perplexing to say the least. While his walk rate has remained consistent, his strikeout rate has plummeted to just 6.53 this season (down from 9.14 over his career). Because much of Gallardo’s value is tied up in his ability to get strikeouts, his dwindling strikeout rate is a real cause for concern.

Gallardo’s ability to rediscover his strikeouts will be paramount to his success as the season progresses since his other peripherals don’t present any major reasons to worry. Gallardo is currently suffering from the lowest strand rate, and highest BABIP, of his career. The BABIP issues could stem from the fact that Gallardo is getting more ground balls this season. A heightened ground ball rate would typically be a reason for optimism, until you remember the Brewers’ atrocious infield defense. Still, all of those numbers seem to indicate that Gallardo is fine. Again, the only issue is his low strikeout rate.

Pinpointing the exact cause of Gallardo’s disappearing strikeout rate is difficult to explain. Although Gallardo has maintained his velocity, his fastball and slider are getting pounded more often this season. For the first time in his career, Gallardo’s fastball and slider each carry a negative pitch type value. For whatever reason, Gallardo hasn’t been able to throw either pitch effectively this season.

Another reason Gallardo has been unable to rack up big strikeout numbers is due to his high contact rates this season. If batters are making more contact against a pitcher then it’s likely leading to more balls in play, which makes it tough to accumulate strikeouts. Whether or not the pitch ends up in the zone, batters are making more contact against Gallardo this season. On pitches in the zone, Gallardo’s Z-Contact% has risen to 92.4% this season, which doesn’t necessarily lead directly to failure but it shows that Gallardo has been more hittable this season.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Gallardo’s poor start is his declining SwStr%. As Mike Podhorzer pointed out in April, Gallardo has always managed to post more strikeouts than his swinging strike rate would indicate. Now that Gallardo’s SwStr% has fallen to a career low 7.1%, it might be time to worry if his poor rates are starting to catch up to him.

At the same time, Gallardo has always been able to outperform his swinging strike rate and this year may be no different. Outside of the lack of strikeouts, Gallardo has been the same pitcher he’s always been. The issue is that strikeouts really play a huge role in Gallardo’s value and effectiveness. If he can rediscover his strikeout rate, he’ll return to his rightful place at the top of the Brewers’ rotation. If he cannot raise his strikeout rate, Gallardo’s average control could come back to haunt him. Gallardo has never had a problem racking up strikeouts in the past, and there doesn’t seem to be a good explanation for his lack of strikeouts this season. If that’s the case, and there’s nothing physically wrong with Gallardo, there’s no reasonable explanation to expect him to continue to struggle as the season progresses.

*Since this worked out so well the last time I wrote about the “What’s Wrong with Player X” topic, you Brewers’ fans can thank me when Gallardo tosses a no-hitter on Saturday.



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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


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Mike
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Great article, but you might have jinxed Gallardo with that last comment…

Slats
Guest
Slats
5 years 2 months ago

Thanks for this article Chris.

I have Gallardo on my fantasy team so I am now expecting a no-no in his next start!

Kemp
Member
Kemp
5 years 2 months ago

Close!!

Dustin
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

8 innings, 1 hit. Nostradamus?

jakesprecher
Member
jakesprecher
5 years 2 months ago

My first reaction with pitchers who suddenly perform horribly and give up tons of runs is that they have an injury, but Gallardo’s velocity on his pitches seems to still be there so that might be unlikely. If he’s not injured, Gallardo is too good of a pitcher to continue like this and will bounce back eventually.

justin
Guest
justin
5 years 2 months ago

Gallardos k rate has normalized somewhat since his first 3 starts. the defense is just really really bad.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
5 years 2 months ago

I like this series, but here’s two ideas to perhaps improve on it:

1) Provide a Dashboard at the top of each article that focuses on maybe 5-10 ‘Focus Areas’. Focus Areas might be BABIP, K/9, Velocity, GB/FB rate, etc. Beside the Focus Area, have 3 columns; one column for a ‘Trend’; green arrow or green light for things that haven’t changed about said player’s game, or have improved. Yellow for areas of concern. Red for the glaring areas that have severely affected his success. 2nd Column, have their current years’ number for that Focus Area. 3rd column, have last year’s figure, or 2 or 3 year avg.
And maybe have an ‘Outlook’ to summarize if that player is projected to be fine moving forward, not sure, or if the Focus Areas show a dangerous trend that perhaps will affect the player for the year.

This provides the user a quick view of what is affecting the player in question, which can perhaps nicely summarize the articles points; sometimes I find myself just scrolling to the last paragraph to see what the writer’s conclusion is.

2) Was the ‘What’s wrong with XXXX?’ series used last year at this time? How about providing a retrospective on how those players that were put under the microscope did for the rest of that year? Might provide more details on what to expect from the players that have been/will be analyzed this year.

Just throwing those ideas out there…hope they made sense. Keep it up FanGraphs!

Tom
Guest
Tom
5 years 2 months ago

Apostrophe fail

A heightened ground ball rate would typically be a reason for optimism, until you remember the Brewer’s atrocious infield defense.

GIANTsalamandar
Guest
GIANTsalamandar
5 years 2 months ago

Copied and pasted from grammarbook.com:

NOTE: Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.
Mr. Jones’s golf clubs
Texas’s weather
Ms. Straus’s daughter
Jose Sanchez’s artwork
Dr. Hastings’s appointment (name is Hastings)

So, basically, the form in the article is correct (if not preferred). Your suggested correction, however, is not. They are not called the “Milwaukee Brewer”.

And yea! for grammar posts in a baseball site.

Dealer A
Guest
Dealer A
5 years 2 months ago

I consider myself a Milwaukee Brewer fan.

Gavin
Guest
Gavin
5 years 2 months ago

Any possibility of tipping pitches? Could be why his off-speed stuff is less effective.

The Baltimoron
Guest
The Baltimoron
5 years 2 months ago

THIS

Mike W
Guest
Mike W
5 years 2 months ago

Seen and heard three different “analysts” saying his velocity is down. It is not. Kudos for Chris for not joining in.

Here’s what I think goes on behind the scenes at Baseball Tonight:
Director: Ok, when we come out of commercial, Karl’s gonna go over the Brewers’ highlights, and talk about Gallardo’s struggles, then he’s going to throw it to you Eduardo.
E Perez: I haven’t seen him pitch.
Director: So what? Just say something, and sound authoritative. You’re an ex-player, man!
E Perez: Ok, I’ll say his velocity is down.
Director: Perfect! That’s gold, baby!

John Galt
Guest
John Galt
5 years 2 months ago

The problem might be his head… Gallardo has always been prone to lapses in focus. Usually around August, but he’s been known to throw a few clunkers in a row that takes a sparkling ERA north…. Interestingly, he got pounded by lefties last year to the same extent he’s getting pounded this year. Only problem is now righties are pounding him too. Might want to figure out if it’s mechanics, mental or injury before you make your trade offer. For my part I’ve always felt he was more of a #2 or #3 starter, not an ace (though if Jered Weaver could figure it out, Gallardo certainly can)

LionoftheSenate
Guest
LionoftheSenate
5 years 2 months ago

I’ve dug into the advanced data and I have to agree, there is no clear sign or indicator of what is driving his poor start.

Yes, his K/rate is down, but the driver of this is very unclear. We don’t yet have the metrics that can explain this.

My observations from watching most of his starts this year. It was known Yo’s only real weakness was his BB rate. It is assumed that if YO can cut his walks, he will enter true ACE-Dom… To me, it appears YO is somewhat consciously trying to throw more strikes. I know his BB rate is unchanged, but to me, he is trying to hit the zone more often and it is resulting in him throwning way more hittable pitches right down the middle than ever…..thus his contact rate has soared. His FB, his ….by the way, he throws a CURVE more than a slider….are all missing within the zone and he is getting pounded.

If he just accepted he has average command and stopped worrying about hitting the zone, I bet he will end up throwing fewer bad strikes and more good strikes on the corners, etc….

I also noticed his true curve, is less sharp than last year….he used to be able to FINISH hitter with 2 strikes with a nasty overhand curve that he would bury in the dirt or at worst low in the zone.

I’m hoping his command is just off and he can get this fixed within a few more starts.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 2 months ago

Strangely, over his last 5 starts, he has an 8.2 K/9 (slightly worse than career numbers), a 4.1 BB/9 (slightly worse than career numbers), and an 8.89 ERA. While he’s increased his GB% by 5% (potentially bad news given the defense), he’s decreased his LD% by 2.5% (which should cancel out any additional hits allowed from ground balls). The stats are showing me that, while he’s pitched worse in ’11 than ’10, the terrible runs allowed numbers are mostly due to bad luck.

Felonius_Monk
Guest
Felonius_Monk
5 years 2 months ago

You’re saying he’s not a true-talent 8.89 ERA pitcher?

Wow, they should give you a gig writing for this site with dazzling insights like that.

Bill
Guest
Bill
5 years 2 months ago

The article points out his lack of strikeouts as a possible reason for his struggles. I’m pointing out that during his bad outings, his K/9 is not much behind his career numbers. But thanks for the compliment.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
5 years 2 months ago

No one should underestimate how bad the Brewers are on defense. Outside of Carlos Gomez, I am not sure they have a plus defender anywhere on the diamond.

LionoftheSenate
Guest
LionoftheSenate
5 years 2 months ago

You are overrating the Brewrers Defense……yes they only have 1 “plus” defender…..but they have ZERO average defenders.

None.

Tim
Guest
Tim
5 years 2 months ago

It seems that the most basic reason Gallardo has been stirking no one out, Chris, is because of his inability to work back from being down in the count. I looked at his splits and he has been terrible after throwing a first-pitch ball: His .5 K:BB and 3.86 K/9 in those situations have been crushing him this year. Compare those numbers a similar type of pitcher, like Clayton Kershaw, and the difference is stark: Kershaw has a 7.31 K/9 and 1.18 K:BB. Seems like Gallardo could use some work with his pitching coach on how to make some better pitches when working from behind in the count.

LionoftheSenate
Guest
LionoftheSenate
5 years 2 months ago

This is a good insight. Agree.

Matt F
Guest
Matt F
5 years 2 months ago

Chris – interesting article. I watch him regularly and seem to think he has real problems locating his off-spead pitches. It would be interesting to see the percentage of off-speed pitches thrown for balls versus his historical averages. It just seems like when he misses with an off-speed pitch, it’s off the plate by a mile. Obviously you’d have to think opposing hitting coaches are recognizing lack of command on sliders and telling hitters to sit dead-red.

Toad Man
Guest
Toad Man
5 years 2 months ago

Well he’s at 104 pitches after 7 innings with a no-hitter right now. I wonder how many pitches they’ll let him throw.

suicide squeeze
Member
suicide squeeze
5 years 2 months ago

Since these articles seem to be willing their subjects to extraordinary performances, would you guys mind writing one about the A’s offense :)

morningstar88
Guest
morningstar88
5 years 2 months ago

There are many negative assertions above about the Brewers defense. Maybe I’m misreading them, but it appears to me that the defensive numbers aren’t that bad. (http://www.fangraphs.com/teams.aspx?pos=all&stats=fld&lg=all&type=1&season=2011&month=0&season1=2011) Comments?

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