Baltimore Orioles 2013 in review: Miguel Gonzalez

USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Gonzalez's second year in the big leagues wasn't quite as good as his first, but he did prove that he can stick in a major-league rotation.

In 2012, Miguel Gonzalez was part of the magic. A pitcher on his way out of baseball picked off the trash heap in hopes of...I don't even know what they were thinking when they picked up Gonzalez in spring 2012. But it worked as he defied expectations and pitched better than his peripherals would indicate he should have. The question going into 2013 was, "Can he do it again?" The answer, it seems, is yes.

Gonzalez appeared in 30 games for the Orioles in 2013, 28 of which were starting. He pitched 171 1/3 innings, and if you take out his two relief appearances, he averaged just over six innings per start. His ERA about about a half run higher, but he really wasn't that different a pitcher in 2013 than 2012. Let's go to the chart:

2012 2013
ERA 3.25 3.78
K/9 6.58 6.30
BB/9 2.99 2.78
HR/9 1.11 1.26
BABIP .260 .260
LOB% 82.6 73.6


Other than ERA, the big changes were his HR/9 and and LOB% (which of course would tend to lead to a higher ERA), both of which can fluctuate from year to year. A
left on-base percentage of 82.6% is high, and 73.6% is much closer to the league average. You have a high LOB% like Gonzalez did last year, you might just be getting a little lucky.

As for his higher home run rate, it is disappointing on its own (especially when we're watching the games and have to see him give them up), but the fact is that Gonzalez is a fly ball pitcher, and fly ball pitchers give up home runs. Not noted on the chart above is his HR/FB %, which jumped from 9.8% to 11.4%. A 9.8% HR/FB is about average, and 11.4% is high. We only have two years of major league data to compare, but it's likely that next year that number will drop closer to the average and help out his ERA.

One good thing about Gonzalez's numbers is that his line drive rate dropped and his ground ball rate increased, both of which will avoid giving up hits and home runs if he can keep it up.

I spent much of 2012 waiting for the other shoe to drop on Gonzalez, and maybe part of 2013 doing the same. After all, there are usually reasons that 28 year olds haven't yet made their major league debuts. But after a full season of watching him, I'm feeling better. He doesn't strike out a ton of guys or dial his fastball up to 99, and the Orioles certainly can't rely on him to be an ace in the rotation, but he now has almost two years of solid baseball under his belt at the major league level.

Gonzalez isn't arbitration eligible until 2015, so he is poised to be a solid contributor for the Orioles for years to come, or perhaps a solid trade piece at some point down the road. As of right now he is one of three starting pitchers (Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen being the others) that are sure to be in the rotation to start 2014.

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