Image: AP Photo / Paul Sancya
Check out the other 2022 Gallardo Award awards here.
The M-SABR Gallardo Awards, originally conceived by alumni Greg Severin, Cam Cain and Sahil Shah, are given to the worst players in baseball, in honor of Yovani Gallardo. The previous editions in 2018 (AL/NL) and 2019 didn’t mimic every MLB award. This changes in 2022.
This is the third article in the series, honoring the worst rookies in MLB for the 2022 season. The award is given to one rookie hitter and one rookie pitcher from each league.
First up is the American League
Worst Rookie Pitcher – Adam Oller, OAK
The award for the worst rookie pitcher in the AL really came down to the wire. This was a three horse race, with each horse, to absolutely no one’s surprise, coming from the Oakland Athletics. Lefty Zack Logue’s jersey number matched the first two digits of his ERA. He is number 67. Adrian Martinez was not much better, twirling 57.2 innings of 6.24 ERA ball. But there can only be one winner. The 2022 Gallardo Award for Worst AL Rookie Pitcher goes to Adam Oller.
It’s hard to know where to start with Oller. He had similar results to Logue and Martinez but edged them out due to a higher innings count. The 28 year old righty walked opposing hitters at a massive 4.72 per nine innings mark. Generally that lack of control would be paired with some semblance of strikeout stuff, but he struck batters out at a miniscule 5.57 per nine.
Those are the type of numbers that get you on the fastrack to a Gallardo award. Behind these numbers is the fact that Oller could just not get any strikes. Both his swinging strike percentage and called strike percentage were quite low, leading to a combined called and swinging strike percent (CSW) that would be lowest in the league if he qualified. An important factor in this was his wholly ineffective fastball, the 6th worst in terms of pitch value of all pitchers over 70 innings pitched.
It’s hard to know what caused what, or if there’s any one fix to Oller’s rough season. His poor walk rate, subpar strikeout rate, terrible CSW% and downright awful fastball are all interconnected. Perhaps he is just bad. However, he can take solace in the fact that the 2022 Gallardo Award for Worst AL Pitcher will always have his name on it.
Worst Rookie Hitter – Spencer Torkelson, DET
The award for worst AL Rookie hitter was not nearly as close of a race. Even a mid-July AAA demotion that led to improved September numbers couldn’t stop runaway candidate Spencer Torkleson from picking up this Gallardo award.
Similar to Oller, there’s not any one particularly terrible metric that can explain Torkelson’s poor baseline numbers. In fact, the metrics paint a slightly rosier picture than his baseline slash of .203/.285/.319 with -1.0 fWAR.
A 41.4% Hard Hit rate is solid. An 8.4% Barrel rate isn’t bad. A 9.2% BB rate is acceptable, albeit much lower than his numbers in the minors. However, two stats should be worrying for Tigers fans. First, he struck out at a 24.5% rate in the Majors, and then increased that to 26.5% in his 155 AAA plate appearances. 24.5% is not terrible (Aaron Judge struck out at 25% this year), but an increase upon returning to the minors is quite concerning.
These strikeout numbers have remained fairly high throughout his otherwise glimmering minors career, and would be greatly helpful to get in control given his solid batted ball numbers.
The other more worrying stat is his .319 slugging. Similar to K%, this number didn’t improve much upon returning to AAA, despite huge slugging numbers throughout his previous minor league career. Tork’s value in the majors is going to be nearly all through his bat, and this will only come with more extra base hits. His slugging will need to improve next year for him to remain a big part of Scott Harris’ new future in Detroit.
On to the National League
Worst Rookie Pitcher – Matt Swarmer, CHC
The award for Worst NL Pitcher was another tough one, with no clear favorites. Washington righty Cory Abbott, owner of a 5.25 ERA and -0.5 fWAR in 48 innings pitched received consideration. Milwaukee righty Jason Alexander also made his way onto the shortlist, with a 5.40 ERA in 71.2 IP, but with better peripherals behind that high ERA. Matt Swarmer, a 29 year old Cubs RHP, takes home the crown, though. His outrageous -0.8 fWAR in just 34 innings was too hard to ignore. That’s about -0.078 fWAR accrued for each out he recorded. That is amazing.
For all the amazement from that much negative WAR in so few innings, Swarmer still had only a 5.03 ERA. However, his FIP was a gaudy 7.35. This discrepancy is due largely to his enormous walk rate, checking in at 5.29 per 9 innings. Along with this, he gave up a lot of hard contact. Swarmer relies primarily on a slider, and is fairly successful getting swings and misses with it, leading to a nice 9.53 K/9, but with shaky control leading to a tendency to be behind in counts, Swarmer can become predictable and give up a lot of damaging hard contact.
Worst Rookie Hitter – Alfonso Rivas, CHC
This was another close race, with Pirates utility man Diego Castillo battling it out alongside Phillies outfielder Matt Vierling and Cubs first baseman Alfonso Rivas. Castillo, who I had never heard of, did hit 11 home runs in 283 plate appearances, but paired that with a .251 OBP and definitively bad defense. Vierling had negative fielding, baserunning, and hitting player values, per Baseball Reference. This award, though, goes to Alfonso Rivas, if not for anything other than being the platonic ideal of a waiver claim by an Ivy League graduate-led front office.
Rivas rarely ever barreled the ball, leading to a .307 slugging, and an astonishingly low .072 ISO. He struck out over 30% of the time. He played poor defense, whether he was at first base or in the outfield. Buuuuut, he gets on base! I can just perfectly imagine Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill selling him to a curmudgeonly old front office in Moneyball. (Rivas was originally drafted by the A’s)
He did indeed have a 10.1% walk rate and .322 OBP in 2022. Neither of these numbers are otherworldly, but I suppose they are enough to overshadow the poor production in nearly all other parts of his game for some algorithms. He does have strangely positive baserunning numbers, swiping six bags this past year. That does not overshadow the fact that he’s a bat-first first baseman and slugged .307, though.
For that alone, and the joy I get in occasionally making fun of very analytical front offices, Alfonso Rivas gets the 2022 Gallardo Award for worst rookie NL hitter. Congrats to the Cubs for two rookie Gallardo awards!
I would like to recognize that although all the players mentioned above had very poor seasons, they are still professional athletes who have sacrificed much to play at an immensely high skill level. My own baseball career flamed out in 8th grade, and I have the utmost respect for all professional athletes, even if their ISO is .072.