Acquired: Traded from Chicago White Sox (with OF Ryan Sweeney and SP Fautino De Los Santos) for Nick Swisher (January 3, 2008).
Contract: One year thru 2011 (not yet eligible for arbitration). Position: Starting pitcher; alliterative nickname imminent.
2011 Projected ERA: 3.99
2010 Season: Gonzalez enjoyed a breakout 15-win season, finally capitalizing on the promise implied by his pedigree (2004 "sandwich" pick after the first round, involved in three "top prospects-for-proven commodity" trades, career minor league K/9 rate: 10.3). From 2008-09, Gonzalez threw a combined 132.2 innings with Oakland posting a 6.24 ERA, 1.704 WHIP and per nine inning rates of nearly 10 hits, 5.5 walks and 1.5 home runs. Last year, in just over 200 innings, his WHIP fell to 1.31 while his nine inning rates dropped to 7.7 hits, 4.1 walks and 0.7 home runs. He received some much needed normalization on BABIP, as well, dropping from an egregiously unlucky .360 in 2009 to .274 last year. Most notably, Gonzalez showed much less overt negative emotion on the mound when he didn't have his best stuff or wasn't getting calls. His tired, frustrated histrionics often reminded me of another native Floridian. Scroll to the 3:00 mark in this clip and you'll see what I mean.
2011 Over/Under: That's a surprisingly high projected ERA. Admittedly, there are some in the sabermetric community who weren't entirely swayed by Gonzalez's 2010 performance. His 92 walks were second most in the American League, his strikeout rate per nine innings fell from the mid-nines (2008-09) to 7.7 last year and he remains susceptible to patient teams that lay off his curveball (he had two terrible starts against the Yankees last year and one against the Red Sox). But, Gonzalez's walk rate per nine innings has steadily dropped since his debut. In addition, he made strides by reducing his line drive rate and increasing his ground ball percentage. Take the way UNDER on the projection. This kid's the real deal, yo.
By the Numbers: 751 – Gonzalez has been traded three times in his career. Two of the players involved in those deals (Jim Thome and Nick Swisher) have hit a combined 751 home runs over the course of their careers. I suppose one could argue that this factoid doesn't really mean all that much. Tell you what: throw me a bone on this one and feel free to deduct an equal amount of Gonzalez's cool points for once being part of trade that involved aging SP Freddy Garcia as the "proven" centerpiece. Cool?
Surefire 2011 Prediction: Gonzalez hails from Hialeah, Florida. This necessitates the return of the birthplace-based, alliterative nickname. By the end of the season, I have no doubt that my one-man marketing campaign to move "Gio Gonzalez, The Hialeah Hammer" into the MLB lexicon will be a rousing success. And, before y'all get any opportunistic ideas, I'm also going to trademark "The Hialeah Heater". And, possibly "Razor Ramon". That one just rolls off the tongue.
Old School Rap Track for the Season: Rico Suave, Gerardo Mejia