Can this Cardinal reliever return to his old form in 2024?

Giovanny Gallegos took a step back in 2023. What's in store for the high-leverage reliever in 2024?

St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles
St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

In the summer of 2018, the St. Louis Cardinals traded Luke Voit, a powerful first baseman who was blocked by a perennial All-Star in Paul Goldschmidt, to the New York Yankees for Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Schreve. The trade seemed minor at the time, but it paid immediate dividends for the Cardinals' bullpen.

Giovanny Gallegos holds an important role for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024. If he returns to his form from 2019 through 2022, the St. Louis Cardinals will have a formidable back-end of the bullpen between him, Andrew Kittredge, and Ryan Helsley. If Gallegos has a showing similar to last year, then the bullpen becomes significantly more shaky and unreliable.

From 2019-2022, Gallegos pitched 228.1 innings with a 2.84 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 0.893 WHIP, and he had an ERA+ of 142, meaning he was 42% better than the average pitcher in that span. Among qualified relievers, Gallegos places 15th in ERA, 8th in FIP, and 6th in fWAR during that time span. Giovanny Gallegos was one of the best relievers in baseball for four straight years.

The 2023 season, as was the case for most of the roster, was a bit of a different story for the right-handed pitcher out of Mexico. Gallegos started Spring Training with the Mexican national team at the World Baseball Classic. He was the team's primary closer, and he pitched a total of three innings in four games. He finished the international showcase with a 6.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, and batters hit .385 against him. This is a small sample size, but perhaps it was a sign of more to come for Gallegos.

In the 2023 regular season, Gallegos pitched fifty-five innings with a 4.42 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 1.200 WHIP, and he struck out only 25.8% of batters, a far cry from his career average of 30.2%. He had better control, as his walks were down when compared to his past three seasons, but Gallegos gave up significantly more home runs. The chart below compares home run statistics between 2022 and 2023.

Season

HR allowed

HR/9

HR/FB

2022

6

0.92

7.7%

2023

11

1.80

15.3%

Gallegos actually pitched fewer innings in 2023 than he did in 2022, but he allowed nearly twice as many home runs. He was in the bottom 5% of the league in hard-hit percentage with a rate of 46.2%, and hitters barreled his pitches at a 10.1% rate, much higher than the league average.

Gallegos's slider, historically his best pitch, had a negative run value last year. His slider was hit hard 36.2% of the time last year, a 12% increase from the year prior. Hitters also teed off on his changeup, a pitch he only used 3.5% of the time. The slugging percentage against his changeup was a whopping 1.167 last year.

Giovanny Gallegos was shut down for the season on September 18th due to a shoulder injury. He finished the 2023 campaign with ten saves and twenty holds. There have been very few reports about Gallegos's health this offseason, but John Mozeliak has been adamant that there are no players entering Spring Training with limitations.

ZiPS projects Gallegos to have a 3.65 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 29.1% K rate, 7% walk rate, and a 1.11 WHIP in sixty-eight innings. This is much better than last year, and it aligns much more closely with his career numbers. While these aren't the same figures that he had between 2019 and 2022, these numbers are more than suitable for a high-leverage reliever.

The Cardinals' bullpen success hinges on Andrew Kittredge, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley. If these three can all return to their forms from a few years ago, St. Louis could boast one of the best bullpens in baseball. If Gallegos continues to give up home runs at a ridiculous rate, expect to see a lot of leads blown late in games next year.

manual