Baseball stats don’t lie. A poor ERA usually means a pitcher has lacked consistency or control of his pitches. But how do you explain the phenomenon of a pitcher who is selectively struggling against just one team?

You can’t argue that Gallardo is not still the Brewers ace, yet his numbers against St. Louis, both home and away, show otherwise. Yo sits at a 6.08 ERA after five games. Nothing spectacular. But if you remove his two starts against the Cards, he rocks an impressive 1.71 in 21 innings pitched. I’m definitely not a math genius, but it’s pretty easy to see that a 22.24 ERA against St. Louis (36.00 against them at Busch) is a serious casualty to his season average. This is not shocking to Brewers fans who have become accustomed to Gallardo struggles against the Cards. Last year he went 1-4 with a 5.70 ERA against them.

So what IS Gallardo’s issue pitching against arguably the Crew’s biggest rival?

  1. Pitchers can’t get out of their own head.  I’ve met a lot of players in my days working in the Northwoods League and with various college teams and I haven’t met a single pitcher who doesn’t go through a rough mental patch after giving up a lead, or walking multiple batters. It’s part of the way a pitcher is wired, the analytical nature of their position that requires focus and attention to their surroundings, other players on the field, and the strategy behind each and every pitch.  Keeping these thoughts in check while maintaining control of the current situation is what makes for a strong mental game. In Gallardo’s case, every batter he faces on the Cards may be its own painful memory of a hit that caused them to lose the lead. He’s lost five consecutive regular-season starts against the Cardinals, and with each game it seems to get worse and worse. At this point, his mental block may be almost crippling.
  2.   Gallardo has faced St. Louis twice in three weeks.  The more times a batter and pitcher face each other… advantage goes to the batter, and man, April’s schedule has been filled with the hitters of St. Louis. Gallardo is generally known for a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a slider and a less frequently thrown curve. Batters who see a pitcher struggling will take advantage of mistakes, curveballs that are left up, and fastballs down the middle lacking his normal velocity. With each Cardinals’ batter facing Gallardo 3-5 times in early April and then again three weeks later… I’d say, advantage Freese, Molina and Jay.
  3. St. Louis is a solidly offensive team.  Even without Pujols, the Cardinals have been generating some serious offense this season. Coming off tremendous momentum from last season, the Cardinals have continued their hot streak and currently lead the NL Central by three games. It seems like every player is contributing, with six of their starters batting over .300. Freese alone has 25 hits, 20 RBI, and 5 homeruns. (Luckily, his hot streak is keeping me at the top of my fantasy league)

Bottom line, it’s still early, and Yo is nothing if not dependable. His numbers against the Cubs, Dodgers and Rockies looked great, so hopefully he can put those disastrous outings in the past and keep doing what we’ve come to expect out of him. Plus thankfully, he has the next 2 ½ months to forget about the Cards before he has to face them again in mid-July.

Featured Image Credit: Associated Press/JSOnline

 

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  • Steven

    Great article. My questions would be:
    1.) Can you really be the ace of a staff when you are 1-9 with a 7.05 and 16 HR’s surrendered in 11 starts against your biggest divisional rival?
    2.) How crazy is baseball that Gallardo’s lone win against Cards was a no-hit bid he took into the 8th on 5/7/11(8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 6 K’s)

    • Steven

      7.05 ERA* Whoops.

    • Katie

      Thanks for the comment Steven :)

      I still view him as the Brewers Ace for a few reasons…

      1) His ERA and record against other division rivals is generally decent. Especially against the Cubs (insert joke about how the Cubs aren’t very good anyways here) But just looking at his numbers for the last 3 seasons including so far this year, he has an ERA of 2.74 and has only given up 3 HRs. THREE!!

      2)Yo had the best ERA out of the starting 5 during the 2011 regular season. He earned the trust of the fans everywhere, and to be honest, I still feel more comfortable with him on the mound over Wolf or Marcum who notoriously lack consistency.

      3) He has proven he can be the go-to pitcher in the postseason. In 2011, he went 1-1 with a 2.84 ERA compared to other Brewers pitchers (Greinke, Wolf, Estrada, Marcum & Narveson) who all posted an ERA between 6.00-14.90.

      If anyone is looking at making the argument that Greinke is edging out Gallardo for the title of Ace for the 2012 season so far, (yes, I’ve thought that through) let’s revisit it after June, which has historically been Gallardo’s most successful month.

  • http://iwanttodrawacatforyou.com Steve

    As Yovanni Gallardo’s manager (he’s on my fantasy baseball team), I can assure you his performance against the Cardinals will be much better for the rest of the season. I gave him a good ol’ fashioned Fantasy Pep Talk, and he’s promised to get his Fantasy butt in gear.

  • K-Fey

    The term “ace” gets thrown around a lot these days, but for my purposes, I usually reserve it for a team’s top starter, as long as said starter is considered to be a #1 or #2 pitcher on most teams. Gallardo fits that bill. So does Greinke. There was a time Marcum did as well. I would consider Greinke and Yo to be in the second tier of big league starters, below “true aces” like Halladay, Lee, Felix, Kershaw, Verlander, and Weaver.

    Gallardo on the whole has struggled in his career against the Cards, he can’t induce swinging strikes vs. them as he can vs. most other teams: his K numbers vs. StL are very low. But he’s not the only one who struggles against the Cards. Paging through his career starts against StL, he has been the victim of some pretty poor run support. Also, the rest of the pitching staff don’t pitch much better vs. StL. Guys like Furcal and Freese continually pound them.

    So Yo isn’t the only one who has had trouble. This entire team needs to figure out how to beat the Cardinals. It’s been a problem since last summer: including the playoffs, the Crew is 5-10 vs. StL since August 1, 2011, not surprisingly when Furcal joined them and Freese returned to health. The Brewers had the edge in the season series until their stretch of August dominance ended at the Cardinals hands.

    It’s worth noting that Yo has had two of his best career starts against StL too: 8 one-hit innings in a 4-0 victory last May, 8 two-hit innings in a 1-0 victory in May 2009.

    • Katie

      Scarier thought… Freese is only going to get better. There is no way he has peaked in his career, and the way he hits against the Brewers starters, I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to be a major problem for the crew in the future.

      • K-Fey

        I actually disagree, I think he’s peaking now and won’t be for too much longer. He’s 29 years old—and few players continue improving after 30. The type of offensive damage he’s done in his rather limited big-league time is real hard to sustain. I’m also very skeptical about his ability to remain healthy. He may indeed always have success against Milwaukee, kind of like AmRam did, but despite his Ruthian feats of late 2011, I believe that in three years the memories of David Freese ca. 2011-2012 will be all he has left. When healthy, he’s definitely an above average 3B, but I can’t see him having the type of sustained major league success that guys like Longoria, Beltre, Rolen, or Youk have had.

        Fear not, the Cardinals are an aging team and in two or three seasons Berkman, Beltran and Furcal will be gone, Holliday and Freese will be declining, and they’ll have to get creative to win the division.

        • Katie

          Well well I’m sure David Freese would be VERY sad to hear you think his best days are over at the young age of 29! “Above average 3B” is a serious understatement. He is a Top 5 rated 3B compared to others who have in some cases have 10 more GP than him this season so far.

          His AVG has been improving since 2010 and he is on track to have more hits, homeruns and RBI than last season. The staying healthy thing is his biggest obstacle, but when he manages to stay in the lineup, he is a machine. To me, consistency at bat isn’t peaking.

          • K-Fey

            More accurately, I meant to say that he’d still be an above average 3B after he peaks. And I do think he’s got a few strong seasons to come, my point was that I’d be surprised to see him continue that type of production after age 32 or 33, even if he does stay healthy. I predict Ramirez like numbers at best.