Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Name: Giovany Aramis “Gio” González
DOB: September 19, 1985
From: Hialeah, FL
Position: Starting Pitcher Rotation: Second Pitcher
Hand: Lefty (But Bats Right Handed)
With the Nats Since: Acquired via Trade with Oakland before 2012 Season
On top of having a career season with the Washington Nationals,Gio Gonzalez biggest contribution to the geam is interjecting personality into stone-faced rotation of unemotional hurlers. Constantly smiling, Gio seemed to give permission to the rest of the team to enjoy their success. Whether fully embracing the fan created “Chicken Mode” meme in interviews, or giving a tip of the cap to the crowd after falling flat on his face during his 20th win, Gonzalez has been instrumental in giving this team an identity for the first time since moving to Washington.
Still, for all of the success Gonzalez had in the regular season (All-Star, Warren Spahn award, 20 Wins, 3rdin voting for the Cy Young), disappointing appearances in the post-season all but wiped away the accomplishments of the Nationals 2012 ace. Over two starts against the Cardinals, all of the improved command and decision making that Gonzalez showcased in 2012 went right out the window. His 5 runs and 11 walks over 10 innings in two post-seasons starts hurt the Nationals down the stretch.
Seemingly cleared of wrong doing in the Biogenesis scandal, Gonzalez is left free to focus on what is expected of him in 2013. Those expectations are an excellent microcosm for those of the team. Gio’s success in the regular season is only important this year as a means to getting into the post-season again. It is success there that will define whether the Washington Nationals, and Gio Gonzalez, had a successful year or not.
What’s Expected: Really, you couldn’t have asked for anything more from Gio in 2012, and yet in 2013 that is exactly what the Nationals (and Gio himself) will do. Rather than fill in for Strasburg at the top of the rotation, Gonzalez will pitch second for the whole year this year. Although his stated intentions are to improve from last year, even performing about 90% of his 2012 year will place him as one of the best #2 pitchers in the league. Repeating this performance fully would be exceptional. Let’s look at his numbers (Baseball Reference):
As you can see, Gio struck out more batters, issued fewer walks, gave up fewer hits, fewer runs and won more games than in either of his two full seasons in Oakland. He led the Majors in Wins (21), HR/9 (0.4) and SO/9 (9.3). He was voted an All-Star, finished third in voting for the NL-CY Young award and won the Warren Spahn award for best left-handed pitcher in baseball.
Scrolling through Fangraphs you can see that GIo is one of the few pitchers who has a lower FIP than ERA (he doesn’t give up Home Runs and he gets a lot of Ks). He does this by mixing his fastball and change up pitches with a curveball that has one of the most pronounced breaks I’ve seen in person. Goofy the Dog couldn’t get that much action on the ball. If you’re not sure how a curve is suppose to look, watch Gio’s-even the newest of fans can see it move.
If It All Goes Wrong: Gio’s problem in Oakland, and ultimately his problem in the post-season, was walks. Gonzalez strikes out guys with the curve which really takes control-not just blowing the ball past someone. When he’s in his own head (or that’s how it seems, anyway) he can miss, and miss badly. Although the Nats escaped his seven walk start in Game 1 of the NLDS with a mind-boggling victory over the Cardinals, his loss of control in Game 5 with a 6-1 lead allowed the Cardinals to climb back into the game. With bases loaded, Gio offered a wild pitch and a walk to make it a 6-3 game. Although he left the game with the lead, he only stayed in for 5 innings. The pitcher who had two complete games on the season exited early, leaving a highly taxed bullpen to work for a save that never actually came.
This is how it goes wrong for Gonzalez. The same All-Star that can throw a complete game can also get hooked after 4 innings because he can’t put the ball where it needs to be. For what it is worth, I’m not worried about this over the course of the season. He’ll have more good days than bad. It’s only in those key games in October that Gonzalez has yet to prove what he is capable of.
If It All Goes Right: I have no doubt that Gonzalez is going to blow the lid off in 2013 again. His regular season might be nearly identical to his last (though he may be overshadowed a bit by Stephen Strasburg-this time for playing, instead of being shut down). Success for Gonzalez will be having an All-Star outing not in August, but in October. The Nationals need the same pitcher who went 9 full innings against the Cardinals in August (5 hits, 3 walks, 8 Ks and 0 Runs) to do that (or something close to it) in Game 2 of the NLDS and NLCS. Gonzalez’s year is a success when, in the post-season, the Nationals give him a 5-0 or 6-1 lead and he proceeds to shut the other team down on his own. Starting pitchers, aces in particular, need to have that killer instinct-they need to be the ones that want to be on the mound. Davey Johnson should be scared to come ask for that ball, and in that situation Gonzalez shouldn’t give him a reason to ask for it.
Gonzalez made himself a face of the team last year, making him front and center for the Nationals successes or failures in the post season this year. As goes Gio, so goes the Nationals.
Get To Know More Nats!
Starting Rotation: Ross Detwiler, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmermann
Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Denard Span, Jayson Werth
Catchers: Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Infielders: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond
Bench: Tyler Moore, Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy, Steve Lombardozzi
Bullpen: Ryan Mattheus, Craig Stammen, Zach Duke, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano
Callups: Part I, Part II