Maybe Roenicke Should Leave Gallardo’s Change Alone

Considering how hard the Brewers have been pushing every pitcher in their system to learn a changeup lately, it’s surprising to see just how much Yovani Gallardo has been avoiding it this year. Adam McCalvy did some crowdsourcing for numbers on Gallardo’s changeup usage (or lack thereof) on Sunday, and some of the numbers were pretty staggering — for example, the last time someone swung and missed on a Gallardo changeup was April 27.

Of course, all the talk about Gallardo’s changeup got me thinking more about it. I went through all of Gallardo’s starts this year, taking note of the changeups he threw.

3/31 @ CIN – 3 changeups, 2 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
4/5 vs ATL – 2 changesups, 2 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
4/10 vs CHC – 5 changeups, 3 strikes, 1 swinging strike
4/17 @ WSN – 5 changeups, 3 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
4/22 vs HOU – 3 changeups, 1 strike, 0 swinging strikes
4/27 vs CIN – 4 changeups, 1 strike, 1 swinging strike
5/2 @ ATL – No changeups thrown
5/7 @ STL – No changeups thrown
5/13 vs PIT – 1 changeup, 1 strike, 0 swinging strikes
5/18 @ SDP – 1 changeup, 0 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
5/23 vs WSN – 1 changeup, 1 strike, 0 swinging strikes
5/29 vs SFN – 2 changeups, 1 strike, 0 swinging strikes
6/4 @ FLA – No changeups thrown
6/9 vs NYM – 2 changeups, 0 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
6/14 @ CHC – 1 changeup, 0 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
6/19 @ BOS – No changeups thrown
6/25 vs MIN – No changeups thrown

There’s been a definite drop in his changeup usage as the season has gone on, and it’s a drop that’s even more noticeable when you take a look at the month-by-month totals:

March/April: 22 changeups, 12 strikes, 2 swinging strikes
May: 5 changeups, 3 strikes, 0 swinging strikes
June: 3 changeups, 0 strikes, 0 swinging strikes

It may also be worth noting Gallardo’s success since virtually abandoning the changeup and sticking to his fastball/slider/curveball combination. From May 2 to now, he’s struck out 71 in 67.0 innings, putting up a 2.96 ERA and holding opponents to a .245/.313/.362 line. In March/April, when he used the change more heavily, he struck out 23 in 36.1 innings, with a 5.70 ERA while opponents hit him hard (.314/.367/.486 line, with a line drive rate of 22%).

They’re both small samples, but (at the risk of some confirmation bias here) they would seem to agree with the idea that Gallardo isn’t comfortable with the pitch, and fares better when he isn’t forced to throw it. Unfortunately, it sounds like Ron Roenicke may force Gallardo to throw the pitch more often in the future, as he’s quoted in McCalvy’s piece as saying, “Somewhere, we need to make him throw it.” It would seem that he’s done fine without it this year, and Roenicke may be trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

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