Milwaukee Brewers 2019 Season Report Card: Gio Gonzalez
By Dan Larsen
Though injuries clouded his 2019 performance, Gio Gonzalez was ultimately an underappreciated part of the Milwaukee Brewers success this past season.
In the first few weeks of the season, the Brewers rotation was an unmitigated disaster outside of Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff.
With Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta both getting off to horrible starts, and Jhoulys Chacin not far behind them, the starting pitching staff was putting the team at serious risk.
Fortunately for the club, however, they were able to land Gio Gonzalez in free agency after the New York Yankees declined to add him to their 25 man roster in late April.
Though injuries plagued him at times, the lefty played a critical part in the team making the playoffs in 2019. Let’s take a look at how his season graded out.
Season Grade: A-
After he signed for the team, the 34-year-old immediately helped stabilize the rotation. Though he wasn’t going particularly deep into games, his ability to go five or more quality innings every five days was a sorely needed thing.
Gonzalez pitched 31 innings over six starts from his debut on April 28 to May 27, and posted a solid 3.19 ERA. His underlying stats backed up the quality of his outings too, as his FIP through those six starts stood at an impressive 3.25.
His ability to command his pitches with precision helped him avoid the pitfalls that many in his role were experiencing with the juiced ball in the early going of 2019. He was striking out 7.55 batters per/nine while walking 2.61, and limiting home runs to just 0.58 per/nine. He was second among pitchers on the team in fWAR over that one month stretch (0.8).
On May 27, however, an injury struck which caused him to miss nearly two months of action. The Brewers struggled a bit in his absence too, as some of the volatility that plagued the rotation returned his absence.
When the veteran returned on July 20th, it couldn’t have come at a bigger moment. In the final half of that month, Milwaukee would lose three of their starting pitchers to injury, including their best one in Woodruff. Gonzalez would help keep the starting rotation, and the team overall, afloat until their September run.
The two-time all-star would make 13 appearances from July 20th on, including 11 starts. He pitched to a 3.67 ERA over 56 1/3 innings. Though his underlying numbers weren’t as elite as his early season run was, he still produced a respectable 4.47 FIP over the finals months of the season, and produced 0.6 fWAR, which was fifth best among pitchers on the roster during that time.
Overall, Gonzalez finished the season as the fifth best pitcher on the squad in fWAR at 1.4. He was just two tenths behind fellow starters in Davies and Adrian Houser, despite throwing for significantly less innings than both.
His value to the team may have faded in the eyes of some as the season went on. However, there’s no doubt that Gio Gonzalez was a vital part of why the Brewers reached the postseason for a second successive season. Without him, the team may very well have failed to stabilize their rotation, and the issues stemming from that would have likely proven to be fatal to their playoff chances.
He’ll be a free agent this coming winter. We’ll see if the team decides to bring him back for a third consecutive season.
If they do, they’ll have a valuable veteran arm that can provide guidance to the young arms.