The Milwaukee Brewers organization have expressed concern about Yovani Gallardo and rightfully so after he pitched only 4 innings on Friday, while still throwing 100 pitches (only 53 for strikes).
Based on the numerous reports and my own research, there are two parts of his game that are an issue right now - one physical, one mental.
1) Mental - Pitch Selection
Most likely in an effort to curb the amount of home runs he allows, Gallardo has thrown far more 2-seam fastballs this season than in prior years. For those who don't know, the 2-seam fastball has more downward and lateral movement (inside to a righty in Gallardo's case) than a 4-seam fastball. Gallardo's 4-seamer is rather straight and is the main cause of his 53 HR allowed the past 2 years.
|Gallardo needs to get back to his strengths - |
four-seam heater and the big curve
The last 2 seasons, Gallardo had thrown the 2-seamer 13.9% and 14.5% of the time, while his 4-seamer was tossed 45.3% and 41.7% respectively.
This year, he's only throwing the 4-seamer 31% of the time and the 2-seamer on 24.5% of his pitches. This is a huge swing in the selection of his pitches and probably a problem right now.
I obviously understand that the opposition dictates strategy, but he's relying on his (at best) 3rd-best pitch almost a third of the time. There needs to be a balance of pitcher's strength versus hiters' weaknesses.
Not to mention, his best success has come when he limits the 2-seamer more and utilizes his straight heater often.
*April 18 vs. San Francisco (Best start of the season)
6 IP (92 pitches), 5 H, 1 R, 6 K, 1 BB
The pitch breakdown for that game: 34.8% four-seam fastball...14.1% two-seam (+20.7% 4-seam)
*April 29 vs. Pittsburgh (2nd best start)
7 IP (104 pitches), 3 H, 1 ER, 5 K, 2 BB
The pitch breakdown for that game: 45.2% four-seam fastball...20.2% two-seam (+25% 4-seam)
In the other games, the pitch types are all over the map. In 2 starts he threw more 2-seam fastballs than any other pitch. Against the Reds on Friday, he threw less than 30% four-seam fastballs and 29% curveballs.
Interestingly, his 3rd best start of the season against San Diego, he tossed 42.6% four-seamers and less than 6% of the time his two-seamer.
So to recap, his 3 best starts overall - and only 3 wins of the season - had this formula:
1) Throw 4-seam fastball at least 34% of the time
2) Throw at least 20% more 4-seam fastballs than 2-seam fastballs
Those results netted: 3-0, 19.2 IP, 2.29 ERA, .219 BA, .293 OBP, .260 SLG, 1.22 WHIP
Far better than his overall numbers this season!
2) Physical - Lower Velocity
To a lesser extent in terms of issues, Gallardo is clearly lacking zip on his fastball and the evidence illustrates the dip. In 2010 and 2011, Gallardo's 4-seam fastball velocity was at 92.6 for the season - the best of his career.
|It's difficult to doubt the WBC preparation and start|
vs. the US hasn't affected his arm
Last year there was decent-sized drop down to 91.7 which is definitely noticeable, though not alarming. One needs to consider he threw the most innings of his career in 2011: 207.1 frames during the regular season, then another 19 in the playoffs (226.2 in all). Thus, a dip was somewhat expected.
So what's the deal this season?
Worst case scenario is that there is some sort of undetected injury that's limiting him in some capacity. It could also be a case of a pitcher's arm simply giving to the effects of wear and tear over time. Some hurler's shelf life is shorter than others. It could also be a mechanical flaw in his delivery, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
Lastly, it could all go back to pitching in the World Baseball Classic. Even more so than relievers, starting pitchers need to build arm strength up in a controlled, step-by-step way to be ready for the regular season. Of course, Gallardo and a number of other MLB pitchers (including Marco Estrada) had to ramp up their programs and fire hard during "meaningful" games much earlier than usual.
Gallardo pitched March 8th in the WBC - about three weeks sooner than normal. When he returned to Brewers' camp to finish Spring Training, he only threw 114 pitches over 4 starts (28.5 per game), including 36 over 6.1 innings in his last game. That is no way at all to get a pitcher ready for Opening Day and beyond.
With all of that factored, he may simply be working through a dead arm period as some of his MPH from games actually indicate.
First 3 starts of the season: Average fastball between 90.2-90.4 (building arm, increasing velocity)
Next 2 starts of the season: Average of 91, then an average of 91.4 (getting back to normal)
|Velocity becomes less of a concern with better|
command - and hopefully both return soon
Last 2 starts of the season: Average at 90.5, then 90.1 in Cincinnati (lowest of the season)
That progression of starting low, moving up to a peak, then dropping back down again is a clear sign of an arm that was not ready for real action and one that has to fight through some fatigue. It's probably exacerbated by the WBC tune-up and poor buildup leading into the opener. He needs about 3 more starts to see if the velocity can get into the 91.5 range to lessen the concern.