For as good as the Milwaukee Brewers starting rotation is supposed to be, they have largely disappointed in the playoffs. As a unit, the starting rotation carries an 8.27 ERA into Friday’s Game 5.
Of course, that total is the work of Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Randy Wolf. Not Friday’s starter, Yovani Gallardo. In Saturday’s game, Gallardo was fantastic, throwing eight innings and allowing only four hits and a run while striking out nine Diamondbacks. And he did it on long rest.
Gallardo’s success on six (or more) days of rest was actually something new — in 15 career starts (most at the beginning of a season or after the All-Star break), Gallardo has a 6.13 ERA and and a K/BB under 2.0. But Friday’s Game 5 start will come on five days rest, not six days rest. And over the course of his career, Gallardo has been incredibly successful on five days of rest.
Over 33 career starts and 215.2 innings on five days rest, Gallardo has a 20-5 record and a 2.30 ERA, and the success doesn’t stop with the traditional, surface-scratching statistics. His 3.34 K/BB ratio in these starts is well above his career mark of 2.68. He has allowed a .610 OPS as opposed to a .695 OPS on four days rest (67 starts, 403.2 innings), good for a 77 tOPS+ — that is, Gallardo allows 77% as much offensive production on five days rest as he does overall.
This year, it’s been more of the same. In 11 starts on five days rest, Gallardo has been nothing short of elite: 74.1 innings pitched, a 1.70 ERA, a 75-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio, only five home runs allowed, and a 2.82 FIP.
The league splits are actually reversed — in 7800 innings on four days rest, pitchers have a 3.82 ERA, and in 5400 innings on five days rest, pitchers have a 4.00 ERA. This is likely due to the fact that better pitchers tend not to get skipped, and thus get proportionally more starts on four days rest than five days rest, whereas fifth starters tend to only pitch when they would get five days of rest. But still, the typical effect of the extra day of rest on the average pitcher doesn’t appear to be as big as it has been on Gallardo over the course of his career.
For example, we don’t see this impact on Arizona’s starter, Ian Kennedy — in fact, we see the opposite. Kennedy has allowed a 3.09 ERA on four days rest and a 4.00 ERA on five days rest in 41 and 23 respective career starts (although again, we run into the fifth starter effect, as Kennedy was often the fifth starter for the Yankees). Just looking at this season, Kennedy has allowed a 2.54 ERA on four days rest and a 4.04 ERA in five days rest.
These are some relatively small samples and they need to be regressed — particularly in the case of Kennedy, who hasn’t had a very stable skill level over his career. But, if anything, it appears the fifth day of rest for both pitchers favors Yovani Gallardo making another excellent start in the deciding game of this series.