D-backs not worried about Zac Gallen’s fastball velocity dip ahead of next start

Jun 15, 2023, 8:01 PM

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks talks with starting pitcher Zac Gallen #23 in...

Manager Torey Lovullo #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks talks with starting pitcher Zac Gallen #23 in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 11, 2023 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Arizona Diamondbacks ace Zac Gallen has an elite fastball in the eyes of pitching coach Brent Strom, who said the starter doesn’t give it enough credit.

But the four-seamer was a tick off during Gallen’s last outing, when he allowed five runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.

His heater averaged 92 mph, down from his season mark of 93.5 mph.

Strom said he was not concerned ahead of Gallen’s next start Friday against the Cleveland Guardians.

“Sometimes you have these kinds of things happen and it’s just a matter how quickly you can get back,” Strom told reporters on Wednesday. 

The pitching coach oversaw what he described as a very good bullpen for Gallen on Wednesday, one in which they took a look at his direction.

Strom said Gallen’s stride was not as closed as when his cross-body delivery is at its most deceptive.

“If you take the center of the rubber when he releases the baseball, he’s three feet, six inches from the center of home plate,” Strom explained. “He was at 2.8-2.9, which makes a big difference, so the ball is coming at an angle and it’s very deceptive. And that’s one of his strengths.”


It can also help the fastball get on hitters quicker.

Gallen ranks tied for third in MLB with a -11.7 run value using the four-seamer, only trailing Gerrit Cole, Joe Ryan and George Kirby, according to Statcast.

Paired with a curveball that has 51.4 inches of vertical drop and an effective changeup, the starter has pushed up to the top spot in baseball for pitcher WAR on FanGraphs at 3.2.

The righty doesn’t have top-end fastball velocity, sitting in the 34th percentile of MLB, but Strom explained that the carry Gallen gives his fastball creates late life and makes the difference.

“It is not so much the velocity, there’s been a lot of guys who have a great velocity, but there’s a term they use called the dead zone where the fastball is fast but it’s just kind of flat and hitters put a good swing on it,” Strom said. “… if you ever look at the chart, it doesn’t deviate, stays like (Clayton) Kershaw, stays true, spins back and has that life. It sinks but not quite as much as everybody else, which makes him a unicorn.”

Gallen’s fastball spin was in the 90th percentile in baseball last year, and it is in the 74th in 2023 so far, according to Statcast.

Another factor in Sunday’s anomaly manager Torey Lovullo felt was the 8:35 a.m. start (Arizona time), which was the earliest game the D-backs will play in this season.

“He was ready, he was emotionally ready, he was physically ready, I think fundamentally his body just didn’t wake up and adjust and get after it,” Lovullo said. “That’s something we need to take care of because we’re still gonna play some day games, but this one was a bit different.”

Gallen will match up with Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie Friday at 6:40 p.m. on 98.7, and the Arizona Sports app. 

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