As I previewed earlier this morning, the Brewers open their final 16-game stretch to continue their improbable Wild Card run. I am writing this as a separate feature because, frankly, Yovani Gallardo deserves a lot of credit for his recent stretch of starts.
One of the best aspects of the Brewers’ white-hot month of play is that it largely centered around the insertion of a couple of young arms into the starting rotation. The wonderful surprises of Mark Rogers and Wily Peralta have contributed to the Brewers’ victories, and also to a suddenly shifting mindset about 2013. Meanwhile, franchise pitcher Gallardo is quietly working one of the best stretches of his career.
Since the All-Star break, the Brewers are 10-2 in Gallardo’s starts, and the righty pocketed an 8-2 record for himself in those starts. Gallardo’s wins have not simply been the outcome of luck, but rather, an extremely consistent set of quality outings. Over 72 innings, Gallardo allowed 32 runs, a total that is approximately 4 runs better than the Brewers’ league and park average for the season (that’s pretty good for a span of only 12 starts). While he allowed 11 home runs, he limited the damage due to 81 strike outs against 22 walks.
Even though these numbers are strong, they distort the true value of Gallardo down the stretch. After two rough starts against Cincinnati and Washington (10.7 IP, 11 R) in July, Gallardo allowed 2 or fewer runs in 7 of his next 9 starts (one of those other starts was a 7.3 IP, 3 R outing). Gallardo’s string of extremely strong outings is a crucial reason the Brewers put together their exceptional August and September; Gallardo allowed 19 runs over his last 53.3 IP, spanning 8 starts and allowing the Brewers to go undefeated in those games. Those 7 home runs don’t look great, but Gallardo once again limited the damage by striking out 55 against 19 walks.
I remember watching Gallardo work during his MLB debut, purchasing a last minute terrace seat high behind the third base foul pole to watch the next promising player from the Brewers’ farm. Gallardo always seemed poised, even then, his easy mechanics allowing him to consistently repeat his performance. Although many people note that Gallardo’s performances never seem to match his potential, the young right-hander is one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League. He might not have that Zack Greinke-style break out season, but he also does not have one single below average season in his career. It’s an extremely small group that Gallardo works in, and even if he’s overshadowed by true aces, not many can boast five consecutive above average seasons.
Ron Roenicke hands the ball off to the Brewers’ franchise starter tonight, and he’ll go to Gallardo early and often during this final stretch. Perhaps we are in the midst of Gallardo’s definitive campaign; the righty pitches twice on the road trip before starting the first and last games of the final home stand. His four starts in the last 16 games will lead the Brewers’ rotation, a rotation in which he suddenly serves as a veteran statesman.
For some time, I’ve been meaning to write an exploratory article about the Brewers extending Gallardo beyond his current contract. The basic argument is that given the increase in MLB TV money over the next two years, and the lowering threshold for top right-handed pitching money, it could be a wise decision for the Brewers to lock up Gallardo before he has a chance to test the free agency market in a couple of years (in which he will likely be a candidate for a deal north of $100 million). Of course, I conceived of this article when it looked like the Brewers would be testing out youngsters and rolling through their September call-ups.
Now that the Wild Card race is close and heated, I wanted to write a different article about our franchise pitcher. I am thrilled to think of Gallardo’s opportunity over the last four games if only because that opportunity corresponds with a potentially historic feat. I couldn’t think of a better arm to lead the Brewers through their stretch of 16 consecutive games.
Go Yovani! Keep up the good work, and keep leading our Milwaukee nine!