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Roster review: Gio Gonzalez

Oct 26, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 30

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: 6 years, 162 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $11 million

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

2015 stats: 31 GS, 175.2 IP, 181 H, 79 R, 74 ER, 8 HR, 69 BB, 169 K, 1.423 WHIP, 11-8, 3.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 2.8 WAR

Quotable: “As a starting pitcher you want to continue as long … you want to help out as much as possible and try to give your bullpen as much as rest as possible. It just sucks. I gotta do better than five innings.” — Gio Gonzalez, following an abbreviated start August 5

2015 analysis: Gonzalez’s biggest issue this season was an inability to get deeper into games, a source of considerable frustration for both himself and the Nationals. He averaged only 5 2/3 innings per appearance, his worst mark sine becoming a full-time, major-league starter with Oakland in 2009. He failed to retire a batter in the sixth inning 12 times in 31 total starts and recorded an out in the seventh inning only nine times.

The reason for so many abbreviated outings: Poor command. Gonzalez’s walk rate wasn’t any worse this season (9.1 percent, exactly his average in four seasons in Washington) but he consistently wasn’t able to get ahead out opposing batters. The lefty threw a first-pitch strike only 59 percent of the time, and he wound up in a 3-ball count nearly 30 percent of the time. (For comparison’s sake: Max Scherzer had a 71 percent first-pitch strike rate and went to a 3-ball count only 19 percent of the time.)

Behind in the count so often, Gonzalez wound up giving up way more hits (9.3 per nine innings) than he had in any of his previous five seasons. That led to elevated pitch counts, more runs scoring and less rope from his manager when he would get into a jam come the sixth or seventh inning.

2016 outlook: As frustrating as he can be at times, Gonzalez still is an above-average pitcher. We probably tend to lose sight of that too often. When he’s on, when he gets ahead in the count and can use his curveball to put away hitters, he can be as dominant as anyone. (He had six starts this year in which he didn’t surrender a run over at least six innings; only seven big-league pitchers had more in 2015.)

If Gonzalez can just find something resembling a pattern of consistency, he can elevate himself back into something more than an above-average starter. And with Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister likely gone in 2016, the Nationals could certainly use another top-of-the-rotation starter.

This will be an important season for Gonzalez. The Nationals hold a $12 million club option on him for 2017. If they pick that up, there’s another $12 million option for 2018 that would automatically vest if the lefty throws at least 180 innings in 2017. His performance in 2016 will go a long way toward determining just how much longer he remains in D.C.

  1. rmoore446 - Oct 26, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Off topic but Nats Insider hasn’t touched the big pitcher in a while. Reports are out that Bud Black is in Washington for another interview and could be offered the job. That may be off but Black has certainly been the leader in the media speculation. I think it may be a good fit and I’ve certainly dropped his name myself on this board a few times this summer/fall. I like his pitcher background and always liked his managing style.

    • natsguy - Oct 26, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      I think you meant big picture. From what I’ve heard Dusty Baker is in town for the same thing. Hmmm, see how good those rumors are.

      • ArVAFan - Oct 26, 2015 at 9:16 AM

        Yeah, last year was the year to acquire the “big pitcher.” This year, big picture. Auto-corrupt strikes again!

  2. rgsie - Oct 26, 2015 at 6:57 AM

    Trade Him!!!

  3. alexva6 - Oct 26, 2015 at 7:15 AM

    “As frustrating as he can be at times, Gonzalez still is an above-average pitcher. We probably tend to lose sight of that too often”

    he’s your #4 starter who had his career year right after he got here and set expectations way too high. he was more hittable this year but otherwise performed to what should be expected of him.

    with his contract status he may have trade value but I’d expect to see him here in 2016. not a bad thing

    • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      Gio Gonzalez ranked 11th in the NL in WAR (22nd in the MLB). If that’s your 4th starter you are doing pretty well. I think the complaints about him are pretty subjective because he throws a lot of pitches and he’s not as good as some of the other pitchers we have but I for one am happy he’s on my team.

      • Section 222 - Oct 26, 2015 at 11:05 AM

        I’ll second that. For a No. 4 starter, he’s fine. Even good. But jd, I’m really hesitant to rely on his WAR — 3.7 according to Fangraphs vs. 2.8 according to Baseball-Reference — to reach that conclusion. JZnn was only 19th in the NL according to Fangraphs, with a 3.0 WAR vs. a bWar of 3.5. JZnn pitched more innings, started more games, had a lower ERA, a higher ERA+, fewer BB/9, and a much lower WHIP. To what stat does fWAR give so much weight that Gio is deemed to have been a better pitcher last year than JZnn. K’s? K/9? FIP, W-L% (please no!)?

      • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 11:49 AM


        Higher strike out ratio, lower xFIP, fewer home runs. Gio had a very unlucky BABIP of .341. JZim gave up 24 home runs.

        In my mind JZim still had the better year but not by much.

      • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 12:02 PM

        BTW deuces, I have decided to stick to this site for my Nationals chatting experience. I think there is way too much self congratulating and shoulder patting and hero worshiping going on on the other site. I am sick and tired of people declaring that they got their story 1st and touting their ‘sources’. To be honest with you it’s really getting kind of old.

      • Section 222 - Oct 26, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        Thanks. Yes, I forgot to look at HRs.

        And I agree about the self-back patting and source touting. I’m not ready to abandon the other site, but that’s getting old. Hopefully the commenting here will pick up when there are more developments on which to comment.

      • trfwans - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:23 PM

        Let’s just tell it like it is re that other site. Anyone who expresses opinions that are out of line with the teachings of the Dear Leader will eventually be told “we will just have to agree to disagree” even as they are being summarily blocked from making any further comments on that site. That’s what my sources tell me, anyway.

    • nats2005 - Oct 26, 2015 at 11:08 AM

      Who would you rather have?

      Gio at $12M for 3 years or Edwin Jackson at $13M for 3 years?


      • senators5 - Oct 26, 2015 at 12:21 PM

        I’ll take Gio every time. He is alive, he’s a competitor and just plain fun to watch because good or bad you never know what he is going to do next and baseball needs more like him. Far too many players because of the money are wound way too tight, which in turn causes the same effect on far too many fans. After all, it is a game it?……….

      • ArVAFan - Oct 26, 2015 at 10:17 PM

        I’ll take Gio, right meow!

    • Nats Fan Zee - Oct 26, 2015 at 8:42 PM

      Since Gio got here, the Nats are 75-47 in games he started. Stras is 66-49 since 2012 … forget all the other nonsense, at the end of the year, they count wins and losses to figure out who gets a playoff spot. I’m fine with Gio on this team as the 3 or 4 guy. Besides, he has one of the better personalities on the team.

  4. rabbit433 - Oct 26, 2015 at 12:22 PM

    I’ll give Gio one more year here. Time to shuffle the deck on the rotation.

  5. Nats Fan Zee - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:52 PM

    JD – Welcome back … One of the best moves for this blog was when that commenter moved his 45 – 100 per day comments (back slaps) to another forum and took his fan club with him! I really hope they don’t return ….

  6. unkyd59 - Oct 26, 2015 at 8:39 PM

    Goo just needs to get back in his routine from when he first showed up here…. Haircut, before every start! Remember…?

    • unkyd59 - Oct 26, 2015 at 8:40 PM

      Gio….. (It tried to goo me again!!!)

      • senators5 - Oct 26, 2015 at 9:54 PM

        Actually for Gio, Goo is certainly an appropriate name and he should adopt it especially when he starts. Like I said earlier we need more fun guys like Goo. Ha!

  7. edbrinkman - Oct 27, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    The knock on Gio, to me, is his inability to go easy on himself when things start going wrong. When he begins talking to/berating himself, it is at that point the manager needs to start warming somebody up because he usually goes downhill from there. He wears it on his sleeve, for sure. Needs to become more resilient and not lose his cool when things don’t go his way.





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