Sep 9, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez (47) pitches against the New York Mets during the first inning of a game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez: National League Ranking

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Today going through the rest of the month, we will be ranking each Nationals starter and a couple of bench players and see where they rank among the National League, and then among the entirety of Major League Baseball. Today we are starting with Gio Gonzalez.

In these rankings we will be using statistics from the last two seasons to give us a bigger sample size, to see just how good Nationals players are. In this effort, we will see what part of the team needs to be fixed and which is solid compared to the rest of the league. The main goal is to win the division, so if any National League East player comes across in our findings we will be sure to point it out. If not, the main goal is winning the National League Pennant and going to the World Series.

I will analyze two specific areas, percentages and advanced statistics. This will give us a full picture of who the best players are at that position. With pitchers it’s different. There are so many good ones, with some having good and bad years. So to put them in some type of order we will be using WAR. That gives us a baseline to start the analysis.

The top five pitchers according to FanGraphs WAR are Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Gio Gonzalez rounding out the top five. Two Philadelphia Phillies come up on this list, which is no surprise. Cliff Lee is one of the best pitchers in the National League and Major League Baseball. Cole Hamels had a very bad 2013, but his 2012 was solid.

Gio doesn’t pitch as many innings as the others on the list but he does, pitch very solid innings. He isn’t going to give you eight innings every time out, but when he is in the game he is at his best, he doesn’t go too far and fall off at the end of the game. I would rather him be that pitcher;the one to pitch six innings of his best baseball and then come out and let the bullpen finish. A lot of people don’t see it that way, but I do.

He is a little behind the other four in innings pitched and walks more batters, but what about the percentages per nine innings. Ones like K/9, BB/9, HR/9, GB%, HR/FB% and also LOB% (left on base). These also make a pitcher great.

Taking a look at these numbers, Gio has the highest K/9 out of all five of the pitchers. This could be because he has pitched less innings, but either way he averages the most strikeouts per nine. On the other end of that spectrum, Gio also averages the most walks per nine. That is something that needs to change for him to take it to the next level. If he can do that he can be even more dominate.

Gio’s groundball percentage has been right in the middle of the pack of these five and that helps him in the long run. The more ground balls he can throw the better. When he does give up flyballs only seven percent of them go over the wall. This is second best of these five right behind Clayton Kershaw. He is matching up well with all of these pitches in percentages. His walks per nine are the highest of all five. He walks nearly three and half batters per nine innings. Last on the list is left on base percentage. He is second in this category only behind Adam Wainwright.

While we look at those the only thing he needs to cut down on is his walks. If he is able to do that at a consistent basis, he can be one of the best in the game.

The last statistics I want to look at are the advanced ones. These include BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching). You could include LOB% in this category as well, but I put it with the other percentages.

Batting average on balls in play is a “luck” statistic. This shows how good your fielders are behind you or how lucky you are that a ball is hit right at someone. Out of the five pitchers that I have been using, he ranks second behind Clayton Kershaw. There seems to be a theme doesn’t there? Clayton Kershaw is at the top of the list a lot, while Gio is right behind him. Does he deserve a huge contract? I will let you decide that.

FIP or fielder independent pitching is what a pitcher can control. This includes walks, hit by pitches, strikeouts and home runs. The league average varies year to year, but you can use this statistic to try to predict a pitchers future. You can read more into it here.

In 2012 the league average was 4.12 while Gio posted a 2.82 FIP, the best out of the five pitchers. While it was the complete opposite in 2013. The league average was 4.02, with Gio at 3.41. He was still under the league average, but was the worst out of the top five.

Gio stacks up well against the best in the National League. Even better than the “ace” Stephen Strasburg. Gio flies under the radar a bit on the field, but his statistics stand out. As you watch the Nationals this season, pay attention to the amount of walks that Gio allows and see if they come down or stay about the same. If they come down, expect a huge season from Gio and possibly talks about the Cy Young.

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