Not only has the Washington Nationals lefty found his old form, Gio Gonzalez is one of the better pitchers in the game. Can he take home the hardware?
His 6.2 innings of mastery against the San Diego Padres moves Gonzalez to 12-5 with an ERA of 2.39. Opponents hit .204 off him and, despite wildness, his WHIP is a healthy 1.117. Quietly, he has thrown his hat into the ring.
His chances are long. On the same staff as Max Scherzer and Steven Strasburg, he does not have the flashy strikeout numbers or the pedigree of those two. As long as Clayton Kershaw pitches, he will always draw consideration.
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With a fastball topping out at 90 on a good day and a tendency to ring up multiple 3-ball counts, Gonzalez is not your 21st century prototypical ace. You will spend an inning or two wondering how he will escape the inevitable jam.
Twice over his last five stats Gonzalez carried a no-hitter into the sixth. He nearly pulled it off in Miami, his hometown, on July 31. On what would have been close friend Jose Fernandez’s 25th birthday, Gonzalez pitched eight innings of 1-hit ball. Against the Los Angeles Angels last week, he tossed a no-no into the sixth.
With his win Sunday, Gonzalez is now 5-1 since the All-Star break with a 1.29 ERA. In August, he is 3-0 with a 0.46 ERA. With runners in scoring position, opponents hit a measly .121 off him. With runners either on third or second and third or fully loaded, he has yet to allow a hit in 23 at-bats.
You cannot pitch better than that.
Of the 16 home runs allowed, just four came with a runner on. None happened with multiple runners on base. No left-handed batter smashed a homer off Gonzalez this year. In 25 starts, 22 are quality starts of six innings and three or less earned runs.
Although he has not thrown a game this year with double-digit strikeouts, Gonzalez has tossed eight or more eight times. Even with his selective wildness, six starts featured one walk or less. You cannot have a better resume.
Is it enough to woo voters before the season ends? Probably not.
Part of why comes from Scherzer having a career year. His ability to go deeper with sexier numbers hurts his teammate. His WHIP is under 1.000 and opponents are hitting .171.
By far the best year of his career, Gonzalez deserves consideration. It is tough for any pitcher relying on crafty stuff to dominate, but he has in 2017. Snubbed from the All-Star team, a serious study by the voters will earn him Cy Young votes.
Whether it is enough remains another story. Gonzalez has earned his candidacy, something no intelligent fan would say in March.