It is easy, yet rather simplistic, to say that Globe Life Park is a place where pitchers go to die. After all, the ball flies out of the park into the Arlington sunset in a hurry during the summer, leading to inflated ERAs and plenty of runs. Woe is the pitcher who finds himself heading off into that Texas summer.
Likewise, it would certainly seem as though Yovani Gallardo, the newly appointed ace of the Texas Rangers rotation, would struggle in such a ballpark. After all, he allowed 21 home runs last season while pitching in Miller Park, which is not nearly the offensive field that Globe Life Park is. Park factors certainly bear this out, as Globe Life Park rated as the seventh most favorable park for offense in baseball, while Miller Park was tied for fifteenth.
Despite his struggles with the long ball last season, Gallardo may actually be a perfect fit for the Rangers. Instead of being a fly ball pitcher, Gallardo is a proven ground ball machine, with 46.3% of all balls in play put against him in his career ending up as a grounder. Comparatively, Gallardo has only allowed a fly ball in 32.9% of balls put in play against him.
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Those numbers were even more drastic last season. In 2014, Yovani Gallardo had a 50.8% ground ball rate, while giving up a fly ball in only 29.0% of at bats. Yet, 12.1% of those fly balls left the park last year, an increase over Gallardo’s career mark of 11.3%. That would certainly seem to be a troubling sign for a ground ball pitcher like Gallardo.
That increase in home run rate may actually be explained by Miller Park. While Miller Park was essentially offensively neutral last season, it had the ninth highest home run factor, as 1.142 home runs were hit there for every home run at a neutral site. Globe Life Park, meanwhile, ranked seventeenth, and actually depressed power numbers, with 0.964 home runs hit for every one at a neutral site.
Gallardo will also have the benefit of having a solid infield defense behind him this season. Adrian Beltre is still a Gold Glove caliber third baseman, despite his advancing years. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor are a relatively underrated defensive duo who should only get better. Freed of the mediocre defense of Aramis Ramirez and Scooter Gennett, the Rangers may well see a vastly improved Yovani Gallardo, particularly if those park factors repeat this season.
While it is foolhardy to think that Yovani Gallardo can truly replace Yu Darvish in the rotation, he may perform better than expected. His pitching style appears perfectly suited for the Texas Rangers.