Zac Gallen has made two starts in the young 2023 season. So far, through those two starts, it’s been pretty ugly, to be blatantly honest. In terms of ERA (7.59), it is the third-worst two-game stretch of his young career.
Through 10.2 innings, Gallen has faced 49 batters, giving up 13 hits and nine earned runs. His strikeouts are also down, tallying just 10 for an 8.4 SO/9 pace, by far the worst of his career. Pretty much everything about this stretch would be the worst for his career if it continued.
But Don’t Stress
First things first, he played some great opponents. Both the Dodgers and Padres are World Series contenders with potent offenses. Plus, even in 2014, Bleacher Report writers concluded that batters had the April advantage.
While hitters are finding holes, they really are not barreling up the ball or hitting Gallen particularly hard either. Among the 35 batted balls through his first two starts, Baseball Savant has considered just two of those barrels. That 5.7 barrel percentage is nearly two whole percentage points below his career average.
His fastball spin is still as elite as ever, ranking in the 85th percentile through these two starts. Batters are also swinging and missing at rates eerily similar to 2022. On curveballs, they had a whiff percentage of 33.7 in 2022, and that percentage is at 33.3 in 2023.
More than anything, Gallen has been unlucky with how balls have landed and hits have been strung together.
At the end of the day, it is also just two starts, and he is not a pitcher who struggles for long periods. At least give him three to four more starts. If he still struggles to a similar degree, then it will be time to figure out what is going on.
What to expect
Gallen is set to bounce back despite that inflated 7.59 ERA. His expected ERA is sitting at 3.93 and his FIP is at 4.89. While both those are still not where he wants to be, there still both significantly lower than what has happened.
Likely slated to pitch next either April 9th or 10th against the Dodgers or Brewers, the 27-year-old will make his first start at his home field; a comfortable environment for him. In his career, he is more consistent at home and he pitched better at home in 2022 (2.49 vs 2.59 ERA); he also strikes out more batters in front of his home crowd.
No matter what, fans can be hopeful that if he does struggle all the way up to the All-Star break, he can somewhat replicate the second half in 2022 that led to his fifth-place finish in Cy Young voting.