It’s early in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ 2022 season, but you have to wonder where would the team be without Tony Gonsolin. In eight games started, Gonsolin has proven to be a valuable asset to the rotation.
So far, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.5 WAR. Gonsolin has gone at least five innings in four consecutive outings and would have won his fourth consecutive game Sunday if not for a blown save in the ninth.
It’s been quite a turnaround for Gonsolin, who had a rough 2021 season plagued by injuries and inconsistent play. Last year, teams hit .202 against Gonsolin with a hard-hit percentage at about 35%. This season Gonsolin has been more effective, with the opposition hitting just .164 against him with a hard-hit percentage of 23.7%. Translation: Gonsolin is inducing less and softer contact, which is leading to better starts.
Gonsolin has kept hitters off the bases, too. In 2021, Gonsolin had a heinous 14.2% walk percentage. So far this year he’s reduced that to 10.5%. He’s been most effective at forcing ground balls, getting grounders 46.9% of the time on batted balls. His home run rate has dipped from 3.4% to 2% as well.
Gonsolin has proven to be tough when things get difficult for him after struggling to do just that last year. In 2021, the opposition was batting .257 with runners in scoring position hitters against him, to go along with an .867 OPS. This year batters, are hitting an anemic .077 and have a .270 OPS with RISP.
How has Gonsolin become a more effective pitcher? According to Statcast, he has used a better arsenal of pitches to get outs.
A year ago, Gonsolin relied way more on his four-seam fastball to get outs. But it wasn’t effective — only 16% of his outs came when he used his four-seam fastball. Additionally, teams hit .298 on Gonsolin’s four-seamer while hitting .119 on his other pitches.
This time around, teams are still tattooing his four-seam fastball (.351 batting average against) but he’s using it less to get outs (4.5% Put Away Percentage). Gonsolin has been way more effective in using his split-finger and slider combination to get hitters out.
Against those two pitches, he’s inducing averages of .127 and .056, respectively. He’s given up just nine hits and one home run while striking out 32 batters with those pitches. By relying less on his four-seamer (he’s throwing it 10% less) and mixing in his other pitches (his curveball usage is also up almost 5%) at a higher rate, Gonsolin has been less predictable, which has made him better.
With a better pitch combo, more consistent play, and (for the moment) good health, Tony Gonsolin has proven to be a surprise for the Dodgers starting staff. If his contributing play continues, he may finally be fulfill the potential the Dodgers thought he always had.