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Gallardo a Steal?

April 11, 2010


Yesterday Milwaukee inked 24-year old Yovanni Gallardo to a five-year deal worth a minimum of $30.1 million and potentially as much as $42.5 million.  The deal could keep Gallardo a Brewer through 2015 if the club so chooses.  The deal is really quite novel in that it provides both the Brewers and Gallardo a number of incentives, such as parameters regarding which teams Gallardo could potentially be traded to as well as bonuses based on Cy Young voting.  While Cy Young voting is a rather subjective way of distributing payment, the clause at least provides the Brewers some level of merit-based control on their checkbook.  Compared to the contracts awarded to a few of Gallardo’s peers such as Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, and Matt Cain, Jon Lester, and Zack Greinke this deal comes off looking rather genius for the Brewers.  The question, though, lies in whether or not Gallardo can justify being considered a peer of these elite young righties.

Last year Gallardo cracked the 200-strikeout milestone for the first time in his career while making 30 starts for the first time as well.  Considering that he was coming off a season shortened by knee surgery in 2008, 2009 was a significant step in the right direction.  He still failed to reach the 200-IP plateau, but in many ways I consider that a good thing for the Brewers considering they were fully aware that they would ultimately miss the playoffs relatively early in the season.  Why not manage their young ace conservatively if he is basically just practicing for next year?

How about his stuff?  The wrap on Gallardo since he was a flame-throwing yet erratic high schooler has been that he lacks a developed third pitch.  I’m not sure that remains the case.  He still tends to favor his fastball (95+ whenever he needs it)/curve (at least plus, sometimes plus-plus) duo, but his changeup has made considerable strides since Gallardo reached the Bigs in 2007.  Still, he does not use it enough.  Gallardo’s high ¾ release point and carry on his fastball, when coupled with Miller’s short porch, tend to drive a lot of balls to the seats, but that same carry allows Gallardo to pitch at the letters a little more often, especially to righties, in order to generate strike 3.

Delivery?  It sounds like Milwaukee extensively analyzed Gallardo’s delivery to determine if anything about it would lead to career-threatening injuries later on.  From the sounds of it, Gallardo checked out nicely.  Personally, I think he fights to create a downward plane more than someone with his build and athleticism should, – primarily by using his front side to “climb” – but that same athleticism probably allows him the necessary leeway he needs to do it.

So why am I not convinced?  Gallardo is not efficient.  His K/BB is the worst of the pitchers I mentioned earlier as potential peers, he has thrown the fewest innings, and he has had a major surgery already.  Still, with the way his contract is structured, the Brewers have provided themselves with a situation that will provide Gallardo incentive for finding ways to solve these problems.  I think he has the stuff, athleticism and organizational support to really make a run at a few Cy Young Awards, and that would help both Yovanni and the Brewers.

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