Tag Archives: Yovani Gallardo

A stat Yovani Gallardo dominated in 2017

This offseason has been so mind-numbingly slow and boring, I’ve had little else to write about than Yovani Gallardo. When the Milwaukee Brewers inked him to a one-year deal in mid-December, I published a piece on the alterations he’s made and the transformations he’s gone through since being traded away from Milwaukee. And now, about a month later, I’m back at my computer writing words about Gallardo once more. On a totally unrelated note, it’d be nice if the Brewers could make a big acquisition soon. I really don’t want to be forced to write about Boone Logan and J.J. Hoover.

But that’s enough complaining. Let’s get back to Gallardo.

Per usual, I was fooling around on FanGraphs looking for article ideas when I stumbled upon a statistic that not only jumped out at me, but also surprised me. It has do with the exciting world of pop ups.

There were 105 pitchers who finished with at least 130 innings last season, with Gallardo being one of them. And of those 105 pitchers, no one induced a higher percentage of pop ups than the right hander. The former Brewers’ ace induced 25 total pop ups — or infield fly balls as FanGraphs describes them — for a percentage of 16.6 percent. That means that 16.6 percent of the 151 fly balls Gallardo allowed were classified as pop ups. Here’s the infield fly ball rate leaderboard chart from 2017 (minimum 130 innings).

Name IP IFFB IFFB%
1 Yovani Gallardo 130.2 25 16.6%
2 Marco Estrada 186.0 46 16.6%
3 Dan Straily 181.2 38 15.9%
4 Matt Boyd 135.0 27 15.9%
5 Ariel Miranda 160.0 34 14.0%
6 James Paxton 136.0 15 13.0%
7 Kenta Maeda 134.1 19 12.9%
8 Danny Duffy 146.1 21 12.2%
9 R.A. Dickey 190.0 24 12.2%
10 Ervin Santana 211.1 32 12.2%

Pop ups, as you probably know, are essentially guaranteed outs, making them a dear friend to pitchers and a nasty enemy to hitters. To Gallardo, they were the Shawn to his Cory. And this was a detour from the Gallardo’s usual path. Even though the 31 year old hurled just 130.2 innings, the 25 pop ups he allowed were the most in his career that began in 2007 and that has spanned over 1700 innings. In fact, he’s allowed just 32 pop ups combined in the past three years combined before 2017 began.

It’s been well-documented that Gallardo regained some of his lost velocity at some point during the 2017 season, and that just may have contributed to his increase in pop ups. Fast pitches up in the zone are tougher for hitters to get on top of, and if weak contact is made, it’s likely to result in a pop up. Let’s take a look at where in the zone Gallardo pitched that induced the most pop ups.

Note: Baseball Savant classifies infield fly balls differently than FanGraphs, which is why the chart above shows more pop ups than what I had previously stated.

The majority came from the upper corner of the zone, and like I said earlier, his improved velocity surely made it harder for hitters to make solid contact on those types of pitches. General manager David Stearns has already mentioned that Gallardo intrigued him because of his renewed velocity, so hopefully the latter’s new relationship with pop ups will continue.

In the grand scheme of things, however, I’m not sure this means much, if anything at all. Gallardo was still a rather poor pitcher last year. But at the very least, this should be viewed as some sort of silver lining for those who don’t understand why the Brewers wanted Gallardo back on their team. And if that doesn’t do it for you, well, you learned an interesting stat about one of the best pitchers in Brewers franchise history.

Projecting Jhoulys Chacin

The Milwaukee Brewers have been relatively quiet this winter. With money to spend and the urge to spend it for the first time in a handful of years, the expectation was that the Brewers would make a big splash in free agency. David Stearns has been rumored to be interested in Jake Arrieta, and it’s no secret the team would be in favor of re-signing Neil Walker. And while there’s still plenty of time for those moves or other noteworthy acquisitions to happen, the Brewers have decided to make plays for under-the-radar and low-cost players.

Their first “significant” offseason move was bringing back an old friend in Yovani Gallardo on a $2 million contract that includes incentives. After two forgettable seasons with Seattle and Baltimore, there’s no guarantee the former Brewers’ ace makes the roster, and even if he does, he’ll probably be used as a long reliever rather than a starter. The acquisition of Gallardo didn’t — for good reason — make much noise around baseball, but a few days later the Brewers made another move that, while not flashy at its base, has the potential to be great.

On Thursday the team announced that it had signed Jhoulys Chacin to a frontloaded two-year contract worth $15.5 million that includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. At face value, Chacin seems like a league-average pitcher. In 2017 he posted a 3.89 ERA and a 4.26 FIP on his way to a 2.3 WAR over 32 starts. His career numbers aren’t nearly as positive, but he provided optimism with the Padres last year. His slider is considered one of the best in the game, and that’s backed up by this fact:

Chacin also forced more swings-and-misses via his slider than Chris Sale. That’s right, Chris Sale. The right-hander threw his slider almost 35 percent of the time last season and limited hitters to a lowly .155 batting average against it. As a result, Chacin finished with the 14th-highest groundball rate (49.1 percent) among qualified pitchers. He’ll need to continue to do that in Miller Park, a stadium known as a hitter’s paradise due to the amount of home runs it allows.

The biggest knock on Chacin is his home/road splits and his difficulty in getting out left-handed hitters. Chase Anderson also suffered from the latter problem until the Brewers altered where he stood on the mound last season, and he just turned in his best year to date. I’m not saying Chacin will automatically dominate lefties if he makes the same adjustment, but it’s definitely a possibility, and there’s absolutely no harm in trying. The home/road splits are more of an issue. Chacin threw in pitcher friendly Petco Park in 2017 and was unbelievably great (1.79 ERA, 3.80 FIP) at home. However, he was very different away from his home stadium (6.53 ERA, 4.85 FIP), and that’s somewhat worrisome going forward. Miller Park is considered a hitter’s park, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to his new atmosphere. Limiting home runs will be key to his success.

Here’s how RW23 projects Chacin to perform in 2018:

IP ERA FIP xFIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR WHIP BABIP
RW23 161.1 3.78 4.20 4.07 8.08 3.43 21.2% 9.0% 19 1.29 .282

 

Yovani Gallardo is back and different than ever

The last time Yovani Gallardo donned a Milwaukee Brewers jersey, he was considered the team’s ace. That’s not the highest of compliments when looking at the stable of pitchers the Brewers employed during his tenure, but nonetheless, Gallardo started 211 games across eight seasons for the Brewers and accumulated 20.8 WAR and an ERA of 3.49. He was more than serviceable during his time there, and should be considered one of the greats in franchise history. Milwaukee has been absent of Gallardo for three years now, until…

On the same day Matt Kemp was reunited via trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gallardo — a free agent — found himself back home as well. Now, while the Dodgers are keen on flipping Kemp, the Brewers hope Gallardo can contribute to the team’s playoff aspirations in 2018. The team has yet to announce the deal, so his role and contract numbers are still unknown, but the deal is likely a one-year contract. Though they have money to spend, the Brewers aren’t going to spend a good chunk of it on a guy who posted a 5.72 ERA last season. A one-year deal laced with incentives is a good bet here.

While most of you may remember Gallardo as a swing-and-miss strikeout pitcher, he actually hasn’t fit that mold for a while now. He started to change who he was when he was still in Milwaukee, but the alterations were truly put on display when he jettisoned to Texas and subsequently Baltimore and Seattle. The former second-round draft pick began to pitch to contact and ultimately forfeited strike outs in the process, as illustrated by the chart and table below.

Since 2012, Gallardo’s strikeout rate has lowered in almost every subsequent year. He saw it rise a bit this past season, but not enough for any significant optimism.

Year SwStr% Contact%
2012 (MIL) 7.9% 79.7%
2013 (MIL) 7.0% 82.9%
2014 (MIL) 7.0% 83.2%
2015 (TEX) 6.5% 84.4%
2016 (BAL) 6.4% 84.3%
2017 (SEA) 8.3% 81.2%

Because Gallardo has lost some velocity over the last few campaigns, he’s been forced to try to get hitters to put the bat on the ball rather than racking up outs via three strikes. The results, however, haven’t been all that kind to the veteran. In his last 51 appearances (45 starts) spanning the past two seasons, Gallardo’s 5.57 ERA is the 11th worst mark among all pitchers with at least 140 innings. His FIP ranks just as poorly, and his 0.6 WAR is bested by 164 of 190 pitchers.

So why on earth would David Stearns and the Brewers waste their time on someone clearly past his peak? Shouldn’t the front office be focused on acquiring bigger fish — like an Alex Cobb — who can actually contribute to the team in 2018? The answer to the latter question is yes. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated.

Since his arrival, Stearns has set his sights on acquiring low-risk, high-reward talent. Dealing with a mediocre payroll, he doesn’t have the luxury to spend big every offseason as he would if he were the general manager of the New York Yankees. Instead, he has to perform his job with the certain constraints. And so far, he should get all the credit in the world. He found Jonathan Villar, who was an unknown entity before coming to the Brewers. He traded for Travis Shaw and signed Jesus Aguilar, both of whom performed above expectations in 2017. Stearns has been able to find diamonds in the rough on a consistent basis since joining the front office, and while this is the first offseason in which he intends to spend money on free agents, signing a pitcher like Gallardo isn’t the dumbest thing in the world.

By signing Gallardo to an expected short, and small salary deal, he’s taking another low risk approach. Granted, Gallardo’s ceiling is no longer what it was, but the Brewers need someone in a long relief role, and if needed, someone who can fill in as a starter. Jimmy Nelson will miss a considerable amount of time next year, and the team will need multiple arms to fill his void. Gallardo figures to be one of those. If he fails, so what? The consequences will be minimal if any at all. If he succeeds, then Stearns just once again proves he’s a wizard. No risk is the name of the game, and that’s exactly why the Brewers signed their former ace.

Here’s what RW23 projects from him as a reliever in 2018:

IP ERA FIP xFIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR WHIP BABIP
45 4.63 4.75 4.62 6.50 3.56 16.6% 9.1% 6 1.45 .295

The projection doesn’t love him, though compared to Gallardo’s last two seasons, it’s a considerable improvement.

Making sense of the Yovani Gallardo trade

Trading Yovani Gallardo was inevitable, and frankly, it was overdue. He should have been moved prior to the 2014 season. He would have garnered more interest from teams and therefore, been worth more than just a couple of question-mark prospects.

Everybody wants to judge and put a grade on a trade the minute it happens. We live in a world of instant gratification. So, to appease the masses, here’s what I think: The Texas Rangers won this trade, but only if we’re talking about the 2015 season. The Brewers are a worse team without Gallardo. The Rangers are a better team with him and without Corey Knebel, Luis Sardinas and Marcos Diplan. Again, I’m only talking about the 2015 season. If Gallardo leaves the Lone Star State after the season, and the prospects Texas gave up turn out to be at least league-average players, then Milwaukee will probably come out on top. But that’s a ways down the road, and even though Knebel and Sardinas have a legitimate shot at making the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, their true value won’t be realized in just one season. What’s more important is what the Brewers do with the $9 million that Gallardo left behind.

Let’s start by going over what the Brewers gave up in Gallardo, and why the team believes so strongly in Jimmy Nelson, the man who will be replacing Gallardo in the starting rotation.

Gallardo is not the pitcher he used to be. His peripherals have been suffering for some time now (see Tweet below), despite him entering what is usually the prime of a player’s career (he’ll be 29 in February).

From 2011 to 2012, Gallardo was worth 5.7 WAR. From 2013 to 2014, he was worth 3.5 WAR. Walks have always been an issue for Gallardo, along with high pitch counts, and for a pitcher who was thought of as Milwaukee’s ace, he only has four complete games in his career. Justin Verlander had six in 2012 alone. Additionally, Gallardo’s strikeout rate has decreased every season since 2009. That’s five straight years of decline. Luckily, though, his ground ball percentage has been trending upward, and if he’s not striking out hitters anymore, forcing ground balls is a nice alternative.

Gallardo should no longer be viewed as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but more of a very solid No. 3 starter, and that’s who the Rangers traded for. The Brewers, on the other hand, were aware of Gallardo’s diminishing value and received all they could for him (probably). Like I said earlier, they should have traded him sooner, but that’s water under the bridge now.

The Brewers wouldn’t have traded Gallardo if it weren’t for Triple-A stud Jimmy Nelson. The club believes strongly in the hard-throwing righty, despite minimal major league experience. Nelson has just 18 major league appearances under his belt, earning a 4.42 ERA and a 3.68 FIP along the way. But maybe more importantly, are his minor league numbers. He was an absolute monster in the minors last season. Using his power fastball and power slider almost exclusively, his ERA was below two and his FIP was below three, which is outstanding in case you don’t know what baseball is. Yet, he isn’t without question marks, while, with Gallardo, you know what you’re going to get. The question marks make Nelson a risk, but a necessary one for the Brewers.

The Brewers didn’t want Nelson in the bullpen as a long reliever, and since he has all but earned the right for a shot at the rotation, Gallardo became expendable. It’s safe to say Milwaukee is looking toward the future, hoping Nelson is a key part of it. This is especially true with Doug Melvin’s recent comments about how the Brewers have had no dialogue with James Shields or with the Washington Nationals about Jordan Zimmermann. Nelson is the guy and the job is his until he loses it. He’ll need to develop an effective changeup in order to take the next step, but that line of thought is for another article.

Now, let’s look at the players coming to Milwaukee.

Corey Knebel is an thrilling prospect, and someone who could make this trade worth it for the Brewers. He’s a young guy with an indomitable heater (94 mph+) and a slow curveball (80 mph). He hasn’t had much experience in either the minors or majors (just two years combined), but in the time he’s been a professional, the results have been promising. In 14 games with the Detroit Tigers Triple-A squad, he accumulated a 1.96 ERA and 2.98 FIP, striking out 29% of batters and holding hitters to a .103 batting average. His ERA ballooned in 2014 when he made his major league debut with the Rangers, but as you should know by now, ERA is misleading. But before I tell you what his FIP was during his first taste of major league action, let’s look at his other peripherals first. Knebel allowed a .440 BABIP (league average was .295), his strand rate was 50% (league average was 73%) and he forced more ground balls than the average pitcher. It’s safe to say he was a tad unlucky, and as a result, his ERA was 6.23. But his FIP ( 1.63) and xFIP (2.92) were considerably lower and a more telling sign of his performance. If that doesn’t tell you enough, maybe this will; in just 8.2 innings, he was worth 0.2 WAR. In other words, he was worth more wins than Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez.

There are two issues that surround Knebel: Walks and elbow problems. Yet, Knebel doesn’t seem too worried about the latter:

Everything is good now. I’m at 100% and ready to go. It was late in the season and there wasn’t any reason to push it. The MRI showed it wasn’t serious.

But even the slightest elbow issue is a cause for concern, and a slight ligament tear, like the one in Knebel’s shoulder, is a real red flag. Texas likely would have been more reluctant to trade him if he had a clean bill of health.

Control has also plagued Knebel during his short career.

Year Level BB%
2013 R 8.6%
2013 A 8.6%
2014 AA 13.1%
2014 AAA 13.0%
2014 AAA 10.0%
2014 MLB 7.7%

Keep in mind that his track record is shorter than Lou Piniella’s temper, so it may be unfair to label him as a wild pitcher. Time will tell.

Now, while I think Knebel has a bright future in Milwaukee, Luis Sardinas is a player that doesn’t make much sense to the Brewers organization. In all honesty, I don’t get this part of the trade.

Sardinas is a defense-first shortstop who makes contact with the ball, has nearly no power and doesn’t walk. Sounds like we’re entering familiar territory, doesn’t it? It should, because I just described Jean Segura. That means if Sardinas makes the roster, there will be two Jean Seguras on the team; two players who can field better than they hit with one backing up the other. And to make matters worse, the Brewers already have Hector Gomez, who is admittedly a worse fielder, but definitely has more power than both the alternatives. Sardinas feels like overkill.

Sardinas never hit in the minors, and so far the majors have been the same story. He made 125 major league plate appearances in 2014, posting a .279 wOBA and 70 wRC+.

David Cameron of FanGraphs agrees with me, but more realistically, I agree with him. Most scouting reports have pegged Sardinas as either a fringe starter or a trustworthy bench player. His defense is gold-glove fantastic, but his hitting ceiling is low. Could the Brewers have gotten someone better than Sardinas? I don’t know, but Sardinas doesn’t do much for me.

On the other hand, Marcos Diplan is an interesting prospect. Here’s what Derek Harvey of Brew Crew Ball wrote about him:

He has a fastball that currently sits anywhere from 89-92 mph and can hit as high as 96. As he grows and adds more strength that fastball should consistently hit that 92 mark, perhaps even better. He is also said to have a curveball and changeup that flash average at times.

Despite noting some inconsistencies with his pitches (understandable at 17/18 years old) Kiley McDaniel (Fangraphs), Ben Badler (Baseball America), and Mark Anderson (Baseball Prospectus) all remarked that Diplan showed an advanced fell for pitching relative to his age.

We haven’t seen much of Diplan, but he is an exciting young pitcher and it’ll be fun watching him progress in the minors. Unfortunately, he’s still four or five years away from even sniffing the majors (waiting is tough).

This trade was a necessity for both clubs. The Rangers are better for it, at least in the immediate future, and as for the Brewers, well, it’s too early to tell. Getting rid of Gallardo gave the Brewers the luxury of going after quality relief help, but the prospects they received don’t necessarily reflect Gallardo’s worth.

Pitcher projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers

Find my hitter projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers here

Warning: Below is the same opening I used for my hitter projections (lazy is my name), so feel free to skip it and scroll down to the projections.

It’s that time of year again, when projections are being unleashed and the biased trolls of the internet emerge from their caves. I love it.

People say that projections are like throwing darts at a dart board and hoping it sticks where you want it too. Well, if that’s the case, then the dart’s trajectory has been calculated countless of times and the dart board is bigger than the average one. Projection systems, like Steamer and ZiPS, are the most accurate darts we currently have at our disposable. So many components (i.e. park factors, age, injury history, talent) play into their forecasts that it’s asinine not to put at least a little merit in them.

With that being said, my projections are not based on a mathematical model. My brain doesn’t possess the functionality it requires to build one or to even interpret simple mathematical equations. For someone who is so invested in sabermetrics, I don’t know a lick of math. So, there’s my warning about my projections.

On the other hand, my projections are more than just guess work. I’ve poured over each player’s statistical history, taken injuries and age into account, looked at splits, went over other projection systems and basically every other thing I could possibly do to make sure my projections were well-informed.

Here are my pitcher projections for the 2015 Milwaukee Brewers (subject to change before the season commences).

Position Name ERA FIP xFIP SIERA HR K% BB% GB% WAR
SP Yovani Gallardo 3.94 4.06 3.70 3.72 23 17.1% 7.8% 52.0% 1.5
SP Kyle Lohse 3.72 3.91 4.11 4.12 24 14.9% 4.3% 39.8% 1.9
SP Matt Garza 3.39 3.64 3.99 3.76 14 21.2% 6.6% 42.5% 2.0
SP Wily Peralta 4.01 4.09 3.81 3.99 23 20.0% 8.5% 52.6% 1.6
SP Mike Fiers 3.09 3.33 3.29 3.21 15 26.2% 7.0% 34.0% 3.1
SP Will Smith 3.29 3.34 3.15 2.65 8 31.3% 9.2% 45.1% 0.6
RP Jeremy Jeffress 2.62 3.11 3.00 2.59 4 21.9% 9.6% 57.4% 1.0
RP Brandon Kintzler 3.91 4.34 3.83 3.75 7 15.4% 7.7% 57.2% -0.5
RP Jonathan Broxton 3.55 3.49 3.72 3.80 6 20.0% 6.9% 47.3% 0.4
RP Rob Wooten 4.08 3.32 3.84 3.43 3 17.6% 6.1% 48.1% 0.2
RP Jim Henderson 3.45 3.70 2.99 2.79 5 27.1% 9.2% 34.0% 0.1
RP Tyler Thornburg 4.11 3.86 4.29 4.30 3 19.2% 8.5% 36.2% 0.0
RP Jimmy Nelson 4.08 4.17 3.80 3.91 10 19.7% 8.3% 50.7% -0.1
3.63 3.72 3.66 3.54 145 20.9% 7.7% 45.9% 11.7

Let’s start by comparing my projections to last season’s statistics. As a team, the Brewers had a 3.67 team ERA, 3.89 FIP and 3.65 FIP, equaling 11 wins. My projections have them outperforming last year, but not by much (11.5 WAR). Much of this is due to my belief in Mike Fiers and Jeremy Jeffress breaking out.

As far as the rotation goes, I foresee home runs being a big issue (some of Jimmy Nelson’s projected home runs are as a starter), like it was in 2014. Kyle Lohse will struggle with keeping the ball in the yard (fastball velocity has gone down in three straight seasons) and same goes for Yovani Gallardo who has seen his HR/FB ratio increase in back-to-back seasons (I still think the Brewers would be wise to trade him). Wily Peralta had a 3.53 ERA but a 4.11 FIP in ’14, and his high FIP is why I see his ERA going back up. I’m putting a lot of faith in Garza this year, as I think he’ll be the second-best pitcher in Milwaukee’s rotation. He just needs to stay healthy.

Now for the bullpen. Jeffress is going to kill it, and Will Smith’s strikeout rate will be through the roof. I like Rob Wooten a lot as a reliever, but his FIP has always outperformed his ERA, meaning he might just be one of those players with a better FIP than ERA. Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg are huge question marks health wise, so as soon as I know more about their ability to throw a ball without pain, my projections may change.

Overall, Brewers’ pitchers will be right around league average in 2015, and that’s with Fiers becoming an ace. If I’m wrong about that, the rotation could/will be a whole different story.

If you have any questions about my projections, please comment or find me on Twitter

Is Yovani Gallardo really worth $13 million?

The Milwaukee Brewers exercised Yovani Gallardo‘s club option, meaning the starting pitcher will be back in 2015. But is he really worth the $13 million the Brewers will be paying him?

In order to answer this question, let’s first take a look at his last four seasons.

Year ERA FIP xFIP WAR
2011 3.52 3.59 3.19 3.2
2012 3.66 3.94 3.55 2.5
2013 4.18 3.89 3.74 1.8
2014 3.51 3.94 3.64 1.7
Average 3.72 3.84 3.53 2.3

At 28 years old, Gallardo should be entering the prime of his career. However, in terms of Wins Above Replacement, he hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in 2011 and 2012. Since 2011, he’s averaging 2.3 WAR a year, but a 9.2 total WAR. How does he compare with other qualified starting pitchers during that time period?

MLB Rank
ERA 53rd
FIP 65th
xFIP 29th
WAR 45th

At one point in time, Gallardo was in the “ace” discussion, but that conversation has long been put to bed. He ranks in the top 30 in only one of the major pitching categories since 2011, yet the Brewers value him as a $13 million pitcher.

To find out if he’s overpaid, I took five pitchers who are just above Gallardo in WAR since 2011, and looked at how much money they’re going to make in 2015. However, I only looked at players with guaranteed contracts to make things easier, and I also excluded Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza because if the Brewers truly are overpaying Gallardo, they might be overpaying them too.  Here’s what I found:

 

Yovani Gallardo: 9.2 WAR, $13 million

Ricky Nolasco: 9.8 WAR, $12 million

Dan Haren: 10.1 WAR, $10 million

Phil Hughes: 10.5 WAR, $8 million

Jose Quintana: 10.6 WAR, $3.6 million

R.A. Dickey: 10.8 WAR, $12 million

 

Gallardo is getting the most money while being worth the fewest number of wins. He’s even making more money than R.A. Dickey, a former Cy Young Award winner. Granted, he’s old, but still. Phil Hughes, who is earning $5 million less than Gallardo, is just a few months younger and has a higher WAR. Based on just this, the Brewers are overvaluing Gallardo. Steamer projection system says he’ll be a 1.6 WAR pitcher in 2015, and by no means is that worth $13 million.

Picking up his option was the expected move, even with the prospect of Jimmy Nelson taking his place. But the Brewers clearly weren’t satisfied with what Nelson did in limited action last season.

If Milwaukee isn’t going to trade Gallardo, it will be $13 million down the drain. The Brewers are paying him for what he’s done in the past, not what he’s going to do in the future. He’s shown no signs of improving, and odds are, 2015 will be Gallardo’s last season in Milwaukee (he’ll demand too much in free agency). It’d be smart if the Brewers would try and move him and get something in return instead of just letting him walk.