Can Gio Gonzalez Replicate His 2010 Success?

by Kyle Johansen

After years of hype and multiple trades, Gio Gonzalez finally busted out in 2010 putting up a 3.23 ERA in 200+ IP. A glance at his peripheral stats though, shows a slightly different story and has caused some to back off from drafting him in the middle rounds.  With a 4.13 BB/9, 78.1% strand rate and .274 BABIP, you can understand why. 

Here are the rest of Gonzalez’ stats from last year:

  • 200.2 IP
  • 171 Ks
  • 3.23 ERA
  • 1.31 WHIP
  • 1.86 K/BB
  • 3.78 FIP

While it’s easy to write Gonzalez off as a wild, one year wonder, there are many positives found in his 2010 stats as well.  The first trend you like to see is his increasing groundball rate:

  • 2008: 41.8%
  • 2009: 46.1%
  • 2010: 49.3%

The increase in groundballs has correlated with a decrease in home runs, bottoming out at an impressive 0.67 HR/9 last year (22nd among starting pitchers). 

Detractors of Gonzalez will first point to his elevated BB/9 as a reason to stay away, and this is a legitimate concern.  Last year’s mark of 4.13 BB/9 was actually an improvement of nearly a full walk per inning over ’09.  While that is nice to see, it also gives you a sense of just how much Gonzalez has struggled with his control.

Taking a look at Gonzalez’s history in the minors does give hope for a reduced walk rate in 2011.  After 154 IP at AA in 2006 with a 4.71 BB/9, Gonzalez repeated AA in 2007 and reduced his walks to 3.42, while increasing his strikeouts over a K per inning at 11.10 K/9.  With a career minor league K/9 of 10.3, hopefully this foreshadows increased command in 2011.

Also encouraging is Gonzalez’ batted ball data from last year.  With fly balls down and ground balls up the past two years, Gonzalez posted three year lows with a line drive rate well below league average at 15.4% and a fly ball rate of 35.3%, leading to a tERA (True Runs Allowed) of 3.51 in 2010.

A pitcher I’d compare Gonzalez to is Ricky Romero.  Romero posted a 4.0 BB/9 to go along with 7.1 K/9 in 2009 before improving to 3.5 BB/9 and 7.5 K/9 in 2010.  Gonzalez has a much higher potential for strikeouts (Romero’s K/9 in the minors is 7.0), while also having the good fortune of pitching in an easier division and yet, Romero is being picked a full three rounds ahead of Gonzalez on average (136 to 175 according to Mock Draft Central).   

Gio Gonzalez is not the 3.23 ERA pitcher from last year, but he did prove his ability to pitch 200+ innings and has the potential for 200+ strikeouts.  He is trending in the right direction and if his command takes another step forward, he can be a valuable starting pitcher for any fantasy team. 

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Make sure to check out some of our 2011 projections:

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