Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
For the majority of Yovani Gallardo‘s career, he has been a strikeout pitcher. But two starts into the 2014 campaign, that no longer seems to be the case.
Gallardo’s K/9 began to decline last season (the worst of his career) and it has dipped rapidly so far this year. He has just seven strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched and hitters are swinging and missing only 3.5% of the time. In fact, Gallardo failed to record a single swinging strike in his latest start against the Boston Red Sox.
And yet Gallardo is off to the best start of his seven-year career. The 27-year-old has yet to allow a run and has a 1.03 WHIP. He’s hitting the strike zone on a more consistent basis — only two walks — and even though batters are putting the ball in play more often, their BABIP is a mere .262.
Because Gallardo’s fastball velocity has dwindled over the years, he’s been forced to change his game. By no longer trying to strike everyone out, Gallardo is challenging hitters and making them put the ball in play. By doing this, his pitch count doesn’t suffer as much and it allows him to go deeper in the ball game. It also helps that his first-pitch strike percentage has risen by almost 10 percent.
If Gallardo continues to bounce back from what was a horrible year in 2013, then the drop in strikeouts won’t be a big deal. However, the more opponents make contact against him, the better chance they have of getting on base. And Gallardo’s left-on base percentage can’t stay at 100% forever.
But so far, so good.