Yovani Gallardo’s results of late certainly leave a bit to be desired, as the Brewers’ ace has a 7.23 ERA in his last eight starts since returning from injury. However, Gallardo has struck out 49, walked only 17, and allowed 4 home runs in the 42.1 innings in those starts. Gallardo is simply suffering a stretch where the hits are falling in, and although it isn’t pretty watch and it isn’t helping the team, nothing in his peripheral numbers suggests it’s anything to be alarmed about.
FanGraphs WAR still has Gallardo at a fantastic 3.9 WAR, and my preliminary, currently black box and work-in-progress version of pitcher WAR that takes into account pitcher BABIP and team BABIP has Gallardo at roughly 2.5 WAR. By either standard, Gallardo has been good to great, and as far as next year is concerned, FanGraphs WAR is far more predictive. Gallardo is one of the premiere strikeout artists that can be found out of the rotation, and with the walks somewhat limited this year, he looks to be one step closer to assuming a role as a true staff ace.
Gallardo received a 5 year, 30 million dollar contract prior to this season, which looks like a major bargain from the club’s perspective right now, as it buys out one year of the league minimum, three arbitration years, and one free agent season with an option on a second. R.J. Anderson noted last night that Gallardo’s career has been exceptionally similar to that of Seattle Mariners staff ace Felix Hernandez, who received a 5 year, 78 million dollar contract covering his last two arbitration years and three free agent seasons. Jon Lester, Red Sox ace, received a 5 year, 30 million dollar contract – one of the top 10 contracts in baseball – from the Red Sox in 2009, with a service clock situation identical to that of Gallardo’s.
All three of these guys are excellent pitchers. Lester has compiled 15.5 WAR in the last three years and is projected for a 3.32 FIP by ZiPS. Hernandez has accrued 16.4 WAR with Seattle since 2008 and is projected for a 3.04 FIP. Gallardo is only at 7.0 WAR since 2010, but that’s largely due to missing the entirety of the 2008 season; substitute his 2007 WAR and Gallardo jumps up to 9.5 WAR. No doubt, Gallardo is a step below these aces, but the step forward that Gallardo has taken this season suggests that he may approach that kind of success, which is all the organization can ask for.
The Brewers have Gallardo locked up until 2014 at an extremely team friendly rate, and despite his recent struggles, every indication is that he’s ready to take the step forward and join the young class of pitchers that includes Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester. For as great as Ryan Braun has been and as great as Rickie Weeks has looked in 2010, it may be the presence of Yovani Gallardo and his team friendly contract that allows the Brewers to make another playoff run in the course of the next five seasons.