Category Archives: Gio Gonzalez

A number of players quietly putting up big years

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, in the shadow of phenom Stephen Strasburg, is putting up a Cy Young-like season in the early going.

McGILLIGAN: Despite being less than 50 games into the season, there’s no shortage of craziness, stupidity and life-altering occurrences – here’s to you Baltimore Orioles fans – taking place.

Here are a few of less talked about stories:

Resurgence of Adam Dunn

After playing like something even the scrap heap wouldn’t want to be associated with in 2011, Dunn has found his stroke again. He was tied for third in homeruns in Major League Baseball with 12 heading into play Tuesday and sixth in RBI. After a disastrous 2011 where he hit fewer homeruns (11) than millions he was paid by the White Sox (12), Dunn’s future was in doubt. Credit him for turning it around and producing a solid stat line so far this season.

Quiet Cy Young Performance

If you’re talking about a Cy Young candidate on the Washington Nationals, the first name that comes to mind is Stephen Strasburg. The young ace has been nothing short of spectacular for the upstart Nationals. However, Gio Gonzalez has been tremendous in a Washington uniform as well. With a record of 4-1, 1.94 ERA and second in strikeouts in the National League, Gonzalez and Strasburg give the Nationals perhaps the best one-two punch in the league.

Slugger struggles while another emerges

Much like Gonzalez is excelling in the shadow of Strasburg, Edwin Encarnacion is in a similar albeit different position. Until recently, reigning homerun king and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista has struggled to regain his form, however, the team was getting its power hitting from Encarnacion. With 11 homeruns, he’s making people think he’s finally living up to his expectations and helping Jays fan forget about Bautista’s early season swoon.

Grantland’s Derek Jeter diary

Written by Mark Lisanti, this fake journal of Jeter’s innermost thoughts is ridiculous. If it doesn’t make you laugh three of four times out loud then you have no sense of humour. Here’s an excerpt regarding Jered Weaver’s no-hitter: “That’s a fantastic accomplishment for him, even if it carries an asterisk because he did it against the Twins. I don’t agree with the asterisk thing, they’re a major league team, but that’s just the way they officially record it. I always get Jered mixed up with his brother Jeff, who is now probably a surfboard mechanic in Escondido. Who knows? We don’t keep in touch because he lost us the World Series against the Marlins in ’03.”

Bryan LaHair is off to a blazing start for the Chicago Cubs, hitting .356 with an OPS of 1.154 while putting up nine doubles, nine dingers and 20 RBI.

LIVINGSTONE: I was going to write a separate post on Chicago Cubs Bryan LaHair, but I figure he fits well into one of the big surprises of the season less than 50 games in.

LaHair, who was named the starting first baseman for the Cubbies this year after spending much of the last four years in the minor league system – outside of 45 games with the Mariners in 2008 and 20 with the Cubs last season – wasn’t expected to be the machine he has been to start the year.

Lets look at what he’s done so far:

  •  LaHair has more homeruns (eight) than Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, combined (Pujols has ONE and Fielder has FIVE). He also makes $483,000 this year – about the same amount that Fielder will get for those five homeruns he’s hit.
  • Combined, the entire Cubs team has 13 homeruns – LaHair’s eight make up more than 50 per cent of the entire team’s round trippers.

Drafted in 2002 by the Mariners in the 39th round, LaHair has toiled away in the minor leagues, waiting to get his chance to do what he now currently doing – putting up All-Star-like numbers. What makes it more impressive is the fact a superstar in the making in Anthony Rizzo is waiting in the wings to come up and take first base from him. Being able to produce under that kind of pressure –  especially in a city just itching for Rizzo to get called up – is nothing short of remarkable. The way LaHair is playing, and if he keeps it up through the season, it’s going to be tough for the Cubs to move LaHair into the outfield (he can play there, too) to make room for Rizzo.

For a team that sits at the bottom of the Central division (as of Tuesday morning the Cubs are in a three-way tie with the Brewers and Pirates for third – and last – with a 15-20 record) and has little to be excited about so far this season, outside of Starlin Castro (.333, 1 HR, 21 RBI) and pitcher Jeff Samardzija (4-1/2.89 ERA), LaHair is putting on a show for a city dying to see its Cubs compete.

If he can establish himself as one of the premier first basemen in the National League – or outfielder, depending on what the Cubs do with Rizzo – the Cubs could find themselves in the thick of a wild card race sooner rather than later.


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Orioles? that’s a surprise, but so are the A’s

Josh Reddick and the Oakland A’s are, to the surprise of many, one-game over .500 and sit second in the AL West. Can they keep it going with a collective batting average of .218?

LIVINGSTONE: A’s three-hole hitter Josh Reddick is having a bit of a breakout year, his first with the club out of Oakland.

Having spent three years between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Boston Red Sox, filling in post trade in 2009 (Sox shipped Adam LaRoche out of town) and injuries in 2010 and 2011, Reddick is getting his first full season under his belt after being dealt to the west coast team in the off-season (Sox got now injured closer Andrew Bailey and hot-hitting, defensive specialist Ryan Sweeney).

In 149 at-bats this season, Reddick has surpassed his HR total from last season where he hit seven in 278 at-bats. Compared to the eight he’s hit this year in 34 games, Reddick looks to have broken out the power-bat many thought he had tucked away in his arsenal of above-average baseball abilities. Tack on eight doubles, 19 RBI and four stolen bases, Reddick is part of a strong 3-4 duo in the middle of a offensively weak batting line-up (Yeonis Cespedes is the other half of the duo – on the DL at the moment). Well, maybe a trio is forming with the explosive hitting of recently signed Brandon Inge. Inge, who the Detroit Tigers let go earlier in May, has been on a tear as of late (6-for-21, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .286 BA), and could beef up the line-up for the remainder of the season.

While Reddick is one of the minor success stories for the A’s early this season – the fact the team is second in the AL West with an 18-17 record is almost as shocking as the Baltimore Orioles leading the East (ok – not nearly as shocking, but still…). After an off-season fire sale by GM Billy Beane in which the Moneyball man shipped pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey out of town, many wondered how the A’s would compete with teams like Texas and Anaheim (or LA or whatever you call them now).

But the fact remains, they’ve stayed competitive, even with potential ace Dallas Braden on the DL and the team hitting a collective .218 for worst in the league. The A’s rank 28 in OBP (.293), Slugging (.348) and OPS (.641). While the hitting is under-performing to say the least, the pitching has been a positive sign considering the losses the rotation endured in the off-season.

Veteran Bartolo Colon is 3-3 and pitching efficiently and effectively, eating up innings in the process. Tommy Milone is 5-2, a big surprise for the starting rotation that lacks depth – well, in fact, there isn’t any depth at all really. Future ace Brandon McCarthy is 3-3 woith a 2.56 ERA and has been playing great ball all season long. In the bullpen, only Grant Balfour posts an ERA higher than 3.86 (he posts a 4.24) and at least three guys – Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins and Jim Miller – all post ERAs under 2.00 while pitching in at least 10 innings (0.00, 1.69 and 1.93, respectively. Note: Cook has thrown 16.1 innings and has yet to let in a run).

Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Kurt Suzuki? The Answer: three guys that are under-performing. If these three guys can start hitting the ball well – and Coco Crisp can remain healthy – plus, we all remember the A’s signed Manny Ramirez in the off-season. If Manny comes back and hits the ball well, like we know he can, he will provided a much needed offensive injection into the order and make for a strong 3-4-5-6 of the order.

No matter what, the fact the A’s are one-game over .500 and sit second in the West is exciting – but can it last?

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