Yovani Gallardo trying to finish season on positive note

Yovani Gallardo has had a disappointing 2013, but is looking to finish the season off strongly.

As the Milwaukee Brewers evaluate potential rotation options during the final month of the season, Yovani Gallardo has his spot sewn up. But that doesn’t mean the final month of the season isn’t important to the right-hander. 

Gallardo has had a year to forget thus far, both on and off of the field. An arrest for DUI in April got his season off on the wrong foot and Gallardo has had a puzzling season on the mound. 

With five or six starts remaining, Gallardo is looking at the rest of the season as a chance to get on track and head into the offseason feeling good about the way he is throwing the ball. He's tossed two straight quality starts since coming off the disabled list.

"It's very important," Gallardo said. "It hasn't been the year that I wanted to have, but that's in the past. Just focus on this fresh start and today was a good step forward for the last month or month and a half of the season. However many starts I have, just go out there and finish off strong and be consistent."

Consistent is what Gallardo has been for the majority of his seven-year career. He's never had an ERA higher than 3.84 and he's made over 30 starts in each of the last four seasons. Gallardo was supposed to be the safe bet in the rotation before the team signed Kyle Lohse and there was little reason to think otherwise. 

Batting average on balls in play against Gallardo this season is .309, which is slightly above the league average, but also much higher than his past few years. Gallardo's batting average on balls in play was .291 in 2011 and .290 in 2012. 

For a pitcher who allows his fair share of baserunners, leaving runners on base is important. Gallardo left 74.8 percent of runners on base in 2011 and left 78.4 percent stranded last season. That number has fallen to 67.6 percent this season, meaning more of his baserunners are finding a way to score this year.

Gallardo is allowing fewer home runs per nine innings this season than he has in each of the past two seasons and his walks per nine innings are down from a year ago. But so are his strikeouts per nine innings, which are down from 9.0 last season to 6.97 in 2013. 

The drop in strikeouts could be credited to a dip in fastball velocity. Gallardo's average fastball sits at 90.7 miles per hour this season, down from 91.8 from last year and 92.7 in 2011. A difference of two miles per hour can make a significant difference for a pitcher. Gallardo has also thrown four percent less fastballs this season and nearly three percent more curveballs to make up for it. 

One advanced pitching stat works in Gallardo's favor. Fielding independent pitching measures the results pitchers can control -- walks, strikeouts, home runs and hit by pitches. His FIP this season is 4.01, up from 3.94 a year ago. Both numbers are considered average, while Gallardo’s career average FIP is 3.67 and is considered above average to great. 

Regardless of all of the advanced stats, the Brewers need Gallardo to revert back to the pitcher they are used to if they are going to make a turnaround next season.

His first two starts since returning from the disabled list have been encouraging, as he's shown better command against a good Cincinnati lineup.  

"I think it is really nice if we can get him feeling that way going back into next season and hopefully see the guy we are used to seeing," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said after Gallardo’s Aug. 17 start. "I don't know how many starts he has left, but this was good. This was really good to see. To command the ball after being out like that, that's pretty impressive."

If Gallardo can keep throwing the ball over the final month the way he is now, the Brewers can feel a lot better about the top part of their rotation heading into next season.

"You always want to finish off strong and on a positive note," Gallardo said. "All of us in here, that's what we want to do."

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