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Roster preview: Gio Gonzalez

Jan 28, 2014, 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

2014 salary: $8.5 million

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

2014 storyline: Gonzalez has been highly effective in two seasons with the Nationals, and if you go back to his final two season in Oakland, he has been remarkably consistent. In those four total seasons, he has made either 32 or 33 starts, pitched anywhere from 195 2/3 to 202 innings and struck out between 171 and 207 batters.

So there’s no reason to believe Gonzalez will veer too far off what has become his standard performance in 2014, in either direction. As always, he’ll have to try to limit his occasional ragged outing (they tend to come once every five or six starts) and he’ll have to avoid serious injury, but the Nationals should be able to rest easy knowing they’ve got one of the best (and most consistent) left-handers in the game.

Best-case scenario: There’s not a whole lot of variance likely here, but at his best, Gonzalez is able to minimize walks while also keeping the ball inside the park. (He did both exceptionally well for the Nats in 2012.) If he can consistently do that again this year, he could post similar (if not better) numbers as he did in his first season in D.C.: 20-plus wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts, putting him firmly in the NL Cy Young Award discussion.

Worst-case scenario: A significant injury would throw a major wrench into Gonzalez’s consistent pattern, but short of that, even the worst-case scenario should remain more than adequate. He would probably struggle with command and wind up surrendering an excess of walks, perhaps topping the 100 mark for the season. His ERA would suffer, though it probably wouldn’t rise much beyond 3.70. And he’d be a victim of poor run support, leading to a disappointing 10-14 record.

Most-likely scenario: Exactly what Gonzalez has done each of the last four seasons. He’ll make 32 starts, total between 195 and 200 innings pitched, post an ERA between 3.10 and 3.20 and win 15 to 18 games.

  1. Hiram Hover - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:01 AM

    Mark’s most likely scenario seems reasonable, tho I wouldn’t be surprised to see something closer to last year’s 3.36 ERA and overall performance.

    Gio’s best career year was his first year as a Nat, and two things were different in 2012 – he had the best K/BB ratio of his career, and his HR rate was the lowest of his career. Both of those things drifted back towards career norms in 2013 and so did his overall performance, making him a solid but not top line starter.

    One other thing that I think will always limit Gio: his command has never been that good, and when Mark in his best case scenario refers to Gio “minimizing walks,” you’ve got to bear that in mind, His career walk rate is 4 BB/9, and he’s been right around 3.5 the last 2 years as a Nat. I don’t see him making a huge leap forward – I think he’ll be lucky to get it down closer to 3, which would still be the highest on the staff (last year, Stras was at 2.75, and JZimm and Haren were both under 2, as was Fister in Detroit)..

    • David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      “, His career walk rate is 4 BB/9, and he’s been right around 3.5 the last 2 years as a Nat.”

      He can thank the lack of DH for this.

      • Hiram Hover - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:57 AM

        You and sjm are right about that.

        I was curious how high, relatively speaking, Gio’s walk rate is – among 81 qualifying starters in MLB last year, he had the 10th highest BB/9 rate. Gio’s K/BB rate was 57th of 81.

      • bowdenball - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        To be fair to Gio, I don’t think it’s all about the league switch. Some of it, sure, but not enough to account for the entire improvement. He’d have to have been walking about 1 in 6 DHs and zero pitchers to account for the drop.

        His walks were trending downward even before he left Oakland, from 6.62 in limited innings in 2008 to 5.11 in 98 innings in 2010 to 4.13 in 2010 to 4.05 in 2011. So I think some of it is due to his development as a big league starter.

  2. sjm308 - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    I also think that coming over from the American League, facing guys who had not seen him as often and getting the pitcher instead of a dh helped him as well. He is a solid #3 and watch Fister get that same boost this year.

  3. sjm308 - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    By the way, that picture is great, “calling Mr Livan” your services are needed in Viera.

    • natsfan1a - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:31 AM

      I thought the same thing when I saw the pic. :-)

    • Hiram Hover - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      +1!

  4. edshelton2013 - Jan 28, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    I see that we also got a RHP named Robert Gilliam in the Gio trade. Whatever happened to him??

  5. David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    I think an ERA around 3.20 is probably what to expect from Gio. Over the last 4 years, he’s had ERA’s of 3.12, 3.23, 2.89 and 3.36. His 2012 is clearly the aberration. He could do it again, but it’s not likely. 2013 was actually a down year for Gio. He had a 113 ERA+, whereas his 2 years in Oakland he had ERA+ of 127 and 129. In 2012, it was 138. So I think he’ll be better than 2013, but not as good as 2012. Closer to 2013 than 2012 though.

    • dcsportsfan2277 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      3.10-3.40 is probably good enough for him to win 15-17 games. This is based on the Nats scoring an average of 4+ runs a game which they obviously did not last year until it was too late. This also goes for all our starters and if given this kind of support it is not unreasonable that all 5 starters should be able to win 10 games minimum! The top 4 starters, based on past history, should win at least 15 games each with a +4 RPG.

      Going to be interesting to see how much Gio learned from Posada! Also, this is SS’s year to step up his game and be ace of the staff!

      This should be a very exciting year for the Nats! Top 3 pitching staff and no holes in the line-up equals a whole lot of wins! Possible 4 pitchers with 15 wins and 6 players hitting 20+ homers…I like it! Go Nats!

  6. jd - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    sjm,

    I think Gio is better than a number 3. I think he’s more like a solid no. 2.

    I love the fact that he battles like crazy. He constantly gets himself into trouble by poor control but never seems to give in and rarely gives up a big inning. The flip side is that he throws too many pitches causing him to have shorter games than you would like.

    • sjm308 - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      JD – I would agree with you on most staffs in mlb but I don’t see him ahead of SS or JZmmnn on our staff. No disrespect to Gio. I also love how he battles and he is one of the few players on our team that is loose and laughing more often than not.

  7. micksback1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    I see Gio at 15-17 wins which would be great, I think last season, Gio along with the other key players were pressing because of the slow start. Assuming Fister is a step up from Ejac and Haren and that Det stays healthy, there is no reason that this staff can not be dominate

  8. David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Last night, MLB Network talked to Tom Verducci and Ron Darling about Strasburg saying he wanted to focus on holding runners. They agreed that he could pay more attention to runners, but they both argued strongly against him slidestepping or trying to be too quick to the plate, arguing that it can decrease the quality of his stuff and also bother his arm since it’s something he’s not used to. They also pointed out that runners aren’t exactly going wild against Strasburg: only 30 attempts in 75 starts. So for all the griping we do over it, it’s probably not that big of a deal.

    • jd - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      David,

      I agree. I think command in the strike zone is a bigger deal. Attacking hitters and going for K’s is also something I think would benefit Stras greatly. I think that pitching to contact is the wrong approach for someone with Stras stuff. I think attacking the hitters will cause strike outs as well as weak contact.

    • brybo711 - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

      30 attempts in 75 starts. That may not seem like a lot. But can anyone find the pct of base runners with 2nd base open that ran on SS. It did seem to me he was getting run on quite a bit. Granted, he didn’t put many on base. But looking back, with a runner on 1st and 2nd open they were taking off pretty well, if I recall. Hope I am wrong and I hope the pitchers are doing a little more this year to keep those guys on 1st. Just if they even step off once in awhile.

  9. tcostant - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    It just shocking how bad a contract Gio got after that trade…

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:40 AM

      You mean ‘team friendly’, right?

      • tcostant - Jan 28, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Correct and “player bad”…

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 28, 2014 at 2:45 PM

        I prefer team friendly when describing that deal, even if it is not market price for GG.

  10. jd - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    micksback1,

    I don’t like to make any win projections for starting pitchers because I think the W – L stat for individual pitchers is more or less useless. Any individual stat which depends on many other factors such as: team defense, bullpen efficiency and team offense should not be something one uses for or against an individual pitcher.

    Other stats are also fairly useless but not to the same degree:

    RBI’s – depends on others getting on base, other’s speed, position in the batting order.
    Runs – depends on others knocking you in, position in the batting order.
    ERA – depends on defense, ability of the bullpen to retire runners you put on, ballpark dimensions, team defense.

    • micksback1 - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      I agree JD, all good points

    • Section 222 - Jan 28, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Here here!

    • Jw - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      Get over it. Every single one of those stats has value for evaluating players, when taken in context with other stats. If those stats didn’t exist, the saber nuts would be inventing new fake stats to serve the same function.

  11. NatsLady - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Keith Law ranked the Nats farm system 18th. You need to be an insider to read the rankings, but Law said the minimum about the Nats (two sentences). Basically it’s Giolito and six or seven guys and that’s it. Frankly, I thought it might be lower.

    http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10354393/houston-astros-top-farm-system-rankings-mlb

    • David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:24 AM

      18th really isn’t that bad given all the talent that has graduated at such a quick pace. The Braves are below us. It explains why Rizzo was adamant about not giving up the pick this year, though.

    • jd - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      The key comment there was that most of the best prospects have already graduated to the big team. I don’t disagree with anything he says.

  12. TimDz - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Off topic….

    Another team cashes in on a regional broadcasting deal…this time, it’s Arizona….

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/will-tanaka-deal-inflate-price-of-starting-pitchers-012714

    Meanwhile, back at MASN headquarters…

  13. sunshinebobby - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    That picture of Gio trying to bunt makes me so happy that Livo is working with the pitchers this spring training.

  14. David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    1 month from today until the first spring training game. It’ll be televised on SNY by the Mets guys, for anyone who has MLB.tv. Charlie and Dave will be broadcasting as well.

  15. David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Good article with quotes from Werth: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2014/01/28/jayson-werth-if-nationals-had-made-13-playoffs-were-the-best-team-in-baseball-at-the-time-and-i-think-it-was-ours-to-lose/

    I like what he said about Matt Williams:

    “We’re just getting to know each other,” Werth said. “Just talking about the team a little bit and expectations. Just normal talk. We didn’t sign any treaties or anything.”

    But based on the few interactions between the two, Werth has been impressed.

    “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Matt, with all his playing experience, the type of guy he is, his overall baseball IQ,” he said. “I think he’s gonna do a good job. Just the talks that I’ve had with him, which haven’t been that many, have been really good. I think he’s coming from a good place. At the end of the day, you want to play for a guy who every day you come to the park you want to be able to go to war for and feel good about it. And Matt’s like that.”

    • sjm308 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      David: thanks for that link and silly me, I read the comments after the article. People on that site are just pounding Werth and to me, that makes no sense. I do think that an off shoot from what happened last year is that they will take each game a little more seriously and not think things are set for them to be playing in Oct.

  16. letswin3 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    Gio should also benefit from getting that Biogenesis monkey permanently off his back. Although he knew he was clean, I think the “cloud” prevented a few of those now famous smiles from forming through at least part of last season. His teammate quotient is something that can be very helpful to a contending club.

    • sjm308 - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      That is a really good point letswin3 – even though I am pretty sure he was innocent, it could not be helpful to have that laying around in the background.

  17. David Proctor - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS now
    marlins, nats among teams interested in jeff baker, who had .905 ops in ’13. orioles possibly, too.

    Looks like we’re still in on Baker. Eugene must be happy.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Jan 28, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      +1

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
OCT. 7: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
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ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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