(Don’t you hate it when a pro writer totally scoops your blog post, and you find out 5 minutes before you go to post it? Tom Boswell wrote on this exact topic in today’s Washington Post).
James Wagner of the The Washington Post touched on it in a 3/13/13 article, but I’ll repeat it here; we’re seeing both Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler compete, and compete well, for Team USA right now. Gonzalez threw 5 scoreless innings in the Round 2 opener against a tough Puerto Rico side, and Detwiler finished up the do-or-die win against surprising Italy by throwing 4 innings of 1 hit ball and earning the save (and the game ball; what a fantastic souvenir).
Now, I’m on record stating that having our pitchers (specifically) in the WBC is bad, both anecdotally from past experiences and statistically (see the linked post for statistical studies showing across-the-board regression among WBC pitchers). However I wonder if there’s an upside to having (specifically) Gonzalez pitching in this competition. I wonder if we aren’t getting some free “seasoning” of Gonzalez by exposing him to the same playoff atmosphere that he failed in last off-season.
Gonzalez may not have factored into either decision in last year’s NLDS, but nobody would argue that he pitched well. In two starts he only lasted 10 total innings, had 11 walks, a 1.70 whip and was just wild. 110 pitches to get through 5ip in game 1, 99 in game5. Cardinals players were quoted as saying he “looked scared” on the mound. Is it all because it was his first time in the limelight? Did the pressure get to him?
Well, the pressure didn’t get to him against Puerto Rico. If Gonzalez has “grown up” a bit because of the WBC and can go back to being the Ace/Cy Young candidate in 2013’s playoffs, the Nats will be far better positioned to advance.