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Yovani Gallardo starts 2014, most likely as the Brewers No.2 pitcher behind Kyle Lohse. It willl be the first season since Jeff Suppan in 2009 that Gallardo has not toed the rubber on Opening Day. He is contracted to make $11.25M in 2014 with a club option for $13M in 2015. It is worth considering at this stage of the offseason how Gallardo will pitch in 2014.
David Grant talked on Monday about not trading Gallardo for a bunch of prospects. While I definitely want to see Gallardo on the 2014 roster,should his 2013 downward trend, in which he posted a 4.18 ERA, continue, it will present minimal value for a club still learning lessons from Suppan and Randy Wolf.
It is interesting to review Gallardo’s dip in form last year, where much has been made of a drop in strikeouts and velocity. I thought I would consider a couple of lesser used statistics to view the situation. In 2013, Gallardo’s LOB% (left on-base percentage) dropped from a career average of 74.4% (78.4% in 2013) to the league average of 70.2%, meaning his ERA in relation to his pitching performance in 2013 was actually more realistic than previous seasons.
At the same time, Gallardo’s HR/FB% (home runs to fly ball rate) was a poor 11.9% and he will likely regress towards his career average of 11.2%, thus I would hope a slightly higher percentage of fly balls will be caught for Gallardo next season. The MLB average is 9.5%, but with Miller Park being a hitters ball park, it is unlikely Gallardo will ever achieve this level while playing in Milwaukee.
In the previous few seasons, Gallardo has been reliant on his 92+ MPH fastball, dropping to 90.7 MPH in 2013. In 2014, Gallardo will have had the offseason to get used to this drop in velocity, hopefully working on the quality of his off speed pitches, making him more effective and bringing down his ERA. It is vital that he makes a fast start to the new season or many will question his large contract. Expect Gallardo to win more than 12 games that he did last year. He had far less run support in 2013 than any season since 2009 and this might draw away some attention from an ERA above 4.00.
The Brewers will most likely hold on to Gallardo until the All-Star Break – then they will need to make a decision. He could be a useful trade piece for a pitching prospect if the Brew Crew aren’t contenders, but don’t expect Gallardo to have his 2015 option exercised. If the Brewers do contend in 2014, expect Gallardo have an ERA somewhere around 4.00, and the team will keep him on the roster.