Tony Gonsolin Should Stay In The Dodgers Rotation For Good

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After dominating the Mariners Tuesday night, Tony Gonsolin was optioned (again) to the Dodgers alternate training site in exchange for left-handed reliever Victor Gonzalez. This was a move that makes sense in terms of adding an extra arm to the bullpen, but not in rewarding Gonsolin for this season’s efforts.

Gonsolin, a.k.a. “The Cat Man” has been outstanding for the Dodgers this season. How outstanding, you ask? In his three starts in 2020, he has yet to give up an earned run.

Take a look at his pitching lines:

  • July, 31 vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: 4.0 innings, 0 ER, 1 hit, 1 strikeout
  • August 12 vs. San Diego Padres: 4.2 innings, 0 ER, 3 hits, 8 strikeouts
  • August 18 vs. Seattle Mariners: 6.0 innings, 0 ER, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts

So while it’s a small sample size in terms of innings pitched, you can’t ignore the overall quality of Gonsolin’s outings. He’s certainly earned the right to pitch every fifth day.

As it stands, Gonsolin will continue to serve the Dodgers as a spot starter. The club always seems to have an embarrassment of depth for their starting staff, which includes Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, and Dustin May. The Dodgers have consistently favored veterans like Wood and Stripling, despite their struggles on the mound, and that hurts Gonsolin’s chances of being in the rotation full-time.

In 2019, Gonsolin also impressed both as a starter and in the bullpen making six starts and five relief appearances totaling 40 innings with an ERA of 2.93 while striking out 37 batters. His ERA+ of 143 was 43 points above the league average. Gonsolins value should be of no surprise to the front office or the fans.

Leaving Gonsolin in the rotation, the starters should line up like this: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urías, and Gonsolin. Despite missing Opening Day due to a stiff back, Kershaw has proven he’s still the ace and leader of this staff. Overall, Kershaw has a 3-1 record, a 2.25 ERA, 29 strikeouts, and an impressive 0.79 WHIP. His only bad start was against the San Francisco Giants in which he went 4.1 innings while giving up four earned runs. He then bounced back and carved up the Los Angeles Angels, throwing seven shutout innings with six strikeouts.

Coming into this season, many thought Walker Buehler was going to be the ace of the Dodgers rotation, but so far, he’s been off to a slow start. His four outings haven’t been as impressive as Kershaw’s with an overall ERA of 4.32 in 25 innings pitched and 28 strikeouts. Despite having such a high ERA, his only terrible start was against the Angels in which he went 4.2 innings, giving up six hits along with four earned-runs. His other two starts against the Giants and Padres were much better where Buehler went a combined 10.2 innings, giving up four hits, five earned runs with combined-nine strikeouts. So despite the shaky start that Buehler has had, fans shouldn’t be too concerned just yet and trust that he’ll be ready to go come playoff time.

Despite only pitching for parts of two seasons, Dustin May has already caught the eye of many. First of all, it’s hard to miss his long, curly, fiery red hair, but his performance on the mound is what’s really eye-catching. His future is undoubtedly bright, and despite being mostly used out of the bullpen when he first came up (3.63 ERA in 14 games pitched, three starts and 32 strikeouts), he is molding into a can’t-miss starting pitcher in 2020. In his six starts this season, he has a 2.79 ERA in 29 innings to go along with 20 strikeouts. He also has an ERA+ of 145, which is 45 points over league average.

Julio Urías should fall right behind May in the rotation. However, Urías is the most concerning one. For whatever reason, the young lefty seems to always struggle in the first inning. Combining his first four starts this year, Urías has an ERA of 6.75, surrendered six hits, and two home runs just in the first inning alone. Not to mention opponents are hitting .333 with a .400 OBP and .667 SLG in the opening frame against Urías. If Urías could begin the game in the second inning or later, his numbers would be a lot different. From the second inning on, he’s been as advertised with an ERA of 0.00 in the 2nd, 5th, 6th, and 7th with a combined 14 hits allowed and 12 strikeouts. In innings 1-3 this season, his ERA is at 3.95 while surrendering 15 hits. In innings 4-9, his numbers are much more improved with an ERA of 1.00 while only giving up 7 hits. Should he improve on his first-inning numbers, he should fit right into the starting rotation with the others and dominating as he should be.

Last but not least is the aforementioned Cat Man himself. With 12 strikeouts this season, he’s held batters to a .125 batting average. Of course, this is a small sample size, but given the 60-game season, all pitchers have to look at are small sample sizes. Sending him to the alternative site after pitching as he did on Tuesday, could have repercussions that the Dodgers are hoping to avoid, like his confidence. However, should Gonsolin be called up again, perform like he did in the previous games, and Wood/Stripling continue to struggle, then Gonsolin certainly forces the Dodgers’ hand to leave him in the rotation.

Jacob Cisneros is a writer for Dodgers-LowDown. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @_JacobCisneros.