COMMENTARY | It's overreaction Tuesday, also known as the day after opening day for the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite a thrilling 5-4 extra-inning victory over the Colorado Rockies to begin the 2013 season on the right note, there were multiple issues that fans hope don't become trends as the season progresses.
But it wasn't the baserunning blunders, or even a two-out home run allowed by closer John Axford that was all that worrisome. Early in the season, you expect to see some fundamental lapses, and Axford struck out the side and looked relatively sharp -- except for that one mistake to Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler.
The biggest concern following the Brewers' opening-day victory was the performance of Yovani Gallardo. Entering his seventh season with Milwaukee, Gallardo received the nod on opening day for the fourth consecutive year. Unfortunately, the Brewers had failed to win any of the previous three openers that the 27-year-old started.
Milwaukee was lucky to avoid an April Fools' Day disappointment, as Gallardo's pitch count skyrocketed in the first few innings, resulting in his exit after five innings and 96 pitches. He was fortunate to only allow three earned runs, as he gave up 10 hits and remained winless against the Rockies in his career.
A rapidly rising pitch count has been an issue throughout Gallardo's career, as well as his struggles against specific teams, most notably Colorado and the in-division rival St. Louis Cardinals. While Gallardo will only make a handful of starts against these two squads, if he wants to be a true ace, he needs to overcome this mental barrier.
The team-specific struggles aren't the pressing issue here, however, but rather deciphering why Gallardo is unable to pitch deep into games. He often racks up 20-25 pitch innings early, and this winds up hurting him late.
It essentially comes down to Gallardo nibbling around the strike zone, which results in several full-counts. Gallardo tends to miss badly with his off-speed pitches, which makes it easy for hitters to lay off. He needs to become more comfortable throwing his slider/cutter and curve ball for strikes -- or at least putting them in the same zip code -- to get more swings.
Gallardo has decent fastball velocity (92-93 mph) and his breaking pitches have great movement, but you can understand why he may be afraid to find the plate based on the two home runs he allowed on opening day. Until he is able to fully trust his three primary pitches, his pitch count and the long ball will continue to be concerns.
Should the Brewers wish to compete for a postseason berth, they need Gallardo to have an All-Star-caliber season considering the uncertainties in the starting rotation. It's just one game and shouldn't be overblown, but considering his past issues pitching deep in games -- he has just four career complete games and hasn't gone the distance since 2011 -- there is cause for concern that Gallardo may never blossom into that dominant, innings-eater ace for Milwaukee.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Yovani Gallardo
- Colorado Rockies