There’s been a lot of debate about whether Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark deserve to be the Nats’ 4th starter during the playoffs this year. After all, Roark has much better season stats (2.85 ERA and 15 Wins vs. 3.57 ERA and 10 Wins for Gio), and Gio seemed to let the pressure get to him and didn’t pitch all that well in the 2012 NLDS, his only other postseason appearance. Not to take anything away from Roark’s fantastic season, but I discovered something surprising yesterday when looking over Gio’s 2014 statistics: right now the big lefty is pitching better than he ever has.
For while it is true that Gio’s ERA this year is the worst he’s ever put up in a season in which he’s made over 20 starts, his 1.197 WHIP is actually his second BEST, behind only his terrific 2012 campaign. In addition his K/9 rate of 9.2 is also his second best mark behind 2012, and get this–his BB/9 rate of 3.2 is actually his best ever, even trumping 2012.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover something else that’s interesting. Gio was out of the rotation due to injury from May 17th to June 18th, and the reports were that the ailment in question had been bothering him for several weeks before he went on the disabled list. Well, it just so happens that if you throw out the two starts he made right before going on the DL as well as his first post-DL stint start, his season ERA drops all the way down to 2.89 in his 24 other starts, which would be the BEST mark of his career.
Those who are more into traditional stats might hear all of this and be inclined to point to Gio’s seemingly mediocre 10-10 record as proof that his tendency to have high pitch counts and not pitch deep into games doesn’t give his team the best chance to win. To which I have to reply: au contraire. The Nats’ record in Gio’s starts this year was 16-11, and was 15-9 if you throw out those same three starts sandwiched around his DL stint. Meanwhile, the team’s record in Roark’s starts is 18-13…in other words about the same in terms of winning percentage despite his lower ERA and better personal win-loss record.
Still haven’t convinced you? How about the fact that in Gio’s last 7 starts of the season his ERA was 2.36, and he struck out 41 batters while walking only 9? Then there’s the added fact that during that same time opposing hitters batted only .191 against him.
Add of this up and it makes much more sense why Gio Gonzalez will likely be named to the Nats’ playoff rotation over Tanner Roark, and why with a pitcher of Roark’s ability available in the bullpen this team should be VERY tough to beat in the playoffs.