On December 12, 2017 the Brewers signed Yovani Gallardo to a 1 year deal worth $2 million. The Brewers drafted Yovani back in 2004 in the 2nd round and had a solid seven season with the team having a WAR of at least 2 in each season. As there was speculation of the Brewers signing a big name starting pitcher such as Arrieta or Darvish, the Gallardo signing may come as a disappointment. He will be entering his age 32 season as he had a career worse year in 2017 with a 5.72 ERA in 130.2 IP. But is the signing necessarily a waste? In a season where the Brewers look to compete for a playoff spot, a veteran leader in a young staff may be of benefit. In addition. a switch back to the NL could bode well for Gallardo. Lets take a closer look at the numbers to see where Gallardo could be worth the signing.
In the previous two seasons with Baltimore and Seattle, Gallardo posted a 5.75 ERA and a 5.30 FIP with a 6.48 K/9, 4.38 BB/9, and 43.6 GB%. In his previous eight seasons he posted a 3.66 ERA and a 3.74 FIP with a 8.23 K/9, 3.31 BB/9. and 46.7 GB%. Clearly his previous two seasons have not been anywhere near worth paying him $2 million. With aging pitchers, it is a worry that his velocity may be an issue, but Gallardo hasn’t lost any velocity. In fact in 2017 he was throwing faster than in the previous two seasons. Velocity for all of his pitches are in line with his career norms. He never had a fastball that averaged above 93 mph, so he never relied on blowing hitters away. Batters are hitting about the same in terms of batting average against Gallardo’s fastball the past two seasons as they did the first eight seasons. The difference is in his off-speed. The only noticeable difference in pitch selection over the past two seasons has been a decrease in curveballs and increase in changeups. Over the past two seasons, hitters age batting .278 against off-speed pitches compared to .241 over his first eight seasons. His slider is specifically struggling allowing a .320 batting average compared to a .251 earlier in his career. It might have to do with simply keeping the ball in more of the middle of the zone over the past two seasons as shown below:
On the left is 2016-2017 and on the right is 2008-2015. As observed, hes leaving his slider more in the zone the past 2 seasons.
Mechanically, Yovani looks the same. He hasn’t lost any velocity nor is he substantially changing how he uses his pitches. His struggles might be due to his command of his slider. Which, if that is the problem, could possibly be fixed. Yovani is returning to the National League which will be an easier adjustment and returning to a club that he had success with in the past. The Brewers are paying him $2 million which, if he simply provides leadership for a young rotation and provides an ERA in the high 3s, the Brewers will for sure get their money’s worth. Its not a high profile signing, but for a team that is in a bridge year, it might be worth the signing.