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How Much Trade Value Does Brewers Ace Yovani Gallardo Have in Down Year?

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How Much Trade Value Does Brewers Ace Yovani Gallardo Have in Down Year?
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From the sound of things, the Milwaukee Brewers are going to hold a yard sale and one of the items up for grabs on the front lawn will be Yovani Gallardo.

If it comes to that, the Brewers aren't going to be looking to just give him away. But given the season Gallardo is having, that may be their only real option.

Entering Tuesday's action, the Brew Crew is 21-35 and in last place in an NL Central division that features three of the four best teams in the National League. The Brewers have some quality players, but they don't have much hope of making a spectacular comeback with their starting pitching (single word description: "bleh").

Hence the inevitable yard sale. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Journal-Sentinel that the club will have the future in mind if and when it makes trades this year, and notables like Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com have singled out Gallardo as one of the club's top trade chips.

And that makes sense on a surface level. There's always a demand for top-tier starting pitchers during trade season, and Gallardo is one of those by reputation. He earned this by compiling a 3.68 ERA over 782 innings between 2009 and 2012, making at least 30 starts each year.

Also working for Gallardo's trade value is the fact that he's under control through 2014 with a team option for 2015. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, that option can only be voided if Gallardo is a big player in the Cy Young voting between now and 2014.

It seems unlikely that he will be a Cy Young contender this year or next, though. Not given the kind of season he's having, and that's also where things get tricky in relation to his trade stock.

Through 12 starts, Gallardo has an ERA over 5.00 and a WHIP of 1.49. Opponents are hitting .282 against him with a .451 slugging percentage, and he's not striking batters out at the rate he's used to with a K/9 of 7.4.

There's one ERA estimator that says Gallardo hasn't been that bad. FanGraphs has his xFIP at 3.79, which isn't that far off from the 3.55 xFIP Gallardo posted last year. This being xFIPa stat that replaces a pitcher's home run total with an estimate for how many home runs he should have allowed—the indication is that Gallardo has been unlucky with the long ball.

There's that if you want to be optimistic. But while there is such a thing as misleading regression, Gallardo's looks like it's of the real variety.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This is a struggling pitcher we're talking about, so you'll have to excuse my eyes for rushing to see Gallardo's velocity readings. They were down last year and, sure enough, they're down again this year.

Here's Gallardo's average fastball velocity since 2011 according to Baseball Info Solutions by way of FanGraphs:

  • 2011: 92.7
  • 2012: 91.8
  • 2013: 90.5

The progression: "Pretty good" to "OK" to "OK, what the heck is going on?"

This is nature taking its course, as there's nothing unnatural about a pitcher losing velocity with age. Gallardo is not blind to what's been going on, as Eno Sarris of FanGraphs pointed out that Gallardo has gone to his sinker more rather than stick with his four-seamer as a primary heater.

The idea there, naturally, is to embrace pitching to contact to get more ground balls. The trouble is that Gallardo's ground-ball percentage is actually down from where it was the last two seasons. And according to BrooksBaseball.net, opponents have a higher batting average and higher ISO against Gallardo's sinker than they do against his four-seamer.

Pitch Count BAA ISO Against
 Four-Seamer  391  .300  .163
 Sinker  255  .352  .278

*ISO is Isolated Power, which is basically slugging percentage without singles mixed in.

Worth noting: Gallardo has served up four homers on his sinker, and two on his four-seamer.

That's six homers allowed on hard stuff out of a total of nine given up. It's certainly normal for pitchers to surrender more long balls on heaters than on secondary offerings, but the fact that the homers are still coming while Gallardo is apparently trying to get more ground balls is not a good sign. 

Gallardo even gave up a homer to Matt Kemp, who's had as much power as a Cuisinart in 2013; video courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB's official YouTube account.

Gallardo has always been homer-prone, mind you, but it's a habit that looks all the more worse this year in relation to his .282 batting average against and 3.5 BB/9. That's about par for the course for Gallardo, as his BB/9 has been in the 3.5-3.6 range every year of the last four except for 2011, when he had a 2.56 BB/9. That looks like a pretty clear outlier now.

His control hasn't been too far off, however. Per FanGraphs, there's a disagreement between Baseball Info Solutions and PITCHf/x over what Gallardo's Zone% is, and that could be because he's thrown a lot of balls right on the edges of the plate.

Here's a plot of Gallardo's called strikes and balls from TexasLeaguers.com:

Image courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com

It's possible Gallardo is a slight adjustment away from being a well above-average strike-thrower, which is something that he's not right now with a mediocre strike percentage just below 60. Teams interested in trading for him could be thinking as much.

If I'm a team interested in trading for Gallardo, I'm also telling myself that his sinker just needs some work. If it's developed beyond the experimental phase, he'll get the ground balls he's looking for and his dwindling fastball velocity won't be such a major concern.

But that's just the thing. If I'm a team looking at Gallardo, I'm looking at him as more of a fixer-upper than a legit ace who's going to lead me to the playoffs. Such pitchers aren't worth selling the farm for, even if they are under club control for potentially two more full seasons.

So the Brewers need Gallardo to do them a favor and start stringing some quality outings together over the next few weeks as the season gets closer to the July 31 trade deadline. If he starts to resemble his old self, the Brewers will be able to shop him as a top-of-the-rotation guy worth a nice basket of prospects.

If Gallardo doesn't get himself straightened out, the Brewers will have to take a fixer-upper price for him.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter. 

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