Nationals Baseball: Gio thoughts

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gio thoughts

I don't try to come up with a story from a Kershaw vs Petit match-up.  The Nats were pretty well handled by Kershaw (as expected).  I wouldn't go as far to say the Nats were dominated, but I'd also don't think Kershaw had his A+ stuff either.  On the Nats side Petit did pretty much what you wanted him to do, go 6 and hold it close. The bullpen let in another run. This time it was Perez, who they tried to work into just getting out lefties, but Chase Utley got a big single to add an insurance run. Solis looked good but how much of that was a 3 run lead in the top of the 9th with Jansen coming in and it being 96 degrees I don't know.

So with nothing much to say about that I wanted to talk about Gio for a second. I've heard some "what's wrong with Gio" talk. I've heard some Biogenesis whispers. This is all silly. There is a very simple explanation for Gio's decline.  He's getting older.

When Gio came to the Nats the big worry was that he'd give up a lot of homers. That had been an issue early in his career and on the road as an Athletic.  Since DC wasn't as pitcher friendly as Oakland it seemed that it might be an issue here, but that didn't happen. He adjusted. Not only did he not give up a lot of homers, he reigned in his control, too. In 2012 he paired that with being harder to hit, which gave us the Cy Young contender year, but even after with more typical "hittability", he kept those other things going and gave the Nats two solid years.

This makes sense in hindsight. He had a few years under his belt and was still improving.  He was entering the window most people think of as peak, 26-28 years old. He was going from the AL to the NL, always a nice bonus for pitchers. Everything was lined up for him.

Now he is exiting his peak. He can't keep it up. What's being effected now is his hittability. The hits per nine are going way up the past two years. He countered that by becoming an extreme ground ball pitcher last year, which kept his home runs down. But it's hard to keep the ball down, yet close enough to the strike zone to not walk a lot of guys and induce strikeouts. Gio saw his walks bump way up and his K's go down. He saw his IP per game go down to 5.6.  He was doing ok, but not great and he wasn't lasting long enough.

So he adjusted again. He's been putting move balls in the zone this year. His IP per start is back closer to 6 now. The walks are down but the flyballs go up. His stuff is just in general more hittable so the homers go up a lot too. He plugs one hole in the dam here, another one opens up over there.

Gio was a great strikeout pitcher (9th in K% for qualifying pitchers* from 2012-2014), with iffy control (16th worst in walks), who was hard to hit (4th in BAA - better than Stras or ZNN, even taking out 2012 he only drops to 12th). He could concentrate on keeping the ball in the park to make himself a top pitcher.

Gio IS a very good strikeout pitcher (26th 2015-16) with iffy control (13th worst), who is no longer hard to hit (20th worst). Simply keeping the ball in the park no longer works to make himself a top pitcher. He now has to pick his poison. He can keep the ball in the park, but give up more hits (BA goes up with GBs as opposed to fly balls) and probably more walks and less Ks too. Or he can worry about keeping the walks and Ks where he likes, probably control the hits a little bit, but give up more homers.

This is who Gio is now. A pitcher with flaws that can't be hidden or worked around. It doesn't mean he can't be an effective pitcher.  He can be. Hell he'd probably be a 3 on most teams. But hoping for anything better than what you are seeing in general, for any long stretch, is probably asking too much.

*131 from 2012-2014, 74 from 2015-2016 if you must know. It does inform.

26 comments:

Robot said...

You know, if you rearrange "Biogenesis," it spells "Sin be Gio's."

Coincidence? Doubtful!

Robot said...

Crap, I missed an "E."

Whatever, close enough to still be suspicious.

Harper said...

"Gio's been i.s." where "i. s." obviously stands for "intaking steroids" OMG IT"S BEEN INFRONT OF US THE WHOLE TIEMS>

Anonymous said...

Was going to post something critical and snarky, but I just tweaked my back lifting weights so I'm going to take a day off.

Anonymous said...

"Sine be Gio's": the angle at which balls thrown by Gio leave the hitters' bats.

Harper said...

"Gio's bee sin" : How Gio is responsible for the decline in the honeybee population.

Jay said...

The thing that makes Gio so hard to watch is the fact that he nibbles at the edges of the plate. Now maybe that is a must for him these days. It seems Gio can get ahead of hitters - even Sunday several times he had 0-2 and 1-2 counts. The problem is that he can't put them away. His curve has become much less of a weapon the last two years as well. Add in the fact that at any time Gio can either melt down on the mound or totally lose the strike zone and it's not too much fun to watch as a fan. It all adds up to Gio is too fragile (though that may not be true). His velocity is down and add in iffy control equals no Jamie Moyer. Anyway, why not trade him for something and bring up Giolitto. Laughable idea I know, but what are you going to do with him once Giolitto is up? You can't put him in the pen secondary to his control issues. Also, are the Nats at any point going to try use some of that organizational pitching depth to make a trade?

"Sin bee Gio's" bzzzzz??? I'm sure he was just using the cream and the clear.

JE34 said...

Indeed, Jay. He has to nibble because his stuff is in decline, and that means the discretion of the umpire has an outsized impact on his performance, which leads to the muttering at his imaginary friend after the third consecutive leadoff hitter to reach in an inning.

Ric said...

@Harper, "[Gio would] probably be a 3 on most teams."

This, this, this!

The guy is 35th or 36th in the NL in ERA, WHIP and WAR. If this is our biggest problem, then we are in great shape.

The Cubs have a phenomenal starting rotation. Almost every other team would love to have Gio in their rotation.

mike k said...

The way I've always seen it is that you get 3 Gios: the first is where he can't locate his fastball, and then you're in for a long and disastrous outing; the second is where he can locate his fastball and not his curveball (when he wants to throw it for a strike), and then you get typical Gio - 5-6 innings, 2-3 runs; the third is where he can locate his fastball and his curveball, and those are his dominant outings, as even when hitters can ID the curve they won't know if it's a strike or not. Having a flat curveball was never really the issue, only the control.

In the beginning of the year, by my eye, he was able to throw his curveball for a strike on a consistent basis, and he was dominant. Now it seems different...he's able to throw his curveball for a strike, but he still gets hit hard. So this is probably what Harper is talking about, regarding his newfound hitability.

Jay - according to baseball-reference, he's only guaranteed through this year. There is a team option for next year at 12M/500K buyout, and a vesting option the following year for 12M if he pitches 180 innings next year. So I wouldn't be worried about him blocking Giolitto or what to do with him when Giolitto does come up. The key question, I think, is whether the Nats execute his option next year. A lot of that depends on how the rest of the season plays out for him and Giolitto.

mike k said...

Ric - that stat is a little misleading because it's only out of qualified pitchers, so anyone who's missed some time due to injury, or was a rookie callup, or just missed some starts for whatever reason, wouldn't qualify. There are only 50 qualified pitchers in the NL according to fangraphs, making Gio 35/50 in ERA.

Harper said...

mike k - Loosening that requirement helps Gio. While there are a handful who don't meet the qualifying level because of the reasons you state, most that don't meet the level are simply too bad to keep trotting out there. If we relax it to 50 IP we get most starters, 67 or almost 4.5 per team, without picking up heavily used relievers. In that case while we add 17 pitchers, Gio drops only 6 spaces. Basically by ERA he's been a transition 3/4 type and he had been potentially a bit unlucky so a solid 3 is a fair place to put him IMO.

I think Nats fans have been spoiled. 5th starters are often garbage guys who can't hang on. Since 2012 I think we've had about 3/4 of a season of that from anyone (1/2 a season of Haren, which he was allowed to work out of, and about two months of Fister until he was replaced)

Froggy said...

Gio to the Padres for say a Fernando Rodney and a Melvin Upton or a Jon Jay, and a Norris or Bethncourt?

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy - Lol why would the Padres ever take that deal? What the hell would they want with a year + options of Gio?

Froggy said...

Bjd - wouldn't the Nats be assuming a big Upton obligation to offset?

Harper said...

Froggy - the Pads do need SP but I'm sure if they sell they'd be looking for youth. Gio in a deal would be a $ fixer, not a main target.

Something like... Jay + Rodney + Norris for Gio + Lopez. But really why are the Nats doing that?

Ole PBN said...

I'd say Gio gets dealt by the deadline and Giolito takes his place on a innings limit. I see him getting dealt to a contender in need of pitching help, in exchange for a bullpen arm and/or prospect(s). Gio is not a bad pitcher, but he's clearly the weak link in our rotation (1st-world problems or not). He's expendable because of our minor league depth and our need for bullpen help. Remember, trades aren't always a two-team swap (think Souza to TB > Myers to SD > Ross/Turner to WSH). Rizzo is definitely on the phone.

A note optimism: Koda Glover is rising in the system, and quickly. Calling it now, he's an arm we'll appreciate before the season is over.

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy - Yea taking a serious look (sorry if my earlier one was dickish) I forgot how big Upton's contract was. But it's only 1 more year and he's actually been serviceable for them this year. And given that they just moved Shields with no problem I don't think they'd be looking to add a different journeyman middle of the road starter (although shields has since dropped from middle of the road to the inner circle of hell). And no way they move Jay for Gio.

Any deal they'd consider would have to include some sort of prospects from our side. I like the idea of including Gio as a salary off-set in the case of a lopsided deal, but he's not going to be the primary target for any team I don't think.

Bjd1207 said...

Annnnnd Harper said what I did in about half the words...

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

Just throwing it out there for discussion... I've always liked Jay and Norris would be an improvment over Lobaton (who wouldnt be needed with Gio gone) and Rodney would be immediate contributor

Froggy said...

Ha, no worries. I'm concerned that Gio is the next Edwin Jackson.

Jay said...

The crazy thing IMO is that there is no way Gio should be this bad. He has talent. He has one of the best curveballs in the game. He is a complete head case and that kills me. Seems like a great guy, but he's lost his last 5 decisions and the Nats have lost his last 6 starts. He's the anti-Strasburg right now. Guy needs to get it together, but if Maddux can't help him figure it out I'm not sure anyone can.

blovy8 said...

At this point, Gio needs his changeup to be effective - sometimes it's better than the curve. Whether it's choosing movement over velocity or age, the slower fastball is a bit of a concern. His velocity had been pretty consistent before this season, but most of his peripherals still seem acceptable, just getting more contact for fewer walks as has been noted. It could be just a matter of time before he cranks out a few decent starts again and his era is back where FIP/xFIP says it should be. Probably just a couple better pitches with guys on base away from not being an issue. The HR numbers make me think he should just stop talking to Scherzer.

Jay said...

At what point does Zimmerman bat 6th or 7th in the lineup. Now he is consistently striking out badly when they walk Murphy. Painful to watch.

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