Who is Yovani Gallardo? Who are any of us, really? While this might be an existential type question, it is one that the Toronto Blue Jays need to find an answer to. Just who is the Texas Rangers Game 1 starting pitcher? He’s handled this club quite well this season, showing signs of dominance. But, what should we be looking for when he takes the mound on thursday afternoon? Here’s what you need to know:
Gallardo is a 29 year old soon to be free agent right handed pitcher that was rumored to be available in trade talks this summer. That never panned out and the Rangers decided to keep him rather than ship him off to be someone else’s rental. And, it wasn’t a bad decision. Gallardo finished the regular season with a 13-11 season. His ERA landed at a respectable 3.42 in 184 innings.
Toronto Blue Jays
According to Fangraphs.com, he features the classic fastball, slider, curveball and change. While he throws his fastball the most (54% of the time), he relies on that slider quite a bit (29.4%). The 87.2 mph slider is a nice compliment to his 90.5 mph fastball. In fact, these two offerings are his only pitches that have a positive value for him. His curve is worth -4.3 runs above average (wCB) and his change is worth -5.3 wCH.
It is the slider that the Blue Jays will have to really hone in on. It isn’t unhittable as batters have averaged .293 against it this year. Hsi fastball actually has been more successful for him as batters are hitting .282 against it. For what it’s worth, he appears to be getting a lot of called strikes down in the zone as well.
Generally speaking, though what should really get the attention of Blue Jays fans is the difference between the first and second half for Gallardo. The first half of the season, he put up a 2.62 ERA. His 2nd half ERA climbed to 4.69. He doubled his HR/FB rate from 6.6% to 12.3%. For a groundball pitcher, he started giving up fewer groundballs (51% to 46.7%) and more line drive contact (18.6% to 26.8%). He’s given up less soft contact and more “medium” contact as the season wore on as batters started pulling the ball more (38.6% to 42.2%). None of these changes are enough to make you think that he’s changed dramatically. But, it does indicate a change. A change for the worse. Or, for the better if you’re the Blue Jays.
When they saw him back in June (first half), he was strong. He went 8.1 innings and held them to just 3 hits. It was a dominant performance. When they saw him again at the end of August (second half), it was a different story. He went just 5,1 innings as he battled his control a bit. He walked 3 batters over the 5+ innings. Now, he also only held the Blue Jays to 3 hits and no runs. So, while they did see a bit of a different pitcher, they also still couldn’t really figure him out.
Gallardo is a guy who is not exactly coming into the postseason hot. Since the All Star break, he has seen his home run rates go up, his walk rates go up (marginally), his strikeout rates go down, opponents batting average go (way) up to .321 and his WHIP rise to 1.72 from 1.23. all of these are going in the wrong direction for a guy who is starting off the postseason for his team.
The Blue Jays will do well if they can target that slider and remain patient. When they get the pitch they’re looking for, they should be ready to let loose. Gallardo can be beat. The Blue Jays haven’t done it this year, but there is no time like the present. Gallardo might be ripe for the picking. He hasn’t pitched since September 30th. Will the rest do him good? That remains to be seen. Based on his second half numbers, he might have needed it. That said, he has owned the Blue Jays this year. Regardless of what the post All Star break numbers look like, we should not be expecting a cake walk for the Blue Jays. They’ll be in tough.