Doing YoGa with Gallardo

You’ll stretch yourself into pretzels trying to convince yourself that a past great is a buy low. And sometimes it’s worth it — Cole Hamels and Matt Cain seem to be doing just about the same thing they’ve ever done, and betting on their career numbers is a good bet. But sometimes, there just isn’t enough grip on the mat to reach your finger to click that trade proposal button. The mat gets slippery, and for good reason.

Is Yovani Gallardo just a downward-facing dog with no bounce left?

The easiest spot to look with Gallardo is velocity. One of his assets in his best years was a 93 mph fastball. Now that’s down a mile per hour in consecutive years, and that could be part of his struggles this year. He’s using his sinker more often the last couple of years, but that pitch has the same velocity as his four-seamer. Still, moving from 93 even down to 90+ isn’t a deathknell. One piece of research, at least, posits that there’s little functional difference between those two fastball velocities.

But there’s the fact that he’s using the sinker more. That’s interesting, maybe. According to Harry Pavlidis’ great benchmarks for pitch types, the sinker gets more ground balls than the four-seamer (52% to 36%) and fewer whiffs (5.1% to 7%). The slipperiest part of YoGa’s statistical map is the fact that his whiff rate is down to a career-low seven percent, which is also below average. You could say that his nigh-league-average strikeout rate (7.45 K/9, 18.7%) is actually lucky despite his career strikeout rate (9.07 K/9, 23.7%) being much higher.

If he’s eschewing the strikeout for the ground ball, shouldn’t his ground ball rate be good? Or at least better than normal? Cause at 45% it’s just above league average and just above his own average (44.6%). And, given Matt Swartz’ research on ground balls and BABIP — which suggested that there are additional returns the further you get away from league average in ground-ball rate — we can’t really count this ground-ball rate as an asset.

The child’s pose of fantasy pitcher analysis doesn’t help us either. A .319 batting average on balls in play and a 69.7% strand rate each are only inches away from ‘normal’ and ‘sustainable’ levels. And a few points of BABIP and a few extra stranded runners is not what separates Gallardo and his current five-plus ERA from the mid-threes ERAs of his past.

Looking at the movement of his primary pitches only points out that his slider has lost a bit of horizontal movement, maybe, but that doesn’t seem like it explains these problems away. Is there a chance he’s not burying the fastball in on righties’ hands like he used to?

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Maybe.

But if we’re looking for reasons that Gallardo might not be as good this year, we should return to his increased use of two-seamers. It’s possible his sinker is just not that good. He’s given up a 137 wRC+ on the pitch career, which is his second-worst number next to his changeup, which is pretty much a show-me pitch.

Normally, when a pitcher alters his pitching mix and doesn’t find the results he wanted, he’ll change it up. Maybe Gallardo will stop throwing two-seamers so much and go back to the heater. And maybe then he’ll find those added whiffs and return to offering his owners the strikeouts they bargained for. But that seems like a Bikram Yoga proposition: if you’re sweaty, about to pass out, and looking to lock in that crane pose, are you going to risk it all on a 27-year-old who needs to reverse a three-year trend in his pitching mix in order to possibly give you eight strikeouts per nine and a bad WHIP?

This has been doing Yoga with YoGa.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


9 Responses to “Doing YoGa with Gallardo”

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  1. Schide says:

    SO you’re saying he’s not a superstar?

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  2. Giovani says:

    I’ve never understood why Gallardo was considered elite. Since his first full year in the bigs in 2009 he’s posted a WHIP under 1.31 just once and he’s never struck out 210 guys. He’s been good, and useful, but never as good or useful as his name or draft positions would indicate.

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    • Toasty says:

      Young guys who put up K/9 rates around 9 every year are pretty sexy, even if they do have other concerns.

      As a Brewers fan myself, I think a lot of the hype makes more sense when you consider just how bad his colleagues were at the beginning of his major league career. Just look at Milwaukee’s rotation in 2009, his first full year. LOOK AT IT. He was all we had to cheer for after the loss of Ben Sheets. Sweet, sweet Ben Sheets.

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    • ed says:

      Are you just baiting for pedantic comments here?

      Gallardo’s has only had a WHIP over your arbitrary threshold of 1.31 once, and 210 Ks is another weird cutoffs point, since Gallardo’s had 204, 200, 207, and 204 Ks the last 4 years. Guys who reliably strike out around 200 guys and have ERAs around 3.50 are often considered elite, or close to it.

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      • Sean says:

        Yup, that 210 number seems to have been chosen arbitrarily as “just ahead of his career-high”. Very disingenuous way to talk about a pitcher who has struck out 200+ 4 years in a row.

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  3. Endo says:

    I don’t think he was ever considered elite, just good. He normally puts up good enough numbers and is young enough to make you think he’s ready for the potential jump to an elite year.

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  4. Jess says:

    Just looked – LD% is 37% on the FT, and, while it looks as though he’s getting some nice weak contact with the 25% IFFB%, and when half the regular Fly balls leave the park. I’ve never seen him throw so many, either. It really doesn’t seem worthwhile, at all for him, if the pitch gets fewer swings and misses in general, and he gets less than 50 percent GBs with it.

    I wonder if someone is telling him he needs to keep throwing it, or if no one has said anything? Today’s game finished not too long ago, and he’ll have thrown over 300 of them, now, in 13 starts/ 70+ innings.

    Thanks for writing this!

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  5. In this topic very good Information and very helpful so thanks for sharing this topic.
    Yoga in India

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  6. Ender says:

    His control has been off most of the season and he has struggled to put people away when he does get ahead of the count because of it. He has looked a ton better since mid May even if the ERA doesn’t show it. He was cruising in this last game until he just gave up a few singles in a row and the RP who came in gave up a HR.

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