On Gallardo’s April Struggles

Before Chris Narveson’s blowup tonight (2.1 innings pitched, 7 earned runs), I was going to write about how effective the back-end starters have been and contrast their success to the comparative ineffectiveness of the front-line starters.  The point doesn’t have as much force now that Chris Narveson’s earned run average has bloated from 2.19 to 4.33, but a few words on Gallardo’s struggles in the early going are still warranted.

gallardo pitching.jpgThrough April 5 (two starts), Gallardo was dealing.  He worked a strong six innings in Cincinnati’s home opener, giving up only two runs and striking out four.  His start against the Braves on April 5 was nothing short of spectacular; a complete game, two-hit shutout.  He struck out only two, but induced so many ground balls (16) that no one really noticed.  Some even remarked that the lack of strikeouts indicated Gallardo was maturing as a pitcher, looking for weak contact instead of getting by solely on power.

Then the wheels started to fall off.  Gallardo got through only five innings in his next start on April 10, walking four and allowing four runs.  On the 17th against Washington (not exactly known as an offensive powerhouse), Gallardo allowed a staggering seven earned runs in 5.1 innings, although he struck out five without any walks.  He wasn’t quite as ineffective on April 22, but still allowed four runs over six innings.  For those of you keeping score at home, that means Gallardo hasn’t had a quality start in his last three outings. 

For a few reasons, I don’t think we have anything to worry about yet.

First, Gallardo is actually throwing slightly more strikes as a percentage through April (62%) than he did overall last season (61%).  That suggests that his command really isn’t escaping him, despite the walks.  Gallardo’s never been a guy to keep the bases clear (career WHIP: 1.326), and the number of walks he issues is problematic, but there’s no reason to suspect his control is becoming worse.

Second, Gallardo hasn’t lost any velocity.  He’s still regularly hitting in the 91-93 range with his fastballs, and mid-80s with the change and slider, which appear to have good movement.

Third, Gallardo’s starts last April were nothing special, and he went on to have the best season of his young career.  At the end of April 2010, Gallardo was 2-2 with a 3.41 ERA and 29:14 K:BB.  Gallardo has one more start left in April, but he’s currently sitting at 2-1 with a 4.88 ERA and 20:10 K:BB. 

Gallardo’s probably in line for a correction to his stats, and his next few outing should tell us where he’s at.  My money’s on some good games coming for him. 

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