Now we come to (at least statistically speaking) the #3 spot in the Sox rotation and the 4th most exciting off-season signing: Gio Gonzalez. Part of me wonders whether he will ever actually take the mound for the Sox, considering this is technically his 3rd go around with the team and he’s yet to throw a single pitch for them.
The Sox drafted Gonzalez 38th overall in the 2004 draft with a supplemental pick from the Yankees. He lasted in the system a whole year before the Sox sent him to the Phillies for Jim Thome, then got him back from the Phillies with Gavin Floyd in 2006 when they sent the corpse of Freddy Garcia out East. He made it to the AAA level before Kenny Williams in his infinite wisdom sent Gonzalez out to Oakland for the human knock knock joke known as Nick Swisher (vomit emoji). Once he finally made the bigs he carved out a nice career for himself as the 3rd starter for both Oakland and the Nats, averaging around 165 innings a year and about 180ish strikeouts. He ended up with the Brewers in 2018 and spent the better part of 2 seasons there as their 4th-ish starter.
Gonzalez has always been a very solid strike thrower in his career, but recently he’s had some trouble staying on the mound. Last season Craig Counsell and the Brew Crew were able to manage his innings pretty well (mostly because their bullpen was fucking nails), but will the Sox have the same luck? Let’s dive in.
Games Started: 17
3.50 ERA 1.29 WHIP
78 K 37 BB 9 HR
8.04 K/9 4.04 FIP
Last Week On Nitro: The first thing that jumps out at you looking at Gonzalez’ stat line from last season is…there’s not much of it. 17 starts? 3 Wins? Only 78 Ks? What did the Sox pay for? Well (at least this time) the stats don’t tell the whole story. Gio didn’t start a game for the Brewers until the last week of April (which if that happened this year it would be a blessing, but I digress), and then missed pretty much all of June and July with a dead arm. He came back off the DL on the 20th of July, and surprisingly rounded back into formpretty
When he was on the mound last year he very rarely pitched more than 5 innings, with his longest outing coming on July 26th against the Cubs (a whopping 6.1 innings). Most of this is due to what was mentioned above, namely the fact that he wasn’t needed after the 5th inning thanks to the Brewers bullpen being such an unholy terror. Combine that with Craig Counsell’s (correct) thinking that the best way to get the most out of Gonzalez was to manage his innings, especially coming off something called “dead arm” and you can see why his numbers are so far off his career averages.
When he was on the mound, Gio was pretty effective. His 4 seamer could still occasionally touch 92, combined with the movement on his 2 seam fastball and curveball still got the swinging strikes. Oh, and his changeup against righties wasn’t too shabby either.
I don’t care what anyone says, those Brewers unis are hot fire.
The knock on Gonzalez has always been his occasional bouts of wildness, which last year’s 3.81 BB/9 stat showed pretty clearly. He also saw a jump in his HR/9 which was the 2nd highest in his career in 2019. All told, however, he was a pretty valuable piece to the puzzle for the Brewers last year and by then end of the 2020 season he should hopefully be slotted where he belongs in the Sox rotation at #5.
Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case for Gio Gonzalez in a Sox uniform is he dials the clock back a few years to when he was averaging around 170 strikouts per year with an ERA in the mid 3’s and a FIP to match. If this version of Gonzalez shows up, the $5 million the Sox committed to him this year will look like a steal. Doubly so if Michael Kopech comes back hurling holy fire upon his enemies and Rick Renteria can manage his (Gio’s) innings appropriately.
If the season doesn’t start until mid June (which right now is looking hopeful at best), Gonzalez can come out firing his best bullets since his workload will have been managed indirectly by the Pandemic. A 3.50 ERA and 99 Ks in half a season from the Sox 5.5th starter will be nothing short of a win for Rick Hahn and have the Sox in the position they need to be rotation-wise to contend for the AL Central.
You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worst case scenario here is one of two things: Gonzalez can’t stay healthy, forcing the Sox back into a “5th starter by committee” role resulting in a loss every 5th day, or his tendency for wildness and change in parks does him in with the long ball.
Playing in Miller Park isn’t exactly like Pac Bell (or whatever the hell it’s called now) in San Fran, but as far as suppressing home runs it’s a darn sight better than The Down Arrow can be on a hot, windy summer day. If Gonzalez can’t find the strike zone and becomes predictable (and the ball is still made with a yellow cake uranium core) you better hold tight to your helmet nachos on the Fan Deck.
In this scenario you’re looking at a 5+ ERA, and most likely getting waived by the short season equivalent of the all star break. Or even worse, the Sox just say fuck it and roll with that sadness in the rotation, figuring Outbreak 2020 isn’t their year.
Bah Gawd That’s Gio’s Music!: What do I think will really happen with his stats this year? I think his FIP for last season (4.04) is a nice clue. Gio pitching with the Brew Crew’s defense behind him and backed up by that bullpen helped him suppress some of his worse tendencies. The Sox D isn’t going to be so kind, and the Sox bullpen probably won’t be that level of awesome (though I am excited to see what they can do, as I’m calling a big bounce back year for Kelvin Herrera).
I think a 4.15 ERA with 97 strikeouts, 33 walks and a 8-8 record would be completely acceptable for the White Sox, and would be right in line with what they’re looking for out of the 5th starter’s role. If they can get 5 innings out of him each start like the Brewers were able to, I think Rick Renteria and Don Cooper will be pretty satisfied.
All’s I know is I won’t believe he’s actually on the team until I see him throw out that first pitch, otherwise I’ll just be waiting for the notification on my phone that they traded him to Philly again.