Yovani Gallardo has had a rough year in 2013. That's pretty undeniable. His velocity is famously down, he has given up a bunch of runs, and dominant stretches have been increasingly rare for the man who was supposed to be the Brewers ace.
After hearing so much about how Gallardo has "so many pitches on his arm", I was curious to see just how many he had thrown. Because he missed nearly all of the 2008 season due to his freak leg injury, I decided to look at his career since 2009, when he was still just 23 years old. That's a span of four and a half seasons to present day.
However, just looking at Gallardo's pitches alone wasn't enough. Total number of pitches is a really abstract concept. It's hard to picture just what is "a lot of pitches." So while I could see that Gallardo has thrown 15,590 pitches since the start of the 2009 season, I had no idea what that meant. Was that a lot in the grand scheme of things? It seemed like a lot, but wouldn't most pitchers who stayed healthy throw a comparatively similar number of pitches?
To find the answers to that, I decided to look and see how many pitches other starters had thrown over the same time frame. Gallardo had started 150 games since 2009, so I looked at those with the same number of starts. I cut it off at those with 140 starts or more. I figured 28 pitchers is a decent sample size.
|Player||Age||Starts since '09||Pitches thrown||Pitches/start||ERA since '09||FIP since '09||ERA in '13||FIP in '13||Fastball velocity change (MPH) since 2009|
All stats current as of Thursday morning.
There are a lot of really good pitchers thrown into the mix there. Most of the top pitchers the past five years, in fact. That makes sense--a pitcher isn't likely to start this many games unless they remain competitive.
Would you look at that, though. Gallardo isn't alone in his drop in velocity. In fact, of 28 pitchers with 140+ starts since '09, just four have seen an increase in their velocity. Nineteen of the pitchers saw their velocity drop by over a mile per hour. Some actually would have been even drastic had I gone from peak velocity over the five year span to current velocity. For example, Jered Weaver topped out at 90.1 MPH in 2010, which would mean a drop of 3.2 MPH in his velocity rather than -1.8 since '09.
Further, the majority of these pitchers (18 of 28) have a worse ERA in 2013 than their 4.5-year ERA. Gallardo is one of eight pitchers whose ERA is over half a run worse. Sixteen of these pitchers' 2013 FIPs are worse than their average since 2009, as well.
Some pitchers like Kershaw and Hernandez have been able to be dominant despite losing some of their muster. Others, like Gallardo, Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, and even Justin Verlander have not.
To me, this is further proof that throwing a lot of pitches over a number of years can result in ineffectiveness. Whether that ineffectiveness is short-term or long-term is another question. It makes me think that Gallardo's current DL stint isn't a bad thing, though. Even if there is nothing overtly wrong with his arm, he has been used a lot over the past five seasons and has stayed relatively healthy, thus not getting a break often. In my opinion, it might just be better to shut him down for the year and give his arm some well-deserved rest.