Oct 26, 2015, 6:00 AM EST
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.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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