A's Preview: Gio Gonzalez


The A’s preview series continues, and this time we take a look at southpaw Gio Gonzalez.

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How many wins will Gio Gonzalez have in 2011?

When the A’s traded Nick Swisher after the 2007 season, I was initially upset with the front office’s decision to trade such a fan-favorite player like Swisher. The deal illustrated, however, just how committed GM Billy Beane was to the youth movement or rebuilding process that took place after the ’07 season.

In the deal, which sent Swisher to the Chicago White Sox, the A’s received pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautino De Los Santos and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Initially, many fans like myself were upset with Swisher deal, which had come after the Dan Haren trade. Sure, Gonzalez, Fautino, and Sweeney were regarded as top-notch prospects, but why trade “Swish”?

Well, we would soon find out why.

With a depleted farm-system, Billy Beane and the rest of Oakland’s top brass set out to replenish their system while setting themselves up for a bright future. That’s the way things work in Oakland: build up, tear down, build up, tear down, and so on.

The A’s decision to go ‘young’ resulted in sub-.500 seasons and an upset fan base. That’s why, initially, I was so upset with the Swisher deal. I, like many fans, ignored the big picture, or the reason behind Oakland’s rebuilding phase.

Gonzalez made seven starts in 2008, but hardly looked like the highly-touted prospect he was down in the minor leagues. Instead, he looked like any other wide-eyed rookie, posting a 1-4 record with a 7.68 ERA in 34 innings.

But again, I was missing the big picture.

The next year, Gonzalez went 6-7 with a 5.75 ERA in 17 starts with Oakland. It was an improvement, albeit a small improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

But why wasn’t Gonzalez finding success in the big leagues? I was satisfied with the work Ryan Sweeney was doing defensively and offensively, and he quickly became a favorite player of mine. But why wasn’t Gonzalez, a centerpiece of the deal, finding the same type of success?

Walks.

Walks had killed Gonzalez in his first two seasons with Oakland, as they tend to do with any pitcher in the big leagues.

In 2008 Gonzalez had issued 25 free passes in 34 innings. The next year, Gonzalez had issued 56 walks in 98.2 innings. The southpaw did have nice strikeout numbers, 34K’s in ’08 and 109 in ’09, but the walks did the most damage.

Another problem for Gonzalez was his inability to control his emotions. Any young pitcher has his share of nerves, of course, but controlling those emotions is what separates the chumps from the champs.

Gonzalez did, however, do a better job last season controlling his emotions. As a result, the A’s saw their southpaw go 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA in 33 starts. He also struck out 171 batters in 200.2 innings of work.

At last, the big picture!

The A’s last season led the American League in ERA with a 3.56 team mark, and led baseball in quality starts with 103. And Gonzalez emerged as one of the game’s most promising young pitchers.

The rotation is by far the team’s biggest strength, and the team’s chances at making the postseason this year begins with the strength of their starting five.

When Billy Beane started the rebuilding process in 2007, I was initially upset, as were most fans. After last season, however, I now see that those moves were crucial for the organization’s future success.

The A’s have laid out the foundation for yet another “Big Three,” one that includes Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, 25, will still have to work on limiting the number of free passes he gives up, but definitely proved that he belongs in the major leagues last year. The A’s upgraded offense should help support the pitching staff, resulting in more wins for the pitching staff.

The A’s have put together a formidable rotation, a replenished bullpen, and an offense that will eventually be up to par with its pitching staff. Guys like Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Adrian Cardenas, Grant Green, and Jemile Weeks are on their way to the show, and should provide some much needed offense for Oakland in the coming years.

Basic Prediction for Gonzalez:

Record: 16-11, ERA: 3.68

*Like before, this is just a basic preview. Be sure to check back after spring training for an in-depth analysis/preview of all of Oakland’s pitchers as part of a 2011 Team Preview.

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Tags: A's 2011 A's Lineup A's Minor League System A's Preview A's Starting Rotation Adrian Cardenas Chris Carter Fautino De Los Santos Gio Gonzalez Grant Green Jemile Weeks Michael Taylor Nick Swisher Oakland A's Oakland Pitching Staff Promotions Ryan Sweeney