You may be wondering just what the White Sox acquired today and you may also be wondering about the title of this post. Gio Gonzalez has actually been with the White Sox organization twice prior to this, but has never pitched a game for the big league club.
Gio was selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Sox, but after the 2005 season he was part of the trade that would bring Jim Thome to the South Side. The Phillies then sent his ass back to the Sox in the Gavin Floyd / Freddy Garcia trade. And then last, the Sox sent him to the A’s in the Nick Swisher trade in 2008. It is at this point his MLB career starts.
He has had some very successful season in his career and has finished top 3 in Cy Young voting. His 2017 is his most recent great year. However, it hasn’t been all roses since then. 2018 saw some of his worst numbers of his career and last year, in an injury shortened year, he put together better numbers than ’18 but nowhere near ’17.
So what is a Gio Gonzalez good at? This is actually what intrigues me most about this pickup. He is good at throwing ground balls, pretty decent at striking people out, and his fly balls don’t typically become home runs. He didn’t pitch enough innings last year to show up in most of the lists to look at this, but if you insert his career numbers, even correcting for age and injury, his HR/FB% should be around 12-13% in the bouncy ball era. That puts him in the top 20 SPs in the league in this category. In the bad 2018 year, he was still 14th in the league. His ground ball rate, which has consistently hovered around 45%, would put him in the top 30 SPs. And last his K/9, which has been good throughout his career is now settling into the 8 range. That’s very respectable for a ground ball pitcher.
Now before you get too excited, Steamer projections have him looking pretty bad this year. I am not sure what the indicators are, maybe health, maybe age, but in only about 55 more innings than last year’s 87, they expect him to throw more than 2 times the HRs he did last year, his K/9 to drop to 7.71, and his ERA to be the worst since he was 23 and just coming into the league. BRef is a little kinder in the numbers but they only project him to pitch 119 innings.
Overall, while it is not the sexy signing most were hoping for, it is a major upgrade over what the Sox were going to have to put on the mound every fifth day. Let’s hope they’re not done, but let’s also learn to love the ground ball. It’s an important skill when the 108ers are ever so close to homeplate and the ball is made of flubber.