Blue Jays Opposing Pitcher Report: Gio Gonzalez

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the fourth inning during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on June 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 09: Gio Gonzalez #47 of the Washington Nationals pitches in the fourth inning during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park on June 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

On Friday, June 15, the Blue Jays begin a difficult three game series against the Washington Nationals. The Blue Jays will send Aaron Sanchez to the hill, while the Nats counter with Gio Gonzalez.

Gio Gonzalez was drafted straight out of high school by the Chicago White Sox. Although the south-siders drafted the lefty, he made his major league debut for the Oakland Athletics. After four seasons, and two excellent ones in Oakland, the pitcher moved across the country to the United States capitol. Washington signed him to a $42 million, five year contract—with two team options of $12 million for 2017 and 2018.

The lefty pitches with an unorthodox motion. Beginning from the extreme third base side of the rubber, the left-hander reaches back and fires across his body. His arm comes so far across, that despite starting on the third base side, his release point is in the left-handed batter’s box. This makes his natural movement particularly devastating.

Gonzalez has been excellent for the Nationals, posting a sub-3.60 ERA for three of the past five seasons. This season has been no different, the lefty has posted a 2.65 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 1.313 WHIP, and an excellent 152 ERA+. In total, he has been worth 1.5 fWAR.

The left-hander almost perfectly mixes use between his four different pitches. Gonzalez features a sinker, four seam fastball, change-up, and curveball. Interestingly, no pitch is used over 10% more than another.

The left-handed hurler has featured his sinker 30.3% of the time this season. While the pitch is not fast, averaging a velocity of 89.61 mph, it maintains excellent finishing sink and run. As well, the pitch has been very effective, producing ground balls at a rate of 62.12% of balls in play.

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Gonzales fires home four seam fastballs 25.9% of the time. Previously his favourite pitch, the heater has dropped in use rate by about 25% since he broke into the league with Oakland. The fastball is slightly faster than the sinker, averaging a velocity of 90.48 mph. Surprisingly, the four seamer has produced whiffs at a good rate of 31.21% of swings. As a result, the fastball has been responsible for 20 strikeouts, the most in his repertoire.

The lefty has changed speeds on batters 22.2% of the time this season. The off speed pitch averages a decent velocity of 83.05 mph, with average drop. The change-up has been quite effective for the left-hander, producing a BAA of .203 and an even better SLGA of .297. As well, the change has produced ground balls at a great rate of 63.33% of balls in play.

Gonzalez completes his pitch offerings with a curveball, used 21.6% of the time this season. While the breaking ball is quite slow, averaging a velocity of 76.11 mph, it maintains great 12-6 drop. The big breaker has produced both good whiff numbers—30.12% of swings—and ground ball numbers—55.56% of balls in play.

Judging by his pitching repertoire, it’s clear that Gonzalez is quite devastating. Despite his wide array of quality offerings, he has struggled against right-handed batters. Through thirteen games, the lefty has posted a .331 OBP and .377 SLG against righties, but a much smaller .224 OBP and .254 SLG against lefties.

The left-hander has struggled with free passes this season. In thirteen starts, he has allowed 32 walks. This works out to a poor BB-rate of 10.1% and a BB/9 of 3.86. While his strikeout numbers are above average—posting a 23.6% K-rate and 9.04 K/9—he doesn’t have swing and miss stuff to work around walks.

The veteran starter uses ground balls to produce outs, and work around walks. Currently, he holds an extreme 51% ground ball rate, and each pitch—with the exception of the four seamer—produces an above average amount of ground balls.

The Blue Jays have not fared well against the Florida native in the past. Curtis Granderson should welcome a day off, as the left-handed hitter holds a terrible .122/.182/.220 slash line in 41 career at-bats. However, Russel Martin has fared very well, managing four hits, and a .647 OBP, in 10 career at-bats against the Nationals starter.

The Blue Jays need to bounce back after a tough three game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, the Nationals have set up a string of starters that would make any team tremble. After Gonzalez, the Blue Jays will face the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer. Aaron Sanchez will hopefully have his best stuff, because this looks like it is going to be a pitcher’s duel.

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