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Roster review: Gio Gonzalez

Oct 16, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 28

How acquired: Trade from Athletics with RHP Robert Gilliam for LHP Tom Milone, RHP Brad Peacock, RHP A.J. Cole and C Derek Norris, Dec. 2011

MLB service time: 4 years, 162 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $6.25 million

Contract status: Signed for $8.5 million in 2014, $11 million in 2015, $12 million in 2016, $12 million club option (or $500,000 buyout) in 2017, $12 million player option (guaranteed if 180 IP in ’17) in 2018, free agent in 2019

2013 Stats: 32 GS, 195.2 IP, 169 H, 79 R, 73 ER, 17 HR, 76 BB, 192 K, 1.252 WHIP, 11-8, 3.36 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.1 WAR

Quotable: “I think what you’ve seen from Gio over the last two months is more what we expect from him,” Zimmerman said. “And I’m sure what he expects from himself.” — Ryan Zimmerman on July 10, after Gonzalez completed a 13-game stretch with a 2.18 ERA.

2013 analysis: A 21-game winner and Cy Young Award finalist in 2012, Gonzalez entered his second season in Washington amid a cloud of distraction, his name having been among those published in the initial Biogenesis report. The left-hander maintained his innocence all along and insisted he had never taken any performance enhancing drugs, and by midseason he was officially cleared of any wrongdoing by MLB.

If there were any substantial fears about Gonzalez’s ability to pitch with that story looming over his head, he quickly put them to rest. He dominated his first two starts of the season and entered the All-Star break with a 7-3 record and 3.03 ERA.

There were a couple of bumps during the second half, including a disastrous, 10-run outing in Detroit on July 31, but Gonzalez finished strong and came within a few inches of a no-hitter Sept. 9 in New York. His final numbers weren’t quite as good as his 2012 stats, but they were plenty good enough. Gonzalez ranked 10th in the NL in fewest hits allowed per nine innings and most strikeouts recorded per nine innings.

2014 outlook: There shouldn’t be any significant questions surrounding Gonzalez entering 2014. He has now put together four consecutive seasons in which he has made at least 32 starts, totaled at least 195 innings, recorded at least 192 strikeouts and posted ERAs ranging from 2.89 to 3.36.

Gonzalez will also be a bit on the erratic side, likely to have one unsightly start every five or six times he takes the mound. But he’s also good for multiple dominant starts during those same stretches, so the Nationals will continue to happily take the occasional bad with the more-regular good.

  1. sjm308 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    Just my thoughts, but how could he not have been affected by all the Biogenesis talk and having to defend not just himself but his father. Not saying that will allow him to pitch better this season but at least that is where his focus will lie instead of on answering questions about performance enhancing drugs. You have to be at least a little encouraged that both SS and Gio will produce better numbers this year and I guess you can also expect JZ to drop, hopefully not much. We might not have the best 1-3 starters in the game but I like what we do have.

  2. nats128 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    Watching Gio using the changeup effectively was fun to see. Gio is still one of the best lefties in baseball.

    I agree with sjm308 about the Biogenesis distraction. That hung over Gio for almost the entire season as I think he was finally cleared around August 1st.

  3. nats128 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:54 AM

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  4. Theophilus T.S. - Oct 16, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Mark says Gonzalez is “likely to have one unsightly start every five or six times he takes the mound.”

    A less positive way of putting it is he doesn’t take the mound without nearly everybody wondering, “Is this the day he gets pounded like a tetherball?” Hopefully Strasburg pitches up to his capabilities this season and Gonzalez isn’t called on to be a stopper. The positive about this season is — I hope — he won’t have any excuses for his Exorcist act.

    The guy has one of the great arms in baseball. Wonderful curveball. Almost too good. I think if he didn’t depend on it so much maybe he would start to get better command of his FB. What stands between him and perennial all-star status is his head.

  5. jd - Oct 16, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Gio has got to figure a way to get through early innings without throwing so many pitches, to me this is what stands between him and true excellence. I am not talking about ‘pitch to contact’ nonsense. I would like to see Gio go for the jugular when he is ahead of the hitter instead of throwing a bunch of cute pitches hoping the batter chases.

    Gio has great stuff, good enough to put people away early and stay in the game longer.

    • Theophilus T.S. - Oct 16, 2013 at 11:00 AM

      Going for the jugular is good advice for all of the Nats’ pitchers (Z’mann seems to be getting it) but seemingly a foreign concept throughout baseball. Pecking and poking around the strike zone is unintentionally promoted by managers who are content to get six innings out of a starter and turn things over to the BP. Unless they are the Cards or the Braves, however, that way folly lies.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 16, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Did you see the Anibal Sanchez approach. Nibble and pitch around and he got the no hitter into the 7th. Gio has that approach walking guys and getting his pitch count up early. Maybe that’s what he is. I don’t like the process but the end results are good. The bad side effect as you mentioned is not going deep into games.

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