Milwaukee Brewers by the (Jersey) Numbers: No. 49 - Yovani Gallardo

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Milwaukee Brewers by the (Jersey) Numbers: No. 49 - Yovani Gallardo
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Ace - [eys] - a very skilled person; expert; adept

By the above definition, there would be a lot more "aces" in Major League Baseball than are recognized as such.

To be blunt, there are a lot fewer true aces in the game right now than you might think. There aren't even enough to go around to all 32 major league teams.

An ace is not necessarily the best pitcher in a team's rotation. This is obvious when it is said that some rotations contain more than one ace.

An ace also isn't labeled such simply because he is the best pitcher in the team's rotation, either. The term "de facto ace" is at times applied to a team's best starting pitcher—even if the pitcher wouldn't be considered an ace otherwise.

An ace doesn't always start on Opening Day. (A recent example is the 2009 Brewers, when Ken Macha inexplicably started Jeff Suppan in San Francisco.)

An ace doesn't always win 20 games. (Bull pens blow leads all the time—and no pitcher is infallible in his own right, either.)

An ace doesn't always get the run support that he deserves. (Perhaps this is because offenses lose a bit of focus when they feel like they only have to score a couple of runs to win.)

If you want to be the best, however, this is the life that you have to deal with. You can pitch your tail off and still end up with a tick in the loss column.

Milwaukee has had a few aces in its history. I could spend time listing them and telling you about their careers, but I'm not not previewing them. I am previewing the man that Milwaukee currently calls its ace: Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo will turn 24 years young in 12 short days. In what was his first full season in the big leagues, he complied a 13-12 record while tallying a 3.73 ERA, 1.314 WHIP, 204 strikeouts, and 94 walks in 185.2 innings pitched over 30 starts.

Gallardo would've thrown more innings had the team not shut him down in September. With the season decided by that point, the Brewers decided that there was no real reason to push the issue with the number of innings Gallardo threw after an injury- shortened 2008 season.

Fortunately for Gallardo—and for the Brewers—the injury wasn't to his arm, and he was able to bounce back quickly, even starting a playoff game for the Brewers in 2008.

Last season, though, Gallardo showed a little bit of youth in his normally mature demeanor. His walk rate ballooned to 4.6 BB/9. It was uncharacteristic from what we'd seen from Gallardo up to that point in his career.

Despite the number of walks, Gallardo displayed brilliance during his season. Three times he racked up at least 11 strikeouts in a game, and he struck out nine batters in another pair of starts.

His strikeout rates lend themselves very well to Gallardo's being able to sustain success at the big league level. He's likely to bring his walks back down, as well—especially if the umpires call strikes for him at the bottom of the strike zone.

With the reputation that he's gaining—for good reason—as a strikeout pitcher, the borderline calls might go his way even more in 2010.

But as I said before, a lot of the numbers that a pitcher posts are directly influenced by the defense playing behind him. The changes that the Brewers made in that respect should help Gallardo out.

Carlos Gomez and Alcides Escobar are upgrades at their positions and join a group of capable defensemen. More runs saved equates to less runs scored. That should lead, in turn, to more leads holding up—even after Gallardo leaves the game. If you don't lose the lead, somebody gets the win.

Simple, no?

The long-term outlook for Gallardo is one of a very bright future and potential ascension to superstardom. The short-term outlook could very believably produce 18 wins or more with continued improvement in other measurables.

2010 ought to be an exciting year for the entire Brewer ballclub, but Gallardo's growth is worth paying extra special attention to.

It'll be worth your while.

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