The Dodgers Believe in Tony Gonsolin

With Ross Stripling out of the equation, Gonsolin is getting a shot.

Ross Stripling is gone. After a less than spectacular start to the 2020 season, Stripling has been shipped to the Blue Jays to join former Dodger starter Hyun-Jin Ryu as they try to make a playoff run. Stripling had been barely clinging onto his spot in the rotation as Tony Gonsolin emerged as a legitimate rotation option with Walker Buehler and Alex Wood currently on the IL. To this point Gonsolin has dominated hitters, striking out 26.2% of them and walking only 7.7%. He has certainly earned himself a chance in the rotation, and the trade of Stripling is a sign that the Dodgers believe in their depth to get them through the month of September.

Dodgers Starters, 2020

Above is a chart of SP options the Dodgers have moving forward following the trade deadline. They were in talks with the Rangers about acquiring Lance Lynn, but the two teams could not come to an agreement. If the Dodgers front office felt that they were truly in need of rotation depth I believe a deal would have been made. I am a little surprised they did not end up trading for Mike Clevinger considering the package the Padres sent to Cleveland for him. Regardless, at some point later this year they will be able to throw Kershaw – Buehler – May on back to back days. That is one of the better 1-2-3 punches in the league, and that is before you include Julio Urias. Realistically, there is one rotation spot open when the Dodgers are fully healthy, and the most likely candidates for that spot now are Gonsolin and Wood. Should the Dodgers choose to run a six-man rotation to rest their big three before a playoff push this debate would be a little less necessary.

It is a little strange to see a team with a .722 winning percentage trade away from their depth for a piece that will not make an immediate impact, but perhaps the Dodgers think they are so far ahead of the pack that adding another proven starter to the mix was unnecessary. It is a little less strange when you consider the replacement for Stripling is a young arm with a 0.50 ERA and no home runs given up in 2020. Tony Gonsolin is that young arm if you had not already guessed or found his name in the table above.

On the surface, Gonsolin looks like an excellent regression candidate. As previously stated, he has not given up a home run in the 17 innings he has pitched in 2020. There are only six starters this season with more than 15 IP that have given up no home runs (Spencer Turnbull, Corbin Burnes, Brad Keller, Steven Brault, Max Fried, and Tony Gonsolin). This is especially strange considering Baseball Savant’s batted ball data considers Gonsolin a fly-ball pitcher. However, he has been incredibly efficient in terms of locating the ball and keeping hitters from barreling the ball. He lives on the corners of the strike zone with 43.6% of his pitches being placed there (league average is 39%). His ability to locate his pitches exceptionally well has led hitters to barrel only 2% of the pitches he throws, which is 5% lower than league average. He has kept the ball in the ballpark so far, but it would not be surprising to see a team unload on him.

The question you might be wondering is why I am portraying Gonsolin as a regression candidate when the article is about how we should believe in him. I believe his performance is legit and he can stick in the rotation moving forward because the Dodgers believe in him enough to not trade for a starter after dealing away Stripling. While inconsistent this season, Ross Stripling has given up a career-high 25.5% HR/FB rate which is well above his career average of 15.9%. HR/FB is somewhat like BABIP in that it can paint a picture of if a pitcher has seen an unexpected number of fly balls turn into home runs. There is certainly something wrong with Stripling, but the Dodgers are one of the best teams at developing players in the league. They could have chosen to try and fix Stripling while giving Gonsolin a shot as a regular in the rotation, but instead, they chose to move forward with their depth.

The Dodgers have one of the largest and forward-thinking front offices in the game. They have some of the brightest minds in the game shaping the organization and their actions (or lack of actions) at the trade deadline indicate to me that they are not concerned. The Padres made significant improvements to their team by acquiring essentially every player available at the deadline. This could have been concerning to the Dodgers, but even Fangraphs has the Dodgers odds to win the World Series odds at 17.8% following the deadline. The Padres moved into the second position in that race at 9.0%, which is almost half of the Dodgers odds. Tony Gonsolin is just a representation of how the Dodgers feel about their entire team moving forward. They felt content with their roster and I think it is pretty safe to trust one of the smartest organizations in the game.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Joseph Garino

Joseph graduated from Marquette University in 2021 with a degree in Analytics and Economics. He's been an Angels fan since the days of Vlad Sr. and is looking to present complex analytical concepts in a digestible manner.

4 responses to “The Dodgers Believe in Tony Gonsolin”

  1. theKraken says:

    I don’t trust the Dodgers to believe in any SP until they do so. They make a lot of bad decisions with the abundance of talent that they always have. This is not a smart org at the MLB level – they end up playing themselves out of a WS every year because their decisions blow up on them down the stretch. Having good players doesn’t make you smart. They lead the league in talented bodies. I would say that they get little out of their SP and they are always hurt. I would say their bullpen is always a dumpster fire outside of Kenley. I would say that they make some weird decisions on defense. I would say that they are particularly bad around the trade deadline. Commitment to guys like Joe Kelly, creating uncertainty around Kenley Jansen, all thier SP end up injured, Bellinger in CF for the playoffs… they start utility players all over the place etc. They are not smart at all at the big league level but they are the best at the organizational development. Crazy to think that they gave away Yordan Alvarez. Not faulting them but that would be a crazy addition to their talent pool.. but that is what they are always working with. They do less with more than most teams. I believe that if they just trusted players instead of the weird micromanaging they employ they would have a few rings. Will they let Gonsolin succeed? II can’t say but I knid of doubt it. LAD is one of the franchises run from a bunch of people not in the dugout and those folks are pretty determined to destroy the traditional role of a starting pitcher. That works against him a lot. He was always a good pitching prospect and this opportunity is overdue. You don’t know how the people making decisions from spreadsheets will affect his value. I doubt they let him pitch.

    • Bruce says:

      Real. The front office gets way too much credit. Look at how much money they’re spending per win, they’re always near the bottom of the league. They blow it in the playoffs every year because the front office/analytics guys tell them to never pitch through the lineup a 3rd time, even if the starter has his best stuff that day.

      • Joseph Garino says:

        Every team big market team is spending more $/Win because the numerator in that problem has such a high variance between teams and Wins/WAR will be accumulated just from playing the game. It is a terrible measure of how well a team’s front office is performing.

    • Joseph Garino says:

      ” I would say that they get little out of their SP”
      – Between 2017 and 2020, Dodgers SP have the lowest ERA in MLB. They are also 5th in fWAR over that same time period.

      “I would say their bullpen is always a dumpster fire outside of Kenley”
      – Between 2017 and 2020, Dodgers RP have the 5th lowest ERA in MLB. They are also 3rd in fWAR over that same time period.

      ” I would say that they make some weird decisions on defense.”
      – Between 2017 and 2020, Dodgers fielders have accumulated the 3rd most DRS in MLB. They have also accumulated the 6th most UZR over that same time period.”

      “Bellinger in CF for the playoffs”
      – Between 2017 and 2020, Cody Bellinger prevented 5 runs in CF and was 6 Outs Above Average according to Baseball Savant.

      You are entitled to have feelings about things, but hopefully, after seeing the math behind their decision making you will have a better understanding of why the Dodgers are really good at what they do. Also, rings are a poor measure of team/front office success in Baseball.

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