We can’t really say enough about Yovani Gallardo’s season to date. We have to go beyond the basic stats – his 6-3 record and 2.59 ERA are solid, but then again, Barry Zito is 7-4 with a 3.45 ERA, and we know quite well that he’s not that good. Gallardo simply has been doing what pitchers need to do. His FIP entering today’s start was 3.10, thanks to an excellent job of keeping the ball in the yard and, as always, striking out over a batter per inning.
Is it sustainable? Probably not at this level, as not even the best of pitchers can give up only 0.5 HR/9 over a full season. Still, it’s hard to argue with his pitching, especially after this afternoon’s masterful start against the Twins. Gallardo shut out the AL Central leaders, who despite giving Joe Mauer a day off, carried what is likely a league average lineup into the game against Milwaukee. The Twins wouldn’t reach base until Drew Butera singled against Gallardo in the sixth inning – it was one of only five hits against a whopping 12 strikeouts for the Brewers ace.
Gallardo wasn’t great at avoiding contact today, drawing only 7 swinging strikes in his 122 pitches. However, he located his pitches exceptionally well, throwing 80 total pitches for strikes – that’s a 65% rate, above the ML average of 62 and well above his 59.8 season average. Particularly impressive was the control with the curveball – 23 strikes in 33 pitches, which is right in line with his season average. However, this is a pitch that typically does its work out of the zone, drawing whiffs and living down out of the zone. Gallardo’s curveball still lived low and out of the strike zone today, but instead did its work drawing foul balls and some of the 10 ground balls he induced on the day.
Don’t expect Gallardo to be this successful without drawing whiffs on his curveball – it usually draws a swing and miss 25% of the time as opposed to 0% – but hitters still weren’t able to make solid contact on it, and the fact that his fastball and curveball give him two extremely reliable out pitches makes him one of the better pitchers in the league.
Particularly impressive about this game is the fact that Gallardo didn’t walk any batters over a complete game victory. After tonight’s start, Gallardo’s K/9 will be above 10 and his BB/9 will be below 4 for the first season with over 100 IP in his career. Those are impressive numbers, and even though Gallardo won’t be in the Lincecum-Halladay-Lee level elite unless the walk rate drops even more, there’s no denying that this young pitcher is one of the best assets in Major League Baseball – he’s around until 2015, Simply put, Yovani Gallardo is a reason, if not the reason, why long-term success in Milwaukee is still a possibility.