Miguel Gonzalez putting White Sox pitching in a pinch

Innings-eater isn't eating innings, and diminished velocity is one big reason

Miguel Gonzalez was supposed to be a safeguard against the kind of failure for which the White Sox needed to prepare. Maybe Carson Fulmer would be exposed as a future reliever after multiple turns in the rotation, and maybe James Shields’s bag of tricks would run dry, and maybe Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez would experience some of that non-linear progression Rick Hahn always talks about, but Gonzalez would be there to provide an unspectacular but steady six innings every fifth or sixth day, at least for five of the sixth months of the year.

Instead, Gonzalez faces bigger problems than anybody. He’s lost all three of his starts because his ERA (12.41) is higher than his innings total (12.33). That’s happening in part because he has more walks (six) than strikeouts (five). His strikeout rate is half of what it was last year, which makes it difficult to shrug away the luck-influenced stats — a .392 BABIP, a 49 percent strand rate, and 22 percent of his flyballs are leaving the yard — that stand to regress somewhat.

It also doesn’t help that his fastball is more underpowered than its been at any point in his career. If you read the recap immediately, I had Brooks Baseball saying that Gonzalez didn’t crack 90 mph on the night. The revised data gave him a bit of the boost, but it only bumped up his top velocity reading to 90.2 mph. Even with the help, his fastball is at a personal low. Going back to his last year with the Orioles:

That dip at the end of 2015 foreshadowed the end of Gonzalez’s run with the O’s. He experienced shoulder and elbow soreness at the end of the year, and when he showed up in spring with diminished stuff, Baltimore decided to cut him instead of paying him the entirety of the $5.1 million owed to him in an arbitration year.

That worked out in the White Sox’ favor, as they picked up Gonzalez on a minor-league contract and recovered his stuff back in Triple-A. He’s been a productive pitcher the last two years.

Well, Gonzalez’s fastball is even running cooler than it was during that rocky period. He tried to pitch around it by throwing fastballs only 28 percent of the time on Tuesday night, but his attempt at junkballing didn’t pan out.

He got swings and misses with all of his off-speed pitches, and a 10.5 percent swinging strike rate for the night will go down as one of his better efforts, but apparently the adage about the best pitch being a well-located fastball is true, because flooding the A’s with breaking balls did not work. In all, he was tagged for eight runs in three-plus innings.

“I’ve been in worse situations, I’ve been through tough times, but I know how to get through it and work around it,” González said. “Fastball was up and they were able to hit the ball pretty hard. As soon as I saw that and felt it, I started throwing more off-speed pitches. Curveball and splitty were there, they were good. Cutter, not too much.”

Assuming Gonzalez is physically able to pitch, I imagine he’ll get another start or two before the Sox dip into their pitching prospects. Michael Kopech is past the service-time threshold, but he hasn’t yet thrown 100 pitches in a game for Charlotte this season.

One may not want to assume health, though, because Gonzalez visits his timeshare on the disabled list for a month every year, and his shoulder flared up on him in 2017. It’s also worrisome that he’s failing to get his fastball up to his normal levels when he’s taking the mound on so much rest.

Yet he’s also battled back from career-threatening stretches multiple times, so he’s difficult to count out. Rick Renteria isn’t doing so yet:

That said, the White Sox have been in similar situations with veteran starters approaching their ends — John Danks, Mat Latos and Derek Holland to name a few — and the Sox typically don’t drop many hints. They will say they’re starting a guy until they aren’t, and it’s up to you to read the writing on the wall. This is especially true if a pitcher doesn’t look cut out for the bullpen, and Gonzalez wouldn’t be.

Besides, given the need for starting pitchers over the whole season and Gonzalez’s previous issues with shoulder soreness/fatigue, I’d guess they’d go with the DL instead of the DFA. Hopefully neither will be necessary, because while it’d be fun to see Kopech up in the majors in short order, it’s less fun if Gonzalez is the guy who wasn’t able to hold up.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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patrickcroberts

Jim, this is an odd way to start a baseball article, especially considering someone died on that flight.

PauliePaulie

Really hope the Sox go with Volstad and Santiago before calling up Kopech. Just let the kid get his footing, and change-up, at AAA, please.

Jason.Wade17

Top prospect Donn Roach is begging for the call up. Nothing left to prove at AAA

As Cirensica

I was watching the game last night, and I thought MiGo is toasted. But I am not a scout. I think he is the leading candidate the to be DFA’ed in this team.

karkovice squad

James Shields is accepting applications for the Sidearm Club for Pitching Men.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Time for Hawk to dust off his “Have Joe Niekro come in and teach all of the bad pitchers knuckleballs” idea.

Gutteridge70

I forgot that one among many of Hawk’s bad ideas.

Reindeer Games

He’s probably done, but he’s had really bad stretches before (see last may and June, or that time he got DFA’d and the White Sox got him for free) and his curveball has looked nasty at times and he never really pitched with a ton of velocity so there is a tiny bit of hope he can steer the ship around. I wouldn’t bank on it though.

Patrick Nolan

He’s been unlucky!

Allowed a .507 wOBA BUT xwOBA has him merely at .463!

StockroomSnail

Bad and unlucky.

Like looking in a mirror!

ndsoxfan

I’d be willing to give him more starts than Fulmer.  Fulmer needs to head back to AAA and start coming out of the pen if he can’t figure it out in 3 or so more starts