Yovani Gallardo Goes to the Lone Star State

The Rangers took a significant step on Monday toward restoring some semblance of stability to a rotation that was among baseball’s worst last year, acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers for three minor leaguers. I’ll let others pick apart the deal from a real-life perspective; at the very least, the Rangers are getting a guy who has averaged 192.5 innings a season since 2009, a period during which he’s made at least 30 starts each year.

On the fantasy side of things, however, it’s hard to see this as helping a career that has been trending downward for some time; last year, Gallardo generated slightly negative value and finished 86th among starting pitchers, according to Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings. Now, Gallardo, who turns 29 next month, is joining a league that features the DH, while having to toil in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball.

Just so we’re clear about the difference in home ballparks:

TEAM BASIC 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB
Rangers 106 102 100 110 106 98 101 100 101 102 98
Brewers 103 100 100 97 111 101 103 98 101 103 98

Miller Park is hardly a pitcher’s paradise, but it’s common knowledge that the former Ballpark in Arlington is baseball catnip to hitters; in case one needed reinforcement on this point, only Coors Field enhanced overall offense more among all 30 parks last year. True, Milwaukee’s confines boosted home runs more than Texas, continuing a trend that extends back to 2010, but the point is Gallardo — who already struggles with an above average HR/FB rate — would do well to keep the ball on the ground.

Fortunately, the right-hander has done just that in recent years, helped by the addition of a sinker to his arsenal in 2011:

As Gallardo has strived to get grounders, however, he’s seen his strikeout rate diminish over time. Gone are the days when Gallardo was a punchout-per-inning hurler; his below average 17.9% strikeout rate last year was the lowest of his career, and that’s now five straight seasons in which it’s fallen. And while his velocity, a subject of concern for Gallardo in recent years, ticked back up — he gained about a half mile on his fastball and about a mile on both his curveball and slider — that didn’t translate to a spike in his whiff rate; his 6.9 SwStr% was seventh-lowest among qualified hurlers last year.

Much of that can be attributed to a focus on pitching to contact over the past two years in an effort to cut down on his pitch count and last longer in his starts. Unfortunately, that approach hasn’t helped Gallardo crack the 200-inning mark in that span, though it did lead to him posting the lowest walk rate of his career in 2014, thanks to a sharp uptick in his F-Strike%. It will be interesting to see how the move to Texas affects his ability to get called strikes; Jonathan Lucroy, among baseball’s best pitch-framers in 2014, immeasurably aided Gallardo as he posted the fifth-highest looking strike percentage among qualified starters, and he won’t get nearly the same level of support from Robinson Chirinos.

What about the rest of the defense behind him? The Brewers’ UZR was mediocre last year, but the Rangers’ was worse, finishing 22nd in baseball. The infield defense, on the other hand, might be better than what Gallardo had in Milwaukee, as Adrian Beltre remains one of the best fielding third basemen in baseball, and Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are a solid middle infield duo.

Offensively, the return of Prince Fielder and hopefully a bounceback year from Shin-Soo Choo could give Gallardo more run support than the 3.06 runs a game he got last year, which was the third-lowest in baseball. And beyond that, Gallardo will get to face the strikeout-addicted Astros on a semi-regular basis, as well as Oakland’s depleted lineup.

But really, none of this changes the fact that Gallardo is fast becoming an average player whose new environment promises to diminish his fantasy usefulness even further. Nearly left out of the top 60 starters on draft day last year, Gallardo’s mediocre performance over the past two years already was enough to relegate him to deeper mixed leagues even before Monday’s trade. Now, it’s hard to depend on him for much besides being a depth arm.





Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.

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Patrick
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Patrick

Yovani Gallardo is is so sad to see you go.