Aug 17, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Gio Gonzalez has never been the most efficient pitcher in the league, but his inefficiency has reached new depths this season, especially in the last month.
The left-hander’s latest laborious outing: Last night’s 5-inning slog, in which he threw 102 pitches. This, on the heels of a 111-pitch, 4 2/3-inning start in Atlanta.
Do the math: Yep, combine those two starts and Gonzalez has now thrown 213 pitches over his last 9 2/3 innings. The strange part: He has given up only five runs in that span, hardly a ridiculously high total.
“Yeah, that’s the tough breaks,” he said after last night’s game. “You’ve just got to keep battling through it. … The times you go out there and attack the strike zone, it’s just, little did you know, you get 25 pitches in the first inning. There are some guys who are going to battle you for 10 pitches, 12 pitches. And that’s just how my luck’s been going. They’re fouling off 94 [mph], letter-high. It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to bounce back and hit the bottom of the strike zone. When you make that adjustment, they put it in play.”
There has perhaps been some element of bad luck at play for Gonzalez, whose Fielding Independent Pitching mark of 3.10 is far better than his 4.06 ERA.
But there’s no denying the fact that Gonzalez is throwing more pitches now than anytime in his recent career. In his final two seasons in Oakland (2010-11), he averaged 16.8 pitches per inning. Then in his 21-win debut season in Washington in 2012, that average dropped to 16.0, the best mark of his career.
It’s been going up ever since. Gonzalez averaged 16.9 pitches per inning last season, when he posted a solid 3.36 ERA. This year, that average has skyrocketed to 17.3.
The biggest problem? Manager Matt Williams believe it is Gonzalez’s inability to throw strikes with his curveball, his go-to pitch throughout his career.
“If he doesn’t have it, the other team can just eliminate it from their thought process,” Williams said. “It makes it more difficult for him to get guys out.”
Gonzalez hasn’t been able to figure out why that pitch has eluded him this year.
“It’s just trying to find a feel for it,” he said. “And so far, it’s just … I’ve got to keep working at it. Maybe something will click. It’s just one of those pitches that … you’ve got to get that touch-and-feel in the back of your head. Just: ‘Oh, there it is. That’s what you wanted.’ But so far, it lands for a strike, and then it just has no clue where it’s going.”
Gonzalez, who missed a month earlier this season with inflammation in his shoulder, insists his arm is healthy.
“He feels good,” Williams said. “His velocity is good. He’s complained of no pain or anything. It’s just a question of command, and the curveball’s important for him. He’ll address it with [pitching coach Steve McCatty] again and look for that arm slot, and hopefully next time out, he finds it early.”
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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)...
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