Cactus League Game 19, Rangers at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Yovani Gallardo, 1:05
I felt bad about missing yesterday’s Felix day until I saw the box score. Hopefully Paxton has an easier time of things today against the Rangers. He’ll face righty Yovani Gallardo who came over from Milwaukee in a trade for prospects. In one sense, the move was a curious one for Texas; they’re in a rebuild despite the presence of well compensated vets like Shin-Soo Choo (struggling with a forearm injury) and Prince Fielder (recovering from season-ending surgery last year). In another, he’s a desperately needed mid-rotation bridge between Yu Darvish at the top and a continually churning sea of AAA arms the Rangers will sort through in 2015.
Gallardo was supposed to be the ace of the Brewers rotation for years, but freak injuries and an inability to move from “promising” to “star” allowed the Rangers to acquire him for middling prospects. Gallardo’s strikeout rate has declined every year since peaking in 2009, and he’s now a below-average K guy…and that was in the NL. He throws a rising four-seamer at about 92, and also throws a sinker, a curveball and slider. He had a change-up that he’d use to lefties occasionally, but he essentially shelved that last year.
Gallardo’s straight-over-the-top delivery is noteworthy, and as many have noted, seems to be something that the Brewers consciously select for and/or teach. One of the presumed benefits of the over-the-the-top delivery is minimal platoon splits, and while Gallardo’s have bounced around, his career numbers bear this out – he’s got splits, but they’re on the low end of normal. That’ll be important as he moves from the division that plays match-ups the *least* (the NL Central) to the one that figures to do so the most. Gallardo has had the platoon advantage for the majority of his batters faced in each year since 2010. Yu Darvish faced lefties over 63% of the time last year. It’s going to be an adjustment for Gallardo.
The rising fastball should produce more fly balls (hopefully lowering BABIP), and Gallardo (and the other Brewers hurlers) have had problems with homers off and on. Oddly, though, Gallardo’s GB% has risen steadily as his K% dropped, and he’s now an above average grounder guy. Developing the sinker certainly helped (he was strictly a four-seam guy early on), but it’s also a testament to the fact that batters tend to put his breaking balls in play on the ground. At one point, they were swing-and-miss pitches, but that day’s long gone; when he’s on, Gallardo can minimize damage by getting batters to top curve balls to the infielders.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
Six lefties. Welcome to the AL West, Yovani.