Ask Washington Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez what he thinks about the recent buzz surrounding his candidacy for the National League Cy Young Award and the question is likely to be brushed aside.
“I want to continue to win for this team, continue to stay healthy and strong, keep battling and get some more wins for them,” Gonzalez said. “We are playing such great baseball. I think it’s selfish of me to think [about] myself.”
Those were his words last Wednesday after tossing seven shutout innings in the Nationals’ 9-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. But humble as he may be, Gonzalez surely has thoughts of the NL Cy Young Award creeping into the corners of his mind at this point, especially after continually being asked about it.
In beating the New York Mets last night by a score of 5-1, Gonzalez became the first Major League pitcher to win 19 games this year. And though his efforts last night may not have been Cy Young-esque – tossing a total of 104 pitches through six innings and tying a season-high with five walks – Gonzalez battled the Mets and allowed just a single run on three hits. Still, Gonzalez was unwilling to take credit for the performance.
“No, the team did a great job,” Gonzalez said. “You know, Zuk did a great job, came out there and calmed me down. Same thing went for Desi. You know, each one of these guys were talking me off right here in the dugout just trying to keep my composure down.”
With the win, Gonzalez’s ERA now sits at a very modest 2.93 and he has struck out 191 batters through a total of 181 1/3 innings pitched.
If you happen to be more concerned with advanced statistics, Gonzalez’s numbers fare even better. Prior to last night’s start, his opponents’ batting average (.204) was not only the lowest in the NL but also the lowest in baseball among all qualified pitchers. The same held true for his 2.75 FIP, which is considered by many to be a more accurate measure of a pitcher’s true talent than ERA considering it only accounts for results that a pitcher can control. His WAR? Best in the NL and second only to Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander and Seattle Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez at 4.9.
Basically, what I am getting at is that Gonzalez is compiling quite a season that is definitely worthy of Cy Young consideration. And I am not the only one that considers Gonzalez a favorite for the award. Nationals manager Davey Johnson offered a brief but telling comment when asked whether or not he liked Gonzalez for this year’s NL Cy Young.
“No question,” Johnson said. “No doubt about it.”
But Gonzalez is not without company in the Cy Young talks. One of his biggest competitors for the crown is Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who holds a record of 18-4 with a 2.64 ERA and 195 strikeouts through 198 innings pitched.
What does Johnson think about Dickey?
“I know Dickey gets a lot of attention, but you’re talking about a last-place club,” Johnson said. “It’s a little different when you’re on top and getting all those wins.”
Another top contender is Cincinnati Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto, who has posted a 17-8 record with a 2.71 ERA and 155 strikeouts through 192 2/3 innings pitched.
But apparently, none of that matters to Gonzalez, who maintains that he is only concerned with the success of the team. As if his other quotes had yet to paint him as Mr. Humility, here is what he had to say when asked what a 20th win would mean to him:
“What would 20 mean to this team, you know? I think this is obviously a team effort and I can’t take any of this credit.”
Gio Gonzalez, you are one unwavering son of a gun.
Note: Advanced stats were gathered from Fangraphs.