2013 Projection: Can Gio Gonzalez Contend For The Cy Young Again?

Most thought that Gio Gonzalez would benefit from the move to the National League prior to 2012, so it shouldn’t have been surprising to see him post a career year. That said, did anyone really expect him to be in the running for the Cy Young Award? That’s exactly what we got as he posted the following numbers for the Washington Nationals:

21 Wins
199.1 Innings
2.89 ERA
1.13 WHIP
207 Strikeouts (9.35 K/9)
76 Walks (3.43 BB/9)
.267 BABIP
74.1% Strand Rate

It’s hard to imagine him replicating those numbers in 2013, but does anything really stand out as unmanageable? Off the cusp it may not, especially since he has always been a strikeout pitcher (career K/9 of 8.80) and he was at 8.78 in ’11 for the A’s. However, there are definitely reasons to at least be a little bit skeptical of another Cy Young-like campaign.

The major knock against Gonzalez was always his control, posting BB/9 of 4.13 and 4.05 in 2010 & 2011 (the other two years he made at least 32 starts in the Majors). Throw in a 4.00 BB/9 over his minor league career and it is fair to at least be a little bit skeptical of his improved mark.

The truth is, one sterling month actually buoyed the number last season. In four of the six months Gonzalez posted BB/9 between 3.64 and 3.72. He also had the two outlier months of 4.59 (July) and 2.23 (August). Obviously, given his career track record the August mark looks wildly of of place. Figure him for a regression in his control and, in turn, a regression in WHIP.

His WHIP (as well as his ERA) take another hit when we realize his BABIP may also be unrepeatable. While it was higher then it had been during his career, opposing batters actually posted a line drive rate of 21.9% last season. Unless he gets that number down, the BABIP is likely to rise and take the other numbers with it.

Throw in that, according to ESPN, Gonzalez finished tied for seventh in the league in run support (5.38 runs per game) and his wins will also likely fall off a bit.

You put it all together and you get the following projection for 2013:

200.0 IP, 17 W, 3.24 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 200 K (9.00 K/9), 83 BB (3.74 BB/9), .288 BABIP

Are those bad numbers? Absolutely not, but they aren’t Cy Young worth either. As long as you are valuing him (and drafting him) more as a SP2 you shouldn’t be disappointed. If you reach and take him as an ace, it likely will backfire.

What are your thoughts of Gonzalez?  Do you think he will contend for the Cy Young again?  Do you think he’ll regress?

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