If two months ago you were shown a stat line that featured an 8-0 record, 1.42 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 296 ERA+ and 4.5 hits per nine innings and were asked to predict which Dodgers pitcher would have those numbers come mid-June, Los Angeles fans would’ve guessed Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler or Julio Urías.
Instead, it’s Tony Gonsolin! Though his success up until this point has largely been deemed shocking, the writing was always on the wall. The right-hander took home Baseball America’s Rookie of the Year award in 2020 and began his big-league career with a 2.60 ERA in his first 20 games (86.6 innings).
Last year felt like a step back for Gonsolin, but he still wasn’t bad. A 3.23 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.35 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 55.2 innings (15 total games) while dealing with injuries is nothing to sneeze at.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying this version of Gonsolin is the absolute best Dodgers fans have seen, and there’s perhaps an evident reason why. Earlier this year, we talked about how Gonsolin is missing bats and limiting soft contact, which has been integral to his success.
But why has that been happening? Because he’s made an adjustment with his arsenal that’s vastly different from his first 35 MLB games that spanned from 2019-2021.
Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin made key change to elevate his status in MLB
All it takes is a quick peek at Gonsolin’s FanGraphs page to understand what’s been going on. It’s also been clear during his starts that his pitch usage has changed.
- 2019 – Fastball (48.3%), Slider (16.9%), Curveball (10.1%) and Split-Finger (24.7%)
- 2020 – Fastball (47.5%), Slider (16.7%), Curveball (6%) and Split-Finger (29.8%)
- 2021 – Fastball (43.6%), Slider (25.9%), Curveball (8.8%) and Split-Finger (21.7%)
- 2022 – Fastball (37%), Slider (22.3%), Curveball (13.4%) and Split-Finger (27.3%)
Since 2020, he’s also lost nearly 2 MPH on his fastball and split-finger, so it’s understandable why he’d be throwing the fastball less and increasing/maintaining his splitter usage, since those pitches are 10 MPH apart.
This time, the surface-level metrics are aligning with his Statcast metrics, which means we’re seeing it all come together. Last year, he was among the league’s worst in walk percentage and chase rate, but this time around, he’s improved those numbers dramatically. Everything else outside of fastball velocity? Above average.
The Dodgers tweaking Gonsolin’s arsenal has now made him one of the best in the sport and has allowed the team to absorb the losses of Kershaw and Buehler in the early going.