Valentine’s Day is firmly in the rear view mirror. The Super Bowl is becoming more of a distant memory. Sure the NBA and NHL are in mid-season form, but collectively the sports world is about to awaken anew.
Brewers fans, tomorrow we get to state together in a loud, clear, and triumphant voice: “Pitchers and Catchers report!” The four greatest words of the winter will be ours in very short order. I cannot wait to shout it from the mountaintops!
Today, however, is Friday, February 17th. Did you know that Opening Day is on a Friday this year for the Brewers? That means that we’re a multiple of seven away from Opening Day 2012. Indeed, today is 49 days out. We’re exactly a mere seven weeks from the first pitch of the regular season.
Likely throwing that first pitch in the Top of the 1st inning is today’s profiled player:
Drafted by Milwaukee. Developed by Milwaukee. Found success with Milwaukee. And, perhaps most importantly, agreed to stay in Milwaukee on a multi-year contract which keeps Gallardo in Milwaukee through at least the 2014 season. A voidable team option exists at the end of the guaranteed years, so there’s that too.
For all the talent that has fallen short, for all the unrealized potential, for the careers lost to injury…
Gallardo has beaten the odds.
2011 saw the Brewers ace eclipse 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career as he was fourth in the league in starts with 33. It was Gallardo’s third consecutive season with 200 or more strikeouts and he actually improved in nearly every statistical category over his All-Star season of 2010.
In fact, the only noticeable categories where Gallardo worsened were a lower K/9 rate (9.7 down to 9.0) and allowing more than double the home runs (12 vs 27) than the previous campaign.
Otherwise, ERA, walk rate, hit rate, WHIP, K/BB ratio, ERA+, all of these and then some were better. For the record, Gallardo threw 21.2 more innings in 2011 than 2010 and actually issued 16 fewer walks.
In short, the seventh-place finish in the Cy Young Award voting in 2011 was warranted.
Gallardo started three games in the 2011 postseason, winning one, losing one, and taking a no-decision in the third. The loss did come in the NLCS against Gallardo’s personal nemeses the St. Louis Cardinals.
Obviously, despite the division championship belonging to the Brewers, the defending World Champions are the redbirds and how Gallardo adjusts to their lineup in 2012 could go a long way in determining who will be division champions next October.
Assisting in that endeavor was Arte Moreno. No, he’s not the Brewers’ new pitching coach but rather the owner of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who signed away Gallardo’s biggest problem, Albert Pujols. Pujols hit .545 against Gallardo in the 2011 regular season including three home runs. It wasn’t pretty but again, it’s not something that Gallardo has to deal with in 2012.
Cardinals notwithstanding, Gallardo won 17 games in 2011 and posted a line of 3.52 ERA, 193 hits, 92 runs (81 earned), 59 walks, 207 strikeouts, 1.215 WHIP, all in 207.1 innings pitched.
Supported by the best K/BB and BB/9 rates of his career, Gallardo posted a 111 ERA+ and a career best 2.7 WAR.
Gallardo turns 26 years old in 10 days and is just entering his prime. With solid seasons already a part of his track record, and that multi-year contract, Brewers fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about 2012 and beyond for the Mexico native.
In fact, ZIPS projection system predicts a very similar 2012 for Gallardo that would result, in part, in 16 wins, a 3.46 ERA and another 200 plus strikeout season. There would be nothing wrong with hitting those projections.
The bottom line for Gallardo is that regardless of the presence of Zack Greinke on this roster, the man we call “Yo” is the number one. A lot of people will tell you that once the season gets underway, it matters very little what the rotation order is. They’ll say that other than whatever personal honor an Opening Day Starting Pitcher takes out of kicking off the season, it doesn’t make a bit of difference. Gallardo is on record as saying he appreciates the faith that it shows by giving him the ball with the chance to start a season on the right foot.
Brewers fans can take solace in the fact that if Gallardo does indeed get the call for Opening Day (and there really isn’t any reason he wouldn’t), the likelihood of starting the year with a victory should be a good one.