With the much-ballyhooed acquisitions of Shaun Marcum and Zach Greinke this past offseason, you probably wouldn't have guessed that Yovani Gallardo would be the Opening Day starter or become Most Valuable Brewer #4 on our list.
It was a year of firsts for the right-handed Gallardo, who set many personal records on the way to amassing the most wins by a Brewer pitcher since 2005. He was fourth in the NL in wins. His previous high was 14 wins - he matched that by August 21 this season.
He went 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 207 K's in 207.1 innings during the 2011 regular season. He also pitched the Brewers only complete game.
Those 207.1 innings were a career-high for Gallardo, who previously hadn't gone over 200, and were second on the team behind Randy Wolf (212.1). It was a career-best ERA and a career high in games, with 33. His 2.6 BB/9 was a career low. His 207 strikeouts were fifth best in the National League.
Walks have been a consistent concern for Gallardo in past seasons and there were those that thought that the increase in WHIP from 2009 to 2010 was a harbinger of bad things for this season. However, he posted his lowest career WHIP (1.215). He also lowered his BB/9 from 4.6 in 2009 to 3.6 in 2010 to 2.6 this season.
Gallardo was called on to start his second-straight Opening Day but couldn't come away with the win after a blown save. He had a couple of smooth starts after that, but then went through a patch of four games where he gave up 7, 4, 6 and 5 runs, raising his ERA to 6.10 in early May. He steadily got it down from there.
Best Game: This could be argued as Gallardo pitched a couple of gems this season, including September 17th, when he set a new career high in strikeouts with 13, including four in one inning.
But I think Yovani's biggest game of the season was his four-hit, one-run, eight-inning gem in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Gallardo rolled over the Diamondbacks, tying Don Sutton's post-season franchise record for strikeouts with nine. At one point, he retired 14 of 15 batters faced. Yovani could have likely pitched Milwaukee's first post-season complete game since 1982, but Ron Roenicke took no chances and pulled Gallardo in the ninth in favor of Axford.
The game set the tone for the series for the Brewers, a stark contrast from Gallardo's 2008 NLDS Game 1 start - and subsequent loss.
Here are the highlights from his performance:
Contract Status: Gallardo signed a five-year, $30.1 million contract in April of 2010, putting him under Brewers control through 2014 with a team option of $13 million for 2015. There is a $600,000 buyout. The option can be voided with multiple top-three Cy Young vote finishes.