Not a Rookie Redux: Yovani Gallardo
I wrote a Not a Rookie on Yovani Gallardo in February of 2008.
My conclusion was:
What he did last year was no fluke in my view. So the question is, can he stay healthy? He's been remarkably durable as a pro. Listed at 6-1, 210, he doesn't have the prototype 6-4, 210 pound pitcher's body and may have to watch his weight as he gets older. But he repeats his delivery well, and appears to have a resilient arm. I don't think his injury risk is any higher than it is for any other pitcher his age, and perhaps it's a bit lower.
I could see Gallardo being a pitcher who is best in his early-to-mid-20s, then gradually fading as he approaches 30. My guess is that his best years will be in the next five, and that eventually he'll become "just" an inning-eating starter. Assuming he stays healthy, Gallardo should be recognized as Number One starter and among the best pitchers in baseball in the 2008-2012 window, but that by 2014 he'll be more of an inning-eater type. An early peak, followed by a very gradual decline in other words. No massive sudden shock injury, but rather a slow loss of effectiveness as his arm wears down.
Of course, he missed all of '08 with a knee injury, but at least it wasn't his elbow or shoulder. How does that look now?
In '09, Gallardo went 13-12, 3.73 with a 204/94 K/BB in 186 innings, 150 hits allowed, 3.97 FIP. Every projection system I'm aware of forecasts similar or somewhat improved numbers for '10, which I agree with.
I think the key sentence in what I wrote back in '08 was "Gallardo should be recognized as a Number One starter and among the best pitchers in baseball in the 2008-2012 window, but that by 2014 he'll be more of an inning-eater type", with no massive shock injury but a gradual decline. The knee injury doesn't really count in my mind, since it didn't involve the elbow or shoulder, the types of injuries that can permanently reduce the qualities of a pitcher's stuff or command. Indeed, his velocity was actually improved last year according to Fangraphs.
Looking for some historical comparisons, Sim Scores lists Gary Gentry, Silvio Martinez, Rich Harden, Jim Gardner, Fausto Carmona, Art Mahaffey, Jesse Litsch, Jason Bere, Dennis Blair, and Orval Grove. I don't like that list very much. Gentry and Blair were very effective early but burned out quickly. Harden of course has been brilliant when healthy.
Top PECOTA comps are C. C. Sabathia, Alex Fernandez, Jason Bere, Ismael Valdez, Ryan Dempster, Scott Kazmir, Barry Zito, Randy Wolf, Bill Gullickson, Pedro Martinez, and Andy Benes. Other than Jason Bere, these comp lists are radically different, and in this case I think the PECOTA list is closer to the mark since it accounts for differences across eras and leagues more effectively than traditional Sim Scores. Two of the comps that stand out to be in particular are Alex Fernandez and Andy Benes.
Going forward, I'd like to see improved control from Gallardo. He walked 94 guys last year. Reducing that would help his component numbers and vault him into genuine ace starter status. More efficiency would help him stay healthy, too. At this point, I'll stick with my original projection for Yovani: some brilliant pitching in the next two or three seasons, followed by a slow fade as an inning-eater.