Welcome to part 13 of the annual Dodgers Nation player grades and season reviews, this time for the 2022 season. Up next in the series is a pitcher who surprised everyone by being a Cy Young contender until a forearm strain ended his season early: Tony Gonsolin. Check out the full series here.
Tony Gonsolin has always had the “quality” part of pitching down, but the “quantity” element has often eluded him. Coming into 2022, Gonsolin had thrown 120 innings in 27 career starts, an average of just 4.4 innings per start, but his ERA in those starts was 2.55.
With that in mind, the Dodgers started the 2022 season with Gonsolin in a piggyback situation where Gonsolin would start games and Tyler Anderson would come on in relief. On April 9, Gonsolin threw three innings and Anderson threw four; six days later, Gonsolin went four and Anderson went four. But then Andrew Heaney got hurt, and LA needed both Gonsolin and Anderson to start.
We’d say that worked out pretty well. Anderson made 28 starts and posted a 2.58 ERA the rest of the way, while Gonsolin had a 2.19 ERA in 22 starts after losing his piggyback partner. But perhaps most importantly, Gonsolin averaged 5.6 innings in those 22 starts.
Until a forearm strain essentially ended his season in late August (he made one brief start in the final week of the season), Gonsolin was everything Los Angeles could have hoped he’d be. The quality they’d come to expect over his first three seasons actually took a step forward, and the quantity was superb.
Fan Vote Results
With 1,420 fan votes, the fans are pretty happy with the way Gonsolin’s season went.
Nearly 88% of voters gave Gonsolin either an A or a B, with B the leading scorer at 50.7%. Gonsolin only threw 130.1 innings, which was a career high but still a little bit of a letdown after how his season was going, so maybe that’s why 11.7% gave him C. For the 1.5% who gave Gonsolin an F, we can only assume their thinking is, “They didn’t win the World Series, so everyone gets an F,” which makes us think those people are probably super fun to be around.
Dodgers Nation Take
Looking at the quality, it’s hard not to give Gonsolin an A for this season. He would have led the league in ERA if he’d had enough innings to qualify — he was the leader when he went down with the forearm strain. But the quantity definitely says there’s more potential there, so it’s hard to give him an A when you expect even more from him.
So yeah, a B is probably about right. Hopefully a full offseason has resolved any concerns about his forearm and he can come out strong in 2023. Gonsolin’s career ERA of 2.51 is nearly as good as Clayton Kershaw’s, albeit obviously in a lot fewer innings. We shouldn’t necessarily expect Kershaw-like dominance from Gonsolin — especially because he’s already at the age where Kershaw’s career started to be affected by back problems — but 2022 gave us a very good glimpse of what the near future could look like for Gonsolin.
One very interesting question for Gonsolin in 2023 is how he will be affected by the banning of the shift. According to Mark Simon of Sports Info Solutions, Gonsolin last year had a net gain of 18 outs due to the shift, which suggests he could come down to earth a bit this season with the shift gone.
Of course, it’s not quite that simple. The Dodgers have a lot of smart people working for them, and they’re undoubtedly working on ways to minimize the impact of the shift ban. What would really help, though, would be for Gonsolin to find a few more strikeouts. Strikeouts are indifferent to defensive positioning, and Gonsolin’s K rate of 23.9% was pretty low in 2022. If he could even get back to the 27.2% K rate he had in 2021 — ideally without also replicating the walk rate, which was twice as high in 2021 as in 2022 — it would essentially negate the shift ban. Gonsolin faced 498 batters last year, so an increase in strikeout rate by 3.3% would mean 16.4 more strikeouts, almost entirely accounting for the 18 outs he gained from the shift.
And then there’s health. Can Gonsolin stay healthy enough to make 30 starts? A healthy season with a few more strikeouts could make Gonsolin one of the best number-three starters in baseball.
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