A lot of people appear to be surprised that Gio Gonzalez got off to a terrible start in 2013. While I am not about to sit here and tell you that anyone should have expected him to be this bad (entered yesterday with a 5.85 ERA and 1.45 WHIP), the fact that he is struggling really shouldn’t be all that eye-popping.
Let’s look at a few facts (all stats prior to last night’s start):
Gonzalez has always had control issues
In fact, prior to 2012 his best BB/9 was 4.05 and even in the minor leagues he had a 4.00 career walk rate (including 4.65 over 184.0 in is at Triple-A). The fact that he was having control issues, which helped contribute to his struggles, really should not have been a major surprise.
Gonzalez enjoyed some luck in 2012
He actually produced a line drive rate of 21.9%, so we can easily say that his .267 BABIP was luck aided. This season he actually had been hit even harder through his first four starts, to the tune of a 23.6% line drive rate, leading to a .296 BABIP. In fact, to a degree, we can also say that this number is a little bit lucky.
Gonzalez also has shown an early season decrease in velocity, as his fastball is currently averaging 91.9 mph (down from 93.1 in 2012). At the same time, his career average is 92.2 mph so this isn’t overly alarming.
That’s not to say that he isn’t going to improve. He has continued to show great strikeout stuff and, albeit in a small sample size, his groundball rate sat a career best 50.9% (career mark of 47.8%). Throw in a below average strand rate of 61.1% and we virtually know that an improvement is coming.
Last night he showed us his upside, allowing 1 ER on 1 H and 2 BB, striking out 7, over 8.0 innings against the Reds. He reduced his overall line drive rate to 19.4%, though the BABIP is still significantly luck driven (.225).
It was promising, but I still wouldn’t expect him to post numbers similar to that of 2012. Those first two points loom large and, while it is a small sample, there is a track record of struggles (especially with his control). Selling him may have been difficult, but after last night you could be able to get someone to pay a Cy Young price tag for him. If you can, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
What are your thoughts of Gonzalez? Do you think he is going to get back towards his 2012 numbers? Would you sell him now?