Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Steady Gio Gonzalez

Since coming over to the Nationals from the Athletics, Gio Gonzalez has been a solid part of the Nationals rotation. His 2014 year gave us a 3.57 ERA that actually could have been a little lower as his FIP checked in at 3.03. He really limited the long ball with a 6.6% HR/FB ratio. I would expect that mark to go up in 2015, although Gio has shown a knack for keeping the ball in the ball park in the past, keeping that HR/FB ratio under 10% every year since 2009. 

The knock on Gio has always been his control. He strikes out a lot of hitters, averaging nine strikeouts for every nine innings pitched, but he gave up a ton of walks as well, averaging over 5 per nine innings for several of his years with the A’s. Credit it to the Nationals coaching staff and pitching coach Steve McCatty or Gonzalez himself for making some adjustments, but he has really cut down on those walks during his time with the Nationals. Here is Gonzalez’s walks per nine innings since breaking into the majors:

He’s done that while still racking up the strikeouts, an impressive feat. Now, it’s hard to say for sure that this trend is sustainable. Gio is certainly not a pin point control pitcher now and hitters are always making adjustments, but it’s a positive sign nonetheless. 

Even with the decrease in walks, Gio still throws a ton of pitches and in fact only averages 6 innings per start, meaning the bullpen gets taxed pretty hard on the days when he starts. He has proven to be pretty durable despite all those innings. His only real bout with injury over the last several years came in 2014, but he averaged 199 innings per year dating back to 2010 prior to that. Gio is still a young 29 and he hasn’t seen any major decline in his fastball velocity, sitting at 92 consistently, so there aren’t any major aging concerns popping up yet. 

Gio’s real key to success are his two offspeed pitches: the big 12-6 curve and his changeup. They both generate whiffs at a high rate, and he has really refined the two pitches and knows how to use them. He doesn’t use his curve to get called strikes. Rather, his curve is his out pitch against lefties and he puts it low and away consistently (via BrooksBaseball). The changeup actually generates more swings and misses than the curve, but he uses the change more against righties and does a good job of keeping this pitch low and away (via BrooksBaseball). When he leaves the change up out over the plate, though, it gets hit. Batters hit .256 against his changeup in 2014 compared to a measly .156 against the curve. 

The 2015 Steamer projections for Gio aren’t earth shatteringly good. It pegs him for a 3.57 ERA due to more homeruns allowed. The projection also isn’t sold on his control, putting him at a 3.32 BB/9 and only 8.7 K/9. While I can see him beating that projection, even if it’s spot on, that’s another solid year from Gio.

I honestly wish I had more insightful things to say about Gio. You know what you are getting out of each of Gio’s starts, and having that reliability in the rotation is a huge asset for the Nats. So, in lieu of useful information from me, here is a picture of Gio’sdog wearing shoes.

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