We continue our look back at the 2015 Washington Nationals season by breaking down the year of one of the Nats’ veteran starters, Gio Gonzalez. While Gonzalez doesn’t get as much attention as the likes of Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, or Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez was better than all three of those pitchers at times during this season. However, the one thing that held him back at times was the walks as his 69 walks this year (seventh in the National League) were 13 more than he had a season ago (56).
While Gonzalez is not the 20-win pitcher that he was in 2012 for the Nats, he still won 11 games this season, which was tied with Strasburg for third on the team. Even though Gio won four of his six decisions in the first two months of the season, he gave up 31 earned runs in his first ten outings of the season and the opponents hit .290 or better each of the first two months.
However, as the season went on, Gonzalez became one of the more consistent pitchers in the rotation. In five starts during the month of July, the 30-year-old left-hander went 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA in five outings. Out of those five games, he gave up no more than two runs in any start.
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After a rough August (5.46 ERA), Gonzalez finished off his 2015 on a good note. During the month of September, he went 2-1 with a 2.89 in five starts and he had one of the best outings of the season.
Back on September 16 against the Phillies, Gonzalez threw seven innings, gave up two runs on five hits and struck out a season high 12 batters in the win. That start was one of two outings in which the left-hander had ten strikeouts or more. Then, on October 3, Gonzalez threw six scoreless innings and gave up three hits against the Mets in his final start of the season, which was a no-decision.
Even though his ERA was at 3.79 for the season, his FIP of 3.05 was the third lowest Gonzalez has had in a single season (3.02 in 2014, 2.82 in 2012). However, despite some of the good numbers, the walks would hold him back at times. Gonzalez did walk 3.5 batters per nine innings this year, which is the third highest total of his career.
We know Gonzalez is normally a groundball pitcher who pitches to contact. So, it is no surprise that Gonzalez’s 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings this year is the second lowest of his career (7.7 in 2010 with Oakland is the lowest). Even though the strikeouts weren’t there, he did have the highest groundball percentage of his career this year (53.8%) according to Fangraphs.
Gonzalez did make 31 starts this season, which was four more than 2014. However, he only threw 17.2 more innings (175.2) than a season ago (158). Due to having so many walks, Gonzalez was not able to pitch deeper into games. In 14 of his 31 outings this year, he failed to finish six innings.
While Gonzalez took a couple steps in the right direction in 2015, hiss season could have been a lot better had it not been for the high walk total. Heading into next season, he has one more year left on his deal with a $12 million team option for 2017. Gonzalez did have the 10th lowest FIP in the league, so he still has the stuff. If he can stay consistent, he should get that win total up in 2016. For now, he gets an above average grade for this year.