Yovani Gallardo will take the mound for this afternoon's game against the Minnesota Twins, and for once, it'll be the Brewers going for the sweep of the Twins, and not vice versa.
Looking at Yo's numbers in preparation for this game, I stumbled across a few interesting notes about his first 15 starts.
Run Support. In Milwaukee, we're used to our aces not getting enough run support to rack up the wins they deserve -- how many wins do you think the woeful Brewers offenses of the mid-2000s cost Ben Sheets? While Yo has had his fair share of bad luck no decisions (6 IP 2 ER @ WAS, 6 IP 2 ER vs. ATL, 6 IP 1 ER @ CIN, 7 IP 0 ER vs. CHC, 6 IP 1 ER @ COL), he's actually getting slightly better run support than he got last season. This year, the offense is giving him 4.62 runs of support, as opposed to 4.47 last year. Of course, that average could be skewed by the fact that he was the beneficiary of the 17-3 drubbing of the Pirates, but on the other hand the offense has yet to be shut out on Yovani Day. The offense put up 4 goose eggs for Gallardo last year.
So if the offense is hitting better for Yo this year, why is he still getting so many tough no decisions?
Lack of Bullpen Support. While the Brewers' bullpen has been much better lately (Jack Moore talks about Wednesday night's bullpen performance here at Disciples of Uecker), they've been shaky once Yo leaves the game. Of those no decisions listed above, you have the LaTroy Hawkins meltdown in Washington, a game that saw the Braves score 7 runs in the final 3 innings, Todd Coffey's Cincinnati meltdown, and Carlos Villanueva giving up two homers in 0.1 IP in Colorado to blow a 4-1 lead.
That's not the biggest storyline when it comes to Yo's starts this year, though.
Pitch Counts. A lot has been made of this already, and rightfully so. It's easy to forget that Yo hit a brick wall late last season as he threw the most innings of his career, jumping from 24 IP in his injury-shortened 2008 season to 185.2 last year. This season, while he's been dominating at times with the strikeout totals, he's had to endure some ridiculous pitch counts that have prevented him from going deeper into games (which, in turn, leaves more opportunities for the bullpen to mess up an otherwise well-pitched game). The 105 pitches he threw in his last start marked the first time since May 22 that he threw less than 110, and it was the fewest number of pitches he's thrown since May 7. Prior to that start against Colorado, 5 of his past 6 starts resulted in him throwing 110 pitches or more (including a stretch of 2 of 3 starts in which he threw 120+).
Yes, aces should be able to work deep into games, but most aces aren't 24 years old with the future hopes of the franchise riding on their right arm. A couple things need to happen -- one, Yo has to figure out a way to trust his defense a bit more and quit trying to strike everyone out (difficult, I know, considering just how horrible the D is this year); two, Ken Macha needs to figure out a way to give Yo an extra day off every now and then, or at least stop being stupid by sending him out for another inning when he's already over 100 pitches.
With all that said, it doesn't get much better than Yovani Day. Here's to hoping for a Brewers sweep.