Gio Gonzalez was a WHIP murderer last year posting a 1.42 number with a 3.79 ERA in 175.66 IPs. Neither number is good, but the WHIP is brutal. Gonzalez’s 2015 WHIP was his worst since a 1.71 in 98.66 IP back in 2009 and significantly higher than his career number of 1.32. Combine the bad WHIP with a small decline in K% and its hard to see what upside Gio Gonzalez has left.
Remember Gonzalez’s 3.79 ERA? There is a lot of evidence pointing to that being bad luck. Gonzalez’s FIP was 3.05 and xFIP was 3.59. He gave up a .341 BABIP after having a career number of .295. He also increased his GB% to 53.8 from a career average of 47.7. All of these are good things. If we drop his BABIP to his career numbers, it brings his WHIP back down into the acceptable range. If he continues to generate groundballs and get strikeouts, it mitigates some of his control issues.
Gonzalez posted a great 5.9 HR/FB% last year which explains some of his 3.05 FIP. He combined that with a 22.3 K% and a 9.1 BB%. The K% is his second lowest in a full season and the BB% is right around his career number with the Nationals. Why the drop in K rate? His velocity was steady (92.2 average FB in 2015 versus 92.1 in 2014) but his whiff rates declined across the board.
|Nats Career Avg||21.18||14.46||39.93||36.58|
(stats from Brooksbaseball)
The downtick in K rate can be explained by a downtick in whiff rate. The question now becomes, can he get his whiff rates back up. Looking at Gonzalez’s vertical release point paints a picture of someone who may have lost his mechanics last year. He had a fairly consistent vertical release point from 2011-2014, varying by less than 1/10 of a foot (1.2 inches) year to year. In 2015, Gonzalez’s vertical release point jumped by at least 1.44 inches per pitch type. This could be a sign of injury, fatigue, altered mechanics, or just normal aging by an SP. It could account for some of his drop in K rate. Hopefully this is just a minor mechanics problem and Gonzalez can get back to what has been a very consistent release point.
If Gonzalez does what he did in 2015 with some better luck, he should finish significantly higher than his 77th finish on the 2015 ESPN player rater. I don’t expect him to hit his FIP number of 3.05 but I think sub 3.5 should be attainable. Combine that with a good K number and the chance for high wins and Gonzalez could be a pretty valuable SP next year.
Steamer has Gonzalez down for a 3.75 ERA, 1.3 WHIP, a 22.1 K% and a 8.5 BB%. The BB% would be the lowest of Gonzalez’s career and I think it might be a tad optimistic. However I think that ERA is a bit high, especially considering Steamer gave Gonzalez a 3.57 FIP. I’ll put Gonzalez down for a 3.39 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 23.8 K% and 8.9 BB%.