In 163 major league starts - (so far, just a bit over 1,000 IP) - Yovani Gallardo has never had any history of arm-related injuries. The Milwaukee Brewers 27-year-old right hander has surpassed the 200 IP mark in each of his last 2011 & 2012 seasons. If you recall, he was shut down in 2009 due to a worry about his workload during his age 23 season, and, in 2010, he missed a couple of starts after having endured an oblique strain on July 4th against the Cardinals. He came back on July 22nd.
He's always been an effectively wild starter, averaging 43.9% of pitches thrown in the strike zone. But he's always struck out batters at a nice clip, a batter an inning over his career, and is always good for a mid-3.00s ERA, year in and year out. He hadn't been his normal self, for the majority of the current season so far, something that might be explained by a lower fastball velocity and a much, much lower K% than his normal career 23.6% In fact, at 18.6%, it is currently below league average (which is 18.9% for NL starters), as well as his 7.08 K/9 (Lg avg is 7.15 K/9).
It certainly does look like he's trying some things out, this season, by using some pitches differently, maybe due to his level of confidence with his regular fastball. I found it really interesting when I looked at his four-seamer, yesterday, and saw that he's getting a 52.4% GB% with that pitch. That is, by far, the highest of his career. In fact, it's only topped 40% once, in 2011). With that pitch, hitters are managing a .315 wOBA, which is the lowest it's been in his career. Last night, as my friend and friend of this site, Jerry Eldred (who writes for The Book of Gorman Blog)* suggested, it's also "accompanied by a career high line drive rate as well." At 28.6%, that is much higher than anyone would want to see! The last time it was close was in 2010, at 27.6 %.
*Just want to quickly add, Jerry was nice enough to ask me to do some artwork for the blog (upper LH corner), and I'm still flattered by that!
But, that troublesome LD%, in general (with all his pitches) has improved back down to 16.7% in June, so far, whereas, in the months of April & May, he had 26.4% and 33.3% line drive percentages!
As for velocity, he hit the 94 mph with the four-seamer and averaged 91.62 on the pitch in his most recent start against the Cincinnati Reds The start prior to that (against Miami) start before that, averaged a little over 92 mph, and also was up to as high as just under 94 mph with the pitch. Milwaukee pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, worked with Yovani on increasing the length of his stride before his start in Miami, too. A longer stride is something that can help a pitcher's power in his delivery, with the result being greater velocity.
Where strikeouts are concerned, Gallardo, in his last 5 starts, has collected 26 Ks in 29.2 IP. More "Yo-like"... or Gallardian?* In addition he's at a nice K/BB 3.25 in June.
* forgive me. I think "Yo-like" is probably better. The latter seems like some sort of group traveling the high seas, centuries-upon-centuries ago...The Gallardians!
There was also the two-seam fastball he was using quite a bit through the majority of this season, which is something I brought up a few weeks ago as being a pitch that wasn't getting him the results he was probably looking for. In general this season, he's not getting as many swings & misses, a total that's dropped somewhat drastically from 9.0% to 7.8%, and now down to 6.9% for this season. But that pitch might be contributing to the downward trend.
In any case, I don't think we're going to see an ineffective starter in Gallardo. I'm only going by a few recent starts, but, I believe his track record helps make a case that we'll probably still see a pitcher who can strike out almost a batter per inning.
The reason I'd hope the Brewers and Gallardo/his agent could work out an extension is because, as I'd mentioned at the beginning, a starter who can throw 200 innings a season without a track record for arm injuries is very valuable for this team. They've got plenty of other candidates in the system, still, who could prove to be decent 3, 4 & 5 starters. But, there's no guarantee any of them would be able to give Milwaukee that many innings. He's a nice starter with a career 3.70 ERA / 3.65 FIP / 3.64 SIERA, and the Brewers pretty much know what they have with him.
And, who can forget that 2010 season at the plate, where went .254 / .329 / .508 with the bat, .364 wOBA with 4 HRs? He's a career 2.8 fWAR hitter. I'll just completely admit my favorite thing about a Gallardo outing is waiting for his turn in the lineup to hit!
If he can be a 2-2.5 WAR pitcher over a handful of years, into his early 30's -and I'll base this on a 2.5 fWAR salary, for now, with 1 WAR = $4.5 m. You'd have a base of $56.25 million over 5 years, starting in 2015, when Gallardo can become a FA (although he also holds a team option of $13M that year), the Brewers would have a nice starter for his age 29-33 seasons to keep the rotation afloat. It's probably unlikely to be easy to do a ~ $60m multi-year extension, considering the exorbitant amounts of money SPs have been and will likely be able to command on the free agent market from some teams -especially, when they are still in their late 20's, as Gallardo would be. But, who knows? Maybe he would be willing. If it would take a few more theme songs, I'd consider devoting an entire album of composed material to the cause. So, work something out, you guys!
Image of Gallardo pitching at Miller Park from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons BY - SA license