Good afternoon to you. Let’s get back to my 2022 season report on individual Cardinal players and how their performance may set our expectations for 2023.
NEXT UP: Right-handed reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who had another formidable season for the Cardinals in 2022.
OVERVIEW: The Cardinals acquired Gallegos and lefty reliever Chasen Shreve from the Yankees at the late-July trade deadline in 2018. Shreve, a lefty, was the more coveted of the two relievers, but in 2019 Gallegos was given a major bullpen role and proved to be an excellent reliever. He still is, even if some of his measurables slipped a bit in 2022.
The Cardinals traded first baseman Luke Voit to the Yankees to secure the two bullpen reinforcements, and the trade didn’t immediately pay off for the Redbirds. In his first two-plus seasons for the Yankees, Voit hit a home run every 13.5 at-bats, slugged .543, and had a .915 OPS. But knee problems and other injuries would slow Voit down and cause him to miss games. Voit was traded from NY to San Diego in March of 2022, and got traded again when the Padres sent him to Washington in the deal for Juan Soto. Voit was granted free agency by the Nationals in November and remains unsigned.
And while all of that was going on with Voit, Gallegos emerged as a dominant and enduring reliever in St. Louis. The trade ultimately clicked for the Cardinals, and Gallegos continues to be an essential piece of the Cardinal bullpen.
GALLEGOS SINCE THE START OF 2019: Over the past four seasons Gio ranks 6th among qualifying MLB relievers with 5.7 WAR, which puts him behind Liam Hendricks, Ryan Pressly, Raisel Iglesias, Josh Hader and Edwin Diaz.
Only three MLB relievers have pitched more innings than Gallegos (228.1) over the past four seasons, and he ranks 3rd in walks-hits per inning (0.89), 15th in ERA (2.84) and 8th in Fielding Independent ERA (2.83.) His strikeout rate over that time (32.0%) ranks 15th among 200 big-league relievers and his strikeout-walk ratio (4.86) is 12th best.
As a Cardinal reliever Gallegos has allowed a .182 batting average, .242 OBP and .313 slugging percentage. And until last season he’d been especially tough on left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .164 average, .223 OBP and .297 slug.
GALLEGOS IN 2022: He posted a 3.05 ERA in 57 appearances that covered 59 innings. That’s in line with his ERA (3.09) over his last three seasons. Gallegos put up his career-best 2.31 ERA in 2019, but even then his fielding-independent ERA for that season was 3.05 – which is higher than his FIP over the last three years (2.73.) Gallegos’ strikeout rate has remained steady in his full seasons as a Cardinal: 33.3 percent in 2019 … 30.6% in 2021 … and 31% in 2022.
STATCAST STAR: Impressive overall. Gallegos ranked among the top eight percent in expected batting average against, the top nine percent in strikeout rate, the top eight percent in getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, the top six percent in whiff rate, the top 16 percent in expected ERA, and the top 32 percent in expected slugging percentage.
PROBLEMS? Yes, a few. It’s nothing too alarming but last season his walk rate was a career-worst 7.71 percent as a Cardinal. And that led to his career-worst strikeout-walk ratio as a Cardinal (4.1).
In 2020, 1.8 percent of the plate appearances taken against Gallegos resulted in a home run. In 2021, that HR rate creeped up to 1.9 percent. But in 2022, the home-run rate against him jumped to 2.6 percent. He’ll have to tame that home-run rate in 2023.
Potentially problematic was a decline in effectiveness against LH batters, who pounded his four-seam fastball for a .294 average and .765 slug in the 17 at-bats that ended on that pitch. It’s a small sample, so this may be nothing more than static. Bringing RH batters into the mix, in 34 overall at-bats that ended with the four-seam fastball in 2022, Gallegos yielded a .441 slug.
Gallegos’ best pitch last season was the slider; hitters were limited to a .179 average and .259 slug in 112 at-bats that concluded with the pitch. Gallegos threw his four-seam fastball slightly more often than he used the slider. That was a change in approach that may need a reevaluation.
THE OLI MARMOL FACTOR: The first-year manager did a good job of easing some of the physical strain on Gallegos by spreading out his innings. In 2021, then–manager Mike Shildt burned Gallegos out by working him for 81 innings overall, and the reliever had a career-worst 3.44 ERA in the second half of the season. In 2022, Marmol used Gallegos for 59 innings, and Gio held up well in the second half with a 1.96 ERA.
After the 2022 All-Star break opponents batted .139 against Gallegos with a .216 OBP and .228 slug. In 2021, a tiring Gallegos allowed a .232 average, .298 OBP and .368 slug after the break. Because of Marmol, Gio’s second-half numbers held up much better in 2022 in comparison to 2022.
SLOW POKE: One thing to watch in 2023 is the advent of the pitch clock and how it could impact Gallegos. This could be a problem because Gallegos has been one of the slowest workers in the majors in terms of time elapsed between pitches.
Last season Gallegos went an average of 25.8 seconds between pitches with the bases empty. That was the slowest rate among all Cardinal pitchers and well above the MLB average of 18.1 seconds between offerings.
With runners on base last season Gallegos averaged 30.6 seconds between pitches, highest among Cardinals and above the MLB average of 23.3 seconds.
In 2023 pitchers will have 15 seconds to make their next pitch with the bases empty – and 19 seconds to deliver a pitch with runners on. GG’s tempo has to quicken up.
CONCLUSION: As I mentioned, there was a little erosion to the quality of Gallegos’ pitching in 2022. One indicator is a 0.53 Win Probability Added that was down from the 2.49 WPA in 2021. But in ‘22 his velocity has remained intact, his slider is still a killer pitch, and his Statcast rankings were very good. Gallegos may need to make adjustments on his four-seam fastball. His increased walk rate was a little surprising considering that his percentage of first-pitch strikes and overall strikes improved in 2022. This is a stellar reliever, but we’ll have to keep an eye on a few things in 2023.
GALLEGOS GRADE: Give him an “A minus” for 2022. The Cardinals rewarded Gallegos with a two-year, $11 million contract extension after the season.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.