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  1. I don’t think there’s ever been a problem with Gio’s attitude akin to a Zambrano or Burnett. From all accounts I’ve read he is a great clubhouse guy and I know him to be very well-liked and gracious to fans.

    I think his “headcase” label derives more from what at times seems like visible frustration following an HR or something and then having trouble with command and having a bad pitch cascade into a bad inning.

    Loved the analysis but think it is off the mark to say he ever has had an attitude problem.

    Comment by David A Wishinsky — December 23, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

  2. It should be noted that Gonzalez has managed a respectable 60% strike rate for his career. The real problem is that his first pitch strike rate is a miserable 53% for his career, and that’s been extremely consistant. A little quick math shows that this means he throws 62% strikes after the first pitch. If he could get his first pitch strike rate more in-line with his overall strike rate (maybe a more-palatable 57%?) he could drastically improve his overall numbers, simply by putting himself in a better position in more at bats.

    Comment by Jake — December 23, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  3. Concur. Like many big leaguers, he has remarked that the trade rumors associated with his being traded multiple times has never been something that appealed to him. Not that Dave said this was it, but it could explain the relationship between his attitude and the number of times he has been traded. I don’t think expressing apprehension over constantly being on the move is at all unusual.

    Comment by Big Oil — December 23, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  4. Interesting – I hadn’t noticed that when reviewing his player page. I did notice, however, a WIDE variation in his FB/FT release point when looking at his game charts. Compare his release point to a guy like Cliff Lee, and you’ll see the ball is much more likely to leave Lee’s hand in the same place than it is Nat Gio’s.

    Combine that with more horizontal movement on those pitches than Lee, and you’ll see a remarkable spatter of “takes” outside the zone by both LHB and RHB. So, an inconsistent release point in concert with well above-average (impressive?) horizontal movement generates more pitches outside the zone? It’s consistent with pitching literature out there.

    I suppose one counter to that is, “may the varying release point and his movement is what is generating all the swings and misses.” And that could well be correct.

    Comment by Big Oil — December 23, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  5. How bad was that trade by the Phils: Gonzalez and Floyd for 10 starts from an injured Fredi Garcia.

    Comment by Nik — December 23, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  6. He will also get expensive quick. He is set to make about $4.2 mil this year, his first arb year. His stats are perfect fits for arb raises (Ks, ERA, IP), so even without improvement, going 3.35 ERA/200 IP/190 K for the next 4 years, he should easily get to $12 mil by arb year 4, if not earlier. The Nats obviously want to win now, so don’t be surprised to see Harper by mid-summer in DC.

    Comment by DD — December 23, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  7. As a Phils fan, its disappointing that they flipped him for so little, or even let him go at all. Damn Pat Gillick…

    Comment by DD — December 23, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

  8. This is probably why he was traded now.

    Comment by siggian — December 23, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

  9. I like watching Gio, so I want to say that he’s going to harness a little more control, put it all together, and become that overpowering ace, but my own analysis (which used somewhat different but similar data points) pretty much concluded the same thing and went even further back. There was one success story (Kershaw, who doesn’t make your chart because your data points are different), one decent one (Gallardo) but a lot of guys like Ollie and Kerry Wood who ultimately flamed out. It seems there’s an inherent injury/performance risk with these types of pitchers, and while we all like to hope that OUR guy is the one who’s going to harness the control and become that sexy, overpowering ace, more often than not this isn’t how it works out.

    Comment by Mike — December 23, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  10. “I don’t think there’s ever been a problem with Gio’s attitude akin to a Zambrano”

    This kind of goes without saying. Zambrano’s attitude has bordered on keeping him from playing major league baseball. That’s an insanely high bar to set when determining if a player has an attitude problem.

    Comment by Ryan — December 23, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  11. “How bad was that trade by the Phils: Gonzalez and Floyd for 10 starts from an injured Fredi Garcia.”

    This is Fangraphs, so clearly the Phils won that trade since Kenny Williams was involved.

    Comment by Paulie L. — December 23, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  12. Excellent article. One question though, how do you filter BB%, K% like how you did?

    Comment by MauerPower — December 23, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  13. Which cost the most, the surplus value traded away in the Latos trade, the surplus value traded away in the Gonzalez trade, or the Yu Darvish posting fee?

    Comment by UZR is a Joke — December 23, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  14. Thank you. This has been my point all along with Gio.

    Comment by Cody — December 23, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

  15. Holy crap the Nats got hosed on this deal.

    Comment by wat — December 23, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

  16. FWIW,

    Here are his top ten comparables (2010-2011 stats) using K/9, BB/9, GB/FB.

    (K9, BB9, GB/FB)
    Gio Gonzalez (8.23, 4.09, 1.40)

    1 Jorge de la Rosa (8.22, 3.84, 1.55)
    2 Felipe Paulino (8.37, 3.97, 1.13)
    3 Ubaldo Jimenez (8.65, 3.73, 1.41)
    4 Ryan Dempster (8.6, 3.62, 1.27)
    5 Francisco Liriano (8.62, 3.64, 1.66)
    6 C.J. Wilson (7.92, 3.52, 1.51)
    7 A.J. Burnett (7.60, 3.85, 1.35)
    8 Tom Gorzelanny (7.91, 3.77, 0.89)
    9 Jhoulys Chacin (7.66, 4.04, 1.83)
    10 James McDonald (7.80, 3.90, 0.86)

    Comment by xeifrank — December 23, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

  17. So basically the Nats just got another Gorzelanny, but this one can throw grounders? This trade really upsets me because we traded 3 pitchers who all had good potential for a guy that is not going to put our team over the top.

    Comment by Curtiss — December 23, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

  18. haha….wait what?

    Comment by YUNO — December 23, 2011 @ 9:49 pm

  19. The Nats with Strasburg and Harper are within striking distance of a playoff spot., in which case, a 3 WAR pitcher will almost definitely play a role in making the playoffs.

    Also— Gorzelanny hasn’t spent a full season in the rotation (>180 IP) since 2007. He’s super underrated (I wanted the team I root for to trade for him last year), but that’s a huge red flag, especially for a team with major injury questions in Strasburg and Zimmermann.

    If anything, Gio’s a well above average innings eater, which is huge.

    Comment by BX — December 24, 2011 @ 12:15 am

  20. Without knowing how Latos/Gio will perform in the future, I have to say the posting fee.

    Comment by BX — December 24, 2011 @ 12:22 am

  21. The biggest problem for Gonzalez is that you have a poor defense who won’t take advantage of the grounders he generates. Your 3B was in the bottom 5 for fielding percentage (although this stat isn’t usually too relevant), but your 2B and SS both ranked in the bottom 5 for UZR at their positions last year and your 1b had a UZR of -5.5(?). If you have any hopes of a playoff spot then this is the issue that needs sorting.

    Comment by Luke — December 24, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  22. 3rd and first are fixed by fixing the health of Laroch and Zimmermann. Espinosa is an outstanding 2B getting better with experience. He just played his first real season at 2b and was a mlb rookie. This will fix itself with time. SS is Desmond. He has outstanding range but is prone to errors. He is very young so I have hope he will improve.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — December 24, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  23. Burnett doesn’t have an attitude problem similar to Zambrano. He’s actually viewed quite positively in the club house with his teammates semingly rooting for him. His “head case” issue has more to do with how he pitches, never quite learn from his mistakes, or perhaps giving up too easily when things start to go south.

    Comment by RobM — December 26, 2011 @ 3:22 am

  24. Seem to be missing the obvious. Check his home/away splits. Oakland is a pitcher’s paradise.

    Comment by TexPantego — December 26, 2011 @ 3:56 am

  25. But he fill be facing 8 hitters now, not 9.

    Comment by Dave — December 26, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  26. The Nats infield D is definitely a concern. It improves if we project guys getting better, but Desmond and Espinoza have to go out and actually do that. I worry that we jumped the shark with this trade, that said Gio is very good and at least controlled.

    I project them at 81.5 WAR. So I am not expecting them to compete this year with the team currently constructed. Now if you add Fielder, and you can add 4 or 5 wins (I projected LaRoche at 1 WAR). That would be a big difference and put us in the thick of the wildcard at least till the end. It’s a big ask though.

    Overall on the trade, I personally didnt see Ramos as the future catcher. I was still hoping that Norris would develop. On the three starters they all project as major leaguers of varying degrees. Milone is probably a 4, Cole has 2 upside (but is far away), and Peacock probably is a low end 2 or 3. Whether they are going to fulfill that potential I dont know, but the one thing you need to develop a good rotation is redundancy of talent. They had that but dont anymore.

    They still have a solid minor league system, but now we are relying on Ramos and the healthy of Stras and Zim for the future.

    Comment by Socrates — December 26, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  27. If he gives us those numbers, i don’t care how many he walks..

    Comment by Adam — December 26, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

  28. Umm, 81.5 WAR is insanely high (the Yankees this year had around 60 WAR). Do you mean 81.5 wins?

    Comment by JG — December 26, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  29. Check out Randy Johnson “the Big Unit” stats at this age. He walked quite a few more batters … many, many more … over more years; yes providing a certain amount of frustration for Mariners fans. However, he definitely was an ace … now wasn’t he?

    Perhaps ex-A’s ace Steve McCatty can work with Gio on throwing strikes and not giving up walks. Its not like the Nats didn’t develop a pitcher like Tommy Milone. He throws nothing but strikes.

    Comment by peric — December 27, 2011 @ 12:49 am

  30. Uhmmm who is Jonathan Solano, Jesus Flores (who hit the cover off the ball in the Venezuelan winter league this season), David Freitas, Sandy Leon, Adrian Nieto, Cole Leonida?

    I don’t see trading Norris as a problem. He belongs with an American League team as his defense might never have reached the point where he could start at catcher : see Willingham, Josh. I do wonder if they received fair value for him and AJ Cole.

    The only potential missteps or mistakes I see at this point are:
    1. Signing Werth: (more and more I think this may be the result of the owner
    Ted Lerner negotiating directly with Scott Boras. Perhaps not Rizzo’s
    idea? He certainly looks like the odd piece in the puzzle both from an
    age and criteria perspective?

    2. Making Harper an outfielder. If Rizzo had kept him as a catcher he
    wouldn’t be ready to make an early major league debut as a poor
    fielding outfielder. He would certainly be in the minors for more
    seasoning. Yet, his career would not have lasted as long as it should
    as an outfielder. So, there’s that. And with Rendon right there with him
    it should provide offense for the Nats lineup for years to come.

    Comment by peric — December 27, 2011 @ 12:57 am

  31. Right, except Johnson is the extreme outlier. For every one Randy Johnson, there are probably 100 names like the ones listed above.

    Comment by Steve — December 27, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  32. I wonder how much of the “head case” label gets attached to pitchers who, for whatever reason, walk too many hitters in their career. In other words, the mainstream media and fans complain about a pitcher’s inability to conquer the strike zone and label him a “head case” because it must be some sort of mental block (so the thinking goes) that prevents him from being able to throw strikes consistently.

    I’m not talking about Zambrano, of course. He’s a headcase of a whole different dimension. But the others…I wonder if they’re not called “head cases” when there’s really nothing wrong with their personality or makeup, it’s just that they have a hard time throwing strikes. Matt Clement is another one who comes to mind in this mold.

    Comment by chuckb — December 27, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

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