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Which Nats Starter Is The Best?: Gio Gonzalez

On Monday, Will made the case for Max Scherzer as the Nationals’ best starter, followed by Joe’s argument for Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday and Andrew’s claim for Jordan Zimmermann on Wednesday. Now comes the casino jackpots moment readers of The Nats Blog have anxiously anticipated: the minor league guy is making a case for Gio Gonzalez.

Logically, Gonzalez is not better than Scherzer, Strasburg, or Zimmermann, and might not even stack up favorably to Doug Fister, whom Erin Flynn will discuss tomorrow. A typical season for Gonzalez features good strikeout numbers, but also a high walk rate and an ERA somewhere in the mid threes with an FIP that’s not too far off that mark. Those are good numbers, but unlikely to make him the Cy Young Award contender that Scherzer, Zimmermann, and/or Strasburg seem destined to be this year.

Be that as it may, Gonzalez’s contributions over the past three seasons have been nothing short of solid, if not very good. Over the length of this post, I’ll measure Gonzalez’s production with the Nationals since they acquired him in a December 2011 trade from the Oakland A’s.

Over his first three seasons in Washington, Gonzalez has gone an accumulative 42-26 with a 3.25 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 119 ERA+, 9.1 K/9, and a 3.4 BB/9 in 553 and 2/3 innings over 91 starts. Both Baseball-Reference’s and FanGraph’s version of WAR reflect Gonzalez as a good value over that stretch, with 10.1 and 11.3 marks respectively. His best season in that span remains 2012, when he led baseball with 21 wins, a 2.82 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, while sporting a National League-leading 9.3 K/9. He went on to finish third in Cy Young voting.

Gonzalez has not been as dominant since that season, when he benefitted from a career-low 5.8% home run to fly ball rate (HR/FB). (For context purposes, FanGraphs pins the league average HR/FB around 10%, with anything below or above the range of 8-12% considered a product of good or bad luck). Last year was especially frustrating at times as a shoulder injury limited him to 158 and 2/3 innings pitched over 27 starts, but he still came away with a 3.02 FIP and a 9.2 K/9 rate.

Pitching in a rotation with as much talent as the Nationals have will leave most pitchers overlooked. In Gonzalez’s case, he came to Washington as the anchor for a developing starting rotation. Since he joined the team, the Nationals have seen Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg reach their full potential, acquired Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, and found a pleasant surprise in Tanner Roark.

Aside from his injuries last season, Gonzalez has pretty much been the pitcher he was in Oakland. He has been durable, generated strikeouts, and while he’s still prone to walk batters, he has actually improved in that area over the last three seasons. Gonzalez departed the A’s with a career 4.4 BB/9 rate, a number that has since dropped to 3.9.

It would be easy to say that Gonzalez would be more than a number four or five starter in any rotation other than Washington’s. Still, though, when I began this piece I was interested in seeing where he would actually be a viable candidate as either the first or second starter in a pitching staff.

Using the MLB depth charts available at RosterResource.com, I combed through all 30 teams’ projected rotations. On roughly half of those teams, his past production and potential for future success make Gonzalez a strong candidate for one of the first two spots, including on 2014 playoff squads such as the Orioles, Pirates, Angels, Giants, and Royals. Mind you that this is somewhat subjective, but it does still further the notion that Gonzalez is a very good pitcher who is just being overlooked because of his team’s otherworldly talent.

If he returns to good health this year, Gio Gonzalez will be the same pitcher he has been in the past: A consistent, durable lefthander who will generate strikeouts and keep the Nationals in games. As I said in the opening of this post, that role is not as flashy or perhaps even as valuable as what Scherzer, Strasburg, or Zimmermann will do. Yet, Gonzalez is beyond capable of continuing to provide premium value and standout as the most overlooked option in baseball’s rotation.

The data provided by Cot’s Contracts shows that he has been an excellent value for the Nationals thus far, earning $18 million since joining the team. With a contract that could run through the 2018 season, Gonzalez will earn $11 million for the upcoming season before receiving a final pay bump to $12 million in 2016. The Nationals hold a club option at that same price for 2017; if in that season he pitches at least 180 innings, his vesting option for another $12 million will kick in.

If he remains in Washington for the entirety of that deal, Gonzalez will hit the free agent market before his age-33 season. By then, he will have given the Nationals as much, if not more, than what they could have asked for.

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Report: Nationals Sign Former Blue Jays Closer Casey Janssen

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Nats have come to terms on a one-year,  $5 million deal with former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen.

At the age of 32, Janssen saw his production decrease dramatically toward the end of last season. In 2012 and 2013 he averaged 28 saves with a 2.55 ERA, only to see the wheels fall off a bit in 2014 with a 3.94 ERA with 25 saves. In reality, things really seemed to fall apart in the second half of the season for the right-hander. Janssen posted 14 saves with a 1.23 ERA in the first half of 2014, but only 11 saves with a 6.46 ERA in the second half.

It’s unclear what specific role Janssen is expected to play in the Nats bullpen. As we discussed yesterday, there is some general ambiguity as to who will play what roles behind likely closer Drew Storen. I’m sure in a perfect world scenario for GM Mike Rizzo, Janssen regains his form of previous seasons and takes Tyler Clippard’s spot as the club’s set-up guy.

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Which Nats Starter Is The Best: Jordan Zimmermann

This post is the third installment in a series where The Nats Blog’s staffers will each stump for one arm from the Nats’ loaded rotation as the best of the bunch. Will made the case for Max Scherzer Monday, and Joe argued for Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday.

I hold my colleagues in the highest esteem, but I’m afraid they’re wrong here. Scherzer and Strasburg may be the bigger names, but Jordan Zimmermann is the best of the Nationals’ starters.

Continue reading…

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Which Nats Starter Is The Best: Stephen Strasburg

On Monday, Will made a compelling argument that Max Scherzer is the best Washington Nationals starting pitcher. After signing a $210 million contract this offseason following several stellar seasons as one of baseball’s best pitchers, this is a pretty solid argument to make.

However, I’d like to take a look at comparing all their numbers while all five guys were active Major League pitchers. The youngest of the group, Stephen Strasburg, infamously made his MLB debut on June 8, 2010, so I am going to compare the five guys from 2010 forward. I’m confident that these numbers will show that Strasburg is the best starting pitcher for the Nats. (Going forward, all statistics mentioned are from 2010 to present, unless otherwise noted.) Continue reading…

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Who are the Nats’ “7th Inning Guys” ?

While a lot of attention this offseason has been paid to the Nats solidifying their middle infield and the acquisition of Max Scherzer, very little has focused on an area of the roster that struggled in the 2014 playoffs and has seen a good amount departed talent this winter, the bullpen.

This winter the Nats have said goodbye to:

Rafael Soriano – 64 G, 3.19 ERA, 32 Saves Ryan “Fireworks” Mattheus – 7 G, 1.04 ERA, Tyler Clippard -75 G, 2.15 ERA Ross Detwiler – 47 G, 4.00 ERA, 63 IP Continue reading…

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Which Nats Starter Is The Best: Max Scherzer

Over the next five days here on The Nats Blog, you will see one post arguing which of the Nats starters is in fact the best on the team. One post for each of the club’s five rotation hurlers (Sorry Roark).

What’s amazing is that there are very few teams that could even have an argument like this, and most that can are more similar to the 2008 Washington Nationals, where any of the team’s five starters could be considered their best because they are all so miserable. Very few teams in history has had a rotation with the potency of the current Nats, where you can very legitimately have an argument over which of their aces is the best.

Today I will be arguing that the team’s newest addition, Max Scherzer, is the best on the club. Continue reading…

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Behind The Numbers Of Max Scherzer’s Mutually Beneficial Contract

In the days since the moment the world learned that Max Scherzer would sign with the Washington Nationals, quite a bit of information has come out about the record-breaking pact. Most notably, we found out that the total dollar value of Scherzer’s seven-year contract will be $210 million, paid out evenly over 14 years. At first glance, this might cause Nats fans some anxiety. Putting aside how Scherzer will age, which I will address in another post, paying a player a whopping $105 million after his playing contract ends might have visions of Bobby Bonilla dancing in fans’ heads. But take a closer look, and the contract’s structure actually helps the Nationals quite a bit. Continue reading…

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Eury Perez Claimed By Atlanta Braves

Former Washington Nationals minor leaguer Eury Perez has been claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves. Perez, who had been in Washington’s minor league system since the age of 17 was claimed from the Nats by the New York Yankees in late September last year, only to be designated for assignment this week after the club signed shortstop Stephen Drew.

 

With great speed and an ability to hit for average, Perez showed a lot of promise In eight seasons in the Nats’ system. In 700 minor league games he combined to hit .305/.360/.384 with 268 stolen bases. In 193 games at the Triple-A level, he hit .310/.354/.411 with 63 stolen bases. Now at the age of just 24 he will have a chance to compete for an outfield spot for a depleted Atlanta Braves team.

 

While it’s tough to see a talented young player from our system end up in the division, Perez simply became dispensable for Nats with their logjam of outfielders. Going into the end of last season behind Harper, Span, and Werth you had McLouth, Hairston, Michael Taylor, Steven Souza, and Nate Shierholtz. Perez very well may have had the ability to compete for a fourth outfielder spot with the team, but without the ability to get the playing time needed to prove himself, the club just had to move in a different direction.

 

All indications though point to Perez having the ability to be a contributor at the Major League level. He’s clearly mastered Triple-A, and at the age of 24 needs an opportunity to play everyday to prove whether he can stick at the highest level. He may just have that with the Braves.

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The Case For Keeping Zimmermann and Fister

Following the Nationals’ 7-year, $210 million agreement with free agent starter Max Scherzer, questions arise as to what the team will do with its otherworldly pitching depth. With all five starters—Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark—returning from last year’s National League East Championship squad, the addition of the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner provides considerable flexibility. Continue reading…

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 89

With the Max Scherzer signing and the Yunel Escobar trade, the Nats are finally active in the offseason, so we decided it was just about time to do some chatting.