What You Need To Know About Miguel Gonzalez
The White Sox announced on Sunday that Miguel Gonzalez would be starting on Monday night in Toronto, and that John Danks would be getting skipped in the rotation. It came as something of a surprise because, if skipping Danks was going to be the decision, with Erik Johnson already on the roster after he was called up last week following Carlos Rodon's horrible start against the Angels, the easiest thing to do would have been start Johnson on Monday.
Instead Johnson will end up receiving a week's worth of that MLB money without having to do anything, which is a great way to go on vacation to Chicago for a week.
Because of all the moving parts, and some of the answers that Robin Ventura gave when asked about those parts, it's hard to know exactly what it all means right now.
But we're gonna try to figure it out anyway.
WHO IS MIGUEL GONZALEZ?
Miguel Gonzalez has been around the big leagues for the last four seasons, pitching with the Baltimore Orioles. He's always been something of a confusing case for me, because he seems like the kind of pitcher that should get crushed every time he goes out there, yet, most of the time that didn't happen.
From 2012 to 2014 Gonzalez made 69 (nice) starts for the Orioles, and went 30-21 with a 3.45 ERA. Where things get weird, though, is that while the record was good, and the ERA was certainly respectable, the rest of Gonzalez's numbers make you wonder what the hell kind of magic he used to attain them. His K/9 was only 6.4 and he was walking 2.9 per nine as well. He was also a pitcher who consistently out-pitched his FIP, as it was 4.59 over the three year span, and in each of the three seasons his FIP was higher than his ERA. In fact, the 2013 season was the only one of those three years in which Gonzalez's ERA wasn't at least a full run less than his FIP.
Then everything seemed to catch up to Gonzalez in 2015.
He went 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA (which was still better than his 5.01 FIP!) and allowed more hits and home runs than ever before, even while posting the highest K/9 (6.8) of his career.
So what changed?
Really, if you look at all the peripherals, not much changed for Gonzalez in 2015 that he hadn't been already doing before.
He had the same velocity, though he started throwing his four-seamer more often than ever before, and did so at the expense of his two-seamer. In spite of that, he managed to get more groundballs than ever before, as his groundball-to-flyball ratio was 1.13, the first time it had been over 1.00 in his career.
Hitters did have a higher BABIP against him than ever before, though, as it was at .295, but still, even that number is about average for Major League hitters.
When you look at all the numbers, there are no obvious outliers, yet his overall numbers took a dramatic turn for the worse.
SO THEN WHY DID BALTIMORE LET HIM GO?
Well, first of all, when it comes to the Orioles, this wouldn't exactly be the first time they made a bad decision with their pitching staff. That being said, considering the questions surrounding Baltimore's staff coming into 2016, it was a bit of a red flag to see the Orioles just letting Gonzalez go at the end of camp.
The biggest factor in the decision was likely his decreased velocity during the spring.
In his career Gonzalez featured a fastball -- both the four and two-seamer -- that typically hovered between 90 and 92mph. This spring that number had dropped to the 86 to 88mph range, and apparently the Orioles didn't think it was just a "getting the arm loose" kind of problem, and just let Gonzalez go.
While Fangraphs doesn't have velocity info on minor leaguers, Rick Hahn at least made it sound like Gonzalez had gotten his velocity back in Charlotte, which is a good thing.
WHY IS HE STARTING AGAINST TORONTO?
Well, let's compare some career numbers against the Toronto Blue Jays, shall we?
In his career, John Danks is 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA in 10 starts against the Blue Jays. Life gets even worse for Johnny in the Rogers Centre, where he has a 7.27 ERA in seven starts. Not surprisingly, a lineup full of righty mashers like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki crushes Danks.
Compare that to Miguel Gonzalez, who faced the Blue Jays plenty of times while pitching within the same division, and has done much better.
Miguel is 7-3 with a 2.61 ERA in 12 starts, and has posted a 2.82 ERA in seven starts in Toronto.
Even last year, when Gonzalez struggled overall, he did well against the Jays, posting a 2.38 ERA in 11.1 innings (two starts).
So, even if there is nothing else going on, Gonzalez probably provides the White Sox with a better chance to beat Toronto on Monday than John Danks would.
BUT ARE WE SURE THERE'S NOTHING ELSE GOING ON?
No, we're not.
It's entirely possible that, with so few days off for the Sox in April, this is nothing more than a move just to get the starters a day of rest. Of course, if that were the case, the entire rotation would likely be pushed back a day. Instead, while Chris Sale gets bumped back to his normal spot in the rotation, everybody else will remain on the same schedule.
It's only Danks who is really feeling the affect, as he's being skipped.
As for whether or not this move portends the end of John Danks, I doubt it, but I can't rule it out, either. As of right now Danks is scheduled to start against Baltimore on Saturday, but according to Robin Ventura, anything after that is "to be determined," for both Danks and Gonzalez.
If Gonzalez pitches well, maybe he sticks around to face the team that cut him loose.
If Gonzalez gets bombed, maybe that keeps Danks around a little longer, or maybe it just causes the Sox to move on to the next option.
What seems clear is that the White Sox aren't married to John Danks like they used to be. With Danks in the final year of his deal, there's no long-term commitment to him right now, which makes cutting the cord easier if that's what they choose to do.
I mean, it's not even May yet, and the Sox have pushed back Danks twice already this season. That's not something they did much of before.
Now, there's also a chance that this isn't because the Sox are bored with this Danks marriage and their eyes are starting to stray. There could be more going on here.
Remember why the Orioles let Gonzalez go? Well, John Danks has seen a dip in his velocity so far this season too. While he's never been a dude bringing heat, Danks' velocity has made a steady decline over the years following his shoulder injury. So far this season, it's lower than ever before, as his average fastball is clocking in at 87, while his cutter is at 84. What exacerbates this problem is that Danks' changeup remains steady at 81.
That's just nowhere near a big enough difference between the fastball and changeup, and essentially, John Danks is throwing four slightly different versions of the same pitch up there, mixing in curveballs. And it isn't enough.
Maybe Danks is dealing with an injury, and the Sox are hoping an extra four or five days of rest will alleviate it.
Or maybe Danks' shoulder has done all that it can for him since the surgery, and we're seeing an arm that is very much low on gas right now. I mean, pitchers these days can come back from injuries they couldn't have a couple of decades ago, but no matter how advanced medical treatment becomes, there's a warranty on those parts, and it isn't extended.
So, yes, there could definitely be something else going on here, and that thing could quite possibly be the end of John Danks: White Sox Fifth Starter.
We'll just have to wait and see.