Gio Gonzalez has had an outstanding season. The Washington Nationals lefty looks like a new man this year after appearing to be on the decline in 2016.
Instead of just playing out this year and exercising his $12 million option for next season, Gonzalez is in a brand new position. He is part of a strong Washington rotation and could demand a lucrative deal as a free agent this winter.
Gonzalez is having a fine season, but this is also far from what fans expect of him. Rather than looking like a middle of the rotation guy, the 31-year-old is looking like a bona fide ace. He didn’t just change things overnight, so what’s going on with Gio Gonzalez this year?
Gonzalez’s numbers this year are impressive considering his disappointing 2016. The lefty went 11-11 with a 4.57 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 32 starts last year, pitching just 177.1 innings
This year’s stats could not be more different. Not only is Gonzalez 12-5, but he has a career-best 2.39 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He has made 25 starts and has 162 innings under his belt. Gonzalez also came close to no-hitting the Miami Marlins on July 31.
I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but Gonzalez’s success this year is largely due to good luck. His BABIP is just .242, but his ground ball rate is at 45.2%. To give a better idea that’s over two points below his career mark of 47.4%. Gonzalez has also stranded an eye-popping 85.6% of runners this year, well above his career percentage of 73.9%.
The crazy part is that Gonzalez had a season very similar to this recently. In his first year with the Nationals in 2012, Gonzalez went 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA that year and his BABIP was .267, while his ground ball rate and left on base percentage (LOB%) were around his career marks.
Gonzalez came back down to earth the following year and won just 11 games while posting a 3.36 ERA. In fact, he averaged just south of 11 wins per season between 2013 and 2016 and his ERA increased each of those years. Gonzalez is an average pitcher, making this season what nobody wants to call it: an outlier.
Gonzalez has only thrown over 200 innings just twice in his career, in 2010 and 2011 while pitching for the Oakland A’s. He has not once reached that mark with Washington, and the closest he came was in that inaugural season when he tossed 199.1 frames.
Gonzalez has averaged approximately 181 innings per year since joining the Nationals and dealt with a shoulder injury in 2014. Though this year is nice, it is important to realize that this isn’t likely to become his new normal. He has a strong 6.2 WAR on the year but has only averaged about 2.5 wins per season for his career.
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