Check out the other 2022 Gallardo Award awards here.
The M-SABR Gallardo Awards, originally conceived by alumni Cam Cain and Sahil Shah, are given to the worst players in baseball. The previous editions in 2018 (AL/NL) and 2019 didn’t mimic every MLB award. This changes in 2022.
This is the ninth article in the series, honoring the worst players in the National League. The Lewis Brinson award mirrors MLB’s MVP Award. The Yovani Gallardo Award is given to the worst pitcher overall. It’s our Cy Young Award. Awards are also given to the worst NL Reliever, worst NL Manager, and the NL Anti-Comeback Player of the Year.
NL Brinson Award – Elias Diaz, COL
When it comes to having a down year, Diaz had a down year for down years. The Colorado catcher found himself as M-SABR’s worst player in the NL from 2022 with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. Since 2018 Diaz has posted one positive fWAR season after a small bounce-back season in 2021. But as he found himself winning this award the following 2022 season was not as kind to him.
Diaz in 2022 had a -1.4 fWAR and 67 wRC+ as the Rockies everyday catcher. When looking deeper into the offensive numbers it can quite clearly explain how his name was brought up for this award. In 381 Plate Appearances Diaz slashed a .288 AVG, had an OBP of .281, a .368 SLG, and a wOBA of .284. Diaz is a career -1.1 fWAR player, but even these numbers are below his averages.
Diaz’s walk rate decreased to 6.6% and his strikeout rate increased to 21.5% during the 2022 season. Then when factoring in the very below-average frame rate being in the 10th percentile of all catchers that are qualified in the MLB, the qualification and case for this award only shift more in Diaz’s favor. It also does not help that Diaz cannot help himself on the base paths as he is not a plus runner.
Diaz has two years left on his arbitration extension he inked with the Rockies after his small bounce-back year in 2021, where he will make $5.5 and $6 million respectively in those seasons. Based on his career numbers and season-to-season trends, I do not expect to see him have as bad of a year as 2022, but with a player like Diaz having a worse year could still be in the cards.
NL Yovani Gallardo Award – Josiah Gray, WSN
Josiah Gray was living a great life as a top prospect in the Dodgers system, and was performing well in the minor leagues, but then he fell into the fate of many past Dodgers top prospects. He was packaged in a major trade to a bad team for rental players that will be on the Dodgers for one or two seasons’ tops. In this case, he was dealt to the Nationals as part of a package for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer in the middle of the 2021 season.
As hope began to quickly dwindle in the eyes of Nationals players and fans, so did the level of performance Gray was producing in the minors decreased. The 24-year-old struggled mightily in his first full major league season while in 28 appearances and 148.2 innings pitched posting a 5.02 ERA, a 5.86 FIP, a 1.359 WHIP, and accumulating a -0.6 fWAR on the season. Gray was stuck a little below average with his spin rates on his fastball and curveball, but control was a major issue as he found himself in the 17th percentile in BB% for all qualified pitchers.
The best thing Gray has going for him is his age, being so young he has a great amount of time to continue to improve his game and come to be the pitcher everyone in the Nationals organization hopes he can be. Pitchers tend to take longer to develop and there is a great amount of room for improvement with Gray. I hope his name is never mentioned in this award cycle again, but for now, he is the NL Yovani Gallardo Award winner for 2022
NL Worst Reliever – Ian Kennedy, ARI
Ian Kennedy is one of the league’s longest-tenured players at this point in his career accumulating 16 seasons in the bigs. Kennedy’s career has been up and down for his last few seasons but had a bounce-back year with the Rangers in 2021 and was part of a midseason trade that sent him to Philadelphia along with Kyle Gibson to try and help end the Phillies playoff drought. After not being as successful in the latter half of the season with the Phillies, Kennedy found himself in Arizona with the Diamondbacks for 2022 and it did not take long for Kennedy to revert to the player he was in seasons prior.
The Arizona Diamondbacks won 74 games and if you told me Kennedy logged over 50 innings for them, I would have told you they would have lost more games. Kennedy in 50.1 innings pitched posted a 5.36 ERA, a 5.58 FIP, a WHIP of 1.570, and -0.9 fWAR. Kennedy struggled and it was extremely evident as he ranked among the lowest percentile-wise in xSLG, Barrel %, Chase Rate, Average Exit Velocity, and Hard Hit%. If you were to look at his Baseball Savant page, you would see a large amount of dark blue. He also failed to find an effective pitch mix using his fastball over 80% of the time during the 2022 season.
Kennedy has been a solid MLB player over the course of his career, but after the Diamondbacks declined to pick up his mutual option this offseason, I fear that his career may be quickly ending. For Kennedy’s sake, I hope he is given another chance to end his career on a better note than being one of if not the worst relievers in baseball.
NL Worst Manager – Joe Girardi
When the Phillies brought in Joe Girardi to manage the team there were extremely high expectations set. His last gig was a nearly decade-long stint with the Yankees where they finished with the best record in the multiple seasons, winning many playoff games, and even winning a World Series in the 2009 season. Girardi and the Yankees decided to split after the 2017 season after the Yankees failed to take the next step, with the talented roster they had, to reach the World Series.
After taking a couple of years away from managing Girardi was signed to be the Phillies’ manager in 2020. Girardi never found his footing in Philadelphia as he had a losing record of 28-32 in the 2020 covid shortened season, then failed to make the playoffs in 2021 as the Phillies went 82-80. During the beginning of the 2022 season, it seemed as though the Phillies were on their way to another mediocre season finding just outside the playoff picture.
The Phillies needed a change, and a change they made. On June 3, 2022, after the Phillies started the season 22-29 Girardi was fired. He was replaced by bench coach Rob Thomas and the rest is history. The Phillies went on to win 14 of their first 16 games with Thomas as the head man and went on to make the World Series.
Girardi had the worst season of any manager in baseball and the only way it could have been worse is if the Phillies were able to win the World Series. As an outsider, it is hard to put 100% of the blame on what was holding the Phillies teams back from making the postseason in recent years, as they certainly had the talent to do so.
One thing that we can conclude is that there was a major energy shift in the clubhouse after the departure of Girardi, which may be able to speak volumes about how Girardi ran the Phillies clubhouse.
NL Anti-Comeback Player of the Year – Stephen Strasburg
Stephen Strasburg was once known as one of the league’s most dominant pitchers. The three-time All-Star pitcher consistently found himself in the CY Young conversation and played a pivotal role in the Nationals 2019 World Series run where he won World Series MVP. Strasburg has all the talent in the world in terms of velocity, spin, and high strikeout rates, but has always been held back by his ability to stay healthy throughout his career.
After 2019 Strasburg opted out of his deal with the Nationals but remained home in DC and signed a new seven-year contract worth $245 million. The Nationals invested a great amount of money in Strasburg showing the team had confidence that he would remain healthy throughout the duration of the deal. Since the deal was signed Strasburg has made eight starts.
His 2020 season was cut short due to a pinched nerve in his hand. In 2021, after making two starts, was sent on to the IL with shoulder inflammation, then came back and made three more starts before going back to the IL for a neck strain. The neck strain would cause him to have season-ending surgery. All signs were pointing in the right direction for Strasburg to have a great return to the Nationals rotation.
The Nationals took extra time to ensure his body could fully recover, and it still was not enough. He made one start in 2022 and went immediately back on the IL with a stress reaction in his ribs. After a few weeks on July 14th Strasburg was added to the 60-day IL and was shut down for the year.
Strasburg has attempted many comebacks to his old form in recent seasons, but he cannot get back to a great bill of health. The long postseason run the Nationals went on in 2019 may have affected his health-wise, the same way the Red Sox’s 2018 World Series run affected Chris Sale.
It is sad to see Strasburg struggle to get back to what he once was. I hope as baseball fans we can see a couple more vintage high strikeout performances that we came so accustomed to and took advantage of early in Strasburg’s career.