Wednesday night featured a performance from right-hander Yovani Gallardo that has become typical throughout the year.
He struggled with his command early in his outing, needing 35 pitches to generate three outs in the first inning. It appeared Gallardo was on track for a short, ineffective start. Instead, the 26-year-old somehow flipped a switch and ultimately compiled yet another quality start, surrendering three runs through six innings of work and giving the Brewers a chance to win their third-consecutive game for only the second time this season, which they ultimately did.
This has become overwhelmingly commonplace. Through the first three innings of Gallardo’s starts this year, opposing hitters are hitting a robust .281/.393/.438 with 23 walks and 30 strikeouts. On Wednesday night, Gallardo walked three batters and allowed four base hits over the first three innings. That’s seven baserunners. Of course, he managed to avoid significant damage through a well-timed double play in the second inning and back-to-back strikeouts in the third.
Lack of strike zone command is nothing new for Gallardo. He only throws pitches in the strike zone 38.8% of the time, which ranks fifth-worst amongst qualified starters in all of baseball. Some scouts have complained in the past that Gallardo nibbles too much and does not trust his stuff enough to consistently pound the zone, which certainly appears to carry some weight. Even when down in the count, he shoots for the outside corner, rather than simply ensuring that he throws a strike to get back into the count. Of course, one could argue his unwillingness to settle is exactly the reason he manages to limit damage after issuing numerous walks.
But, as stated earlier, the command issues appear more prevalent in the first three innings. After that third inning, however, Gallardo really settles down. In innings four through six this year, opposing players are only hitting .173/.217/.306 with six walks and 27 strikeouts. The command vastly improves, and he begins dominating opponents into the sixth and seventh innings.
This is how the right-hander has compiled nine quality starts this season. In fact, he currently sits atop the leaderboard, tied for the most quality starts in all of baseball.
Simply seeing his cumulative 4.22 ERA on the season, one would certainly not place Gallardo atop the above list. He is the only pitcher with more than eight quality starts this season who currently possesses an ERA above 4.00.
That should really put into perspective how poor he pitched against St. Louis in his two starts against the Cardinals. He has allowed 14 runs in 5.2 innings against the Cardinals this year. Comparatively, he has surrendered 16 runs in 58.1 innings against the remainder of Major League Baseball. While we can certainly not ignore his implosions against St. Louis, it should be noted that his ERA is significantly misleading in terms of his actual game-to-game performance.
Thus, the next time Gallardo cannot find the strike zone in the first couple innings and seemingly has nothing on the mound, remember that he will likely right the ship and provide the squad with yet another quality start.
Unless the start is coming against the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, all bets are off.