Zac Gallen would be bane of baseball fans’ existence any other year

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Zac Gallen has pitched pretty well this year, but his dramatic proficiency in one category is notably odd as well as ineffective.

His last two outings haven’t been good (11 runs allowed over 10 combined innings), but Arizona Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen still has a 3.15 ERA with a 9.9 K/9 and a 3.3 BB/9 this season. The one-time top-end prospect the Miami Marlins has a bright future.

Gallen had a 1.80 ERA before his last two starts, so the ship has probably sailed on him leading the NL in that category. But as R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports noted, Gallen has a significant lead that he won’t be relinquishing in one category.

Gallen entered Tuesday with an insurmountable lead in attempted pickoffs. Combine the second-, third-, and fourth-ranked pitchers and that total equals his amount: 126. Here’s the current pickoff attempt leaderboard:

1. Zac Gallen (ARI): 126 pickoff attempts, 0 pickoffs
2. Griffin Canning (LAA): 45 attempts, 2 pickoffs
3. Robbie Ray (TOR): 41 attempts, 0 pickoffs
T4. Corbin Burnes (MIL): 40 attempts, 0 pickoffs
T4. Anibal Sanchez (WAS): 40 attempts, 0 pickoffs

Gallen has as many pickoff attempts as the pitchers with the second, third and fourth-most pickoff attempts combined — with zero pickoffs. He has pitched 60 innings in his 10 starts (an average of 2.1 pickoff attempts per inning). Anderson adds he had faced 70 stolen base opportunities, easily defined as a runner on first or second with the next base empty. There have been 43 plate appearances where he has thrown over more than once, and Anderson broke those down.

-He threw over at least two times on 33 occasions (77 percent)
-He threw over at least three times on 23 occasions (53 percent)
-He threw over at least four times on 10 occasions (23 percent)
-He threw over at least five times on five occasions (12 percent)

With Alex Bregman at the plate in his start against the Houston Astros on Aug. 6, Gallen threw over to try to pickoff Jose Altuve (theoretically anyway) 11 times.

Does Zac Gallen just like to play catch with the first baseman?

Anderson goes even deeper, pointing to Gallen’s less than robust efforts that have little chance to pick off a runner. He’s a little slower to the plate than the average right-hander this year (1.63 seconds, according to Baseball Info Solutions; average is 1.61 seconds), but the incessant pickoff attempts have done nothing to curb the running game.

Baserunners have attempted to steal on close to 10 percent of their chances so far this year against Gallen, with success once approximately every 15 times. League average is five percent and once in every 26 steal opportunities, respectively. Per Anderson, the aforementioned 11 pickoff attempt marathon ended in Altuve stealing a base.

Repeated pickoff attempts draw boos from fans in the stands during games, not to mention slowing the much-maligned pace of the game to a crawl as batters face a pitch sporadically or even not at all for a stretch. Regardless of how well he has pitched, until recently anyway, Gallen would be a bane of fans’ existence this year if they could be in the ballpark for his starts.

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