Since being recalled by the Cardinals on August 29th for a start in the double-header against the Cubs on the 30th, 22-year-old rookie Marco Gonzales has been simply fantastic. Of course, the win statistic means very little, especially when talking about a present relief pitcher, but in 12 appearances since his return (including five in the postseason), Gonzales has found himself in the "win column" on six occasions (6-0 record). To take it one step further, the Cardinals notched victories in nine of the 12 games in which he made an appearance. For a much more useful statistic, let's turn to Drew Silva of Hardball Talk:
Marco Gonzales, 22, has a 1.76 ERA over his last 30 2/3 innings.— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) October 14, 2014
Recording a 1.76 ERA over his last 30 and 2/3 innings (13 appearances) is fantastic, especially considering what we saw from Gonzales in his first two big league starts (2 GS, 9.1 IP, 9.64 ERA). Roughly one month ago, I dissected PITCHF/x data from BrooksBaseball.net and incorporated GIFs (thanks @mstreeter06) to show just how good the changeup has been for Gonzales since his arrival to the big leagues. Well, while keeping sample sizes in consideration, it appears as if Gonzales has developed another weapon, a dagger if you will, especially against left-handed hitters.
Given Marco's limited time in the big leagues, the sample sizes on BrooksBaseball are minuscule, but representative of a trend nonetheless. As you can see in the graph above, versus left-handed batters, we saw a spike in slider usage in September (28%) that has, for the most part, been maintained in October as well (24%). Versus right-handed batters, Gonzales has thrown the slider considerably less (4.28%), but with time to fine-tune it over the offseason, I see this percentage increasing as early as next season, especially if he sees time in the starting rotation. Outside of Adam Wainwright (who seems to focus on a new pitch each season), the incorporation of an effective slider leaves Gonzales with the deepest repertoire on the team: 1) fourseam fastball, 2) twoseam fastball/sinker, 3) changeup, 4) curveball, and 5) slider.
Last night, after setting Gregor Blanco up with three consecutive sliders off the plate away (with an average velocity of 85.9 MPH), Gonzales painted the corner beautifully with this 92 MPH fastball for the backwards K:
Also, when asked about his postseason success, Gonzales responded, "I think that I'm back to my normal self. I think I was trying to do a little too much in my first stint up. People have asked me what's different. I think I'm just normal. I think this is who I truly am as a pitcher. Hopefully I can keep it going."
In the poll included in my last post on Gonzales, exactly 50% of voters believed that Gonzales would be a 1, 2, or 3 starter for the Cardinals in the future. 45% stated that he would be a 4 or 5 starter. 1% believed he would keep his current role as a reliever, and finally, the remaining 4% thought he would be traded. Knowing what we know now, one month later, what do you think the future holds for Marco Gonzales? Both next year and also five years from now. Please include your thoughts in the comments section.