They say baseball is 90 percent mental. So it don’t matter if you got 95-plus mph juice like Zach Wheeler or Taijuan Walker or He-Man-esque skills at the plate like Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. If we open up your head and find a pile of rocks or all sorts of Milton Bradley crazy or some actual problems, it could really screw up your season.
Just ask Yovani Gallardo. The derailment of his 2013 season began in November of 2012, when his mom died. Then came his much-publicized booze-cruise in April 2013, when he was charged with a DUI for driving around Milwaukee at three times the legal limit. Then he missed a chunk of the year with a hamstring injury.
Sounds like a Hefty bag of excuses to explain how a dude could go from a 16-17 game winner with four straight 200-strikeout seasons and a sub-4.00 ERA between 2009 and 2012 to 12-10 with a 4.18 ERA and a K/9 rate that dipped to 7 per (from 9 per) in 2013. And it is.
So how does Yovani get back to being a top-of-the-rotation guy for the Brew Crew in 2014? First things first, you take out the trash. Family tragedy? Over. Booze incident? History. Injury concerns? It was just a hammy, not a shoulder or forearm or elbow.
It won’t be that far to climb back to the upper echelons of the rotation when you have Marco Estrada, Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza to vault to get there. But it’s what’s in the batter’s box, and not on the mound, that could contribute more to Gallardo’s turnaround.
Yeah, Ryan Braun was a juicer. Yeah, not being on the juice will hurt his power numbers. But the guy can still hit, and plugging him back into the middle of a lineup that might actually make sense (44-steal guy Jean Segura at leadoff) and includes my 2013 fantasy man-crush Carlos Gómez (CarGom if you’re nasty), a potential 2014 fantasy man-crush in Khris Davis, a back-from-injury Aramis Ramirez and Creole catcher extraordinaire Jonathan Lucroy, and the Brewers could potentially score more than 3.95 runs per game, good for only 18th in the league in 2013.
That was potentially the longest sentence I’ve ever written.
So far this spring Gallardo has been pretty dang good, posting a 1.13 ERA. On March 5 against the A’s, he flashed some good (1 ER, 4 K in 2 2/3 IP) and displayed some bad (gave up a long dong and three hits). But on Monday, in his most recent start against the White Sox, Gallardo looked like his old self, striking out three in 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
I foresee 15-ish wins, an ERA in the 3.50 range and a return to 200 IP and 200 K. I’m not saying you draft Gallardo to be your second or third starter, I’m just saying there’s no way you let him go undrafted.