Tom Gorzelanny Goes to Washington

by Eno Sarris // 

Lefty Tom Gorzelanny is moving again, this time from Chicago to our nation’s capital. Trying to figure out how he’ll fare in his new uniform will require some guesswork, but looking back might help us look forward.

For the past season and a half, Gorzelanny has been a decent pitcher underneath it all – an 8.2 K/9 IP and 4.2 BB/9 IP are good enough to exist on the back end of most fantasy rotations in most parks, even with a groundball rate right at average (40.7%). Looking back at his work in Wrigley Field may help us understand the effects his context may have had on his overall statistics, though, since his overall ERA the last two years has been pretty mediocre (4.47).

In his career, the southpaw has thrown 117 2/3 innings in the Friendly Confines. Those innings have produced a 5.43 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 – worse than his regular work. That’s not too surprising, given the park factors for home runs in the park (119 for lefties and 102 for righties). In both of his ‘resurgent’ seasons, he’s been better on the road than at home. It’s a beautiful park, but he may not miss it.

His new park should treat him better, but we can’t use past numbers to tell us much. He’s only pitched three total innings in the Nats’ new stadium. What we can see is that the home run park factors are much more friendly (94 for lefties and 100 for righties). That doesn’t really tell the whole story – look down the list of right-handed park factors for singles (98), doubles (95), and triples (82) are all pitcher-friendly. In general, the park suppresses right-handed offense by about three percent, while his former park inflated that same offense by three percent.

That swing in context should really work for Gorzelanny, who has been much better against lefties than righties over his career. Against lefties, he’s managed a 8.95 K/9 IP, 3.22 BB/9 IP and a 44.1% groundball rate. Against righties, those numbers drop to 6.05 K/9 IP, 4.38 BB/9 IP and a 41.5% groundball rate.

Gorzelanny is demonstrably better against lefties, and will get some help from the park against righties. It’s true that the Nationals scored 30 fewer runs than the Cubs last year, but in most categories other than wins, this southpaw will enjoy his trip south. He’s a fringe draft pick in mixed leagues, but his possible improvement makes him a decent, if later-round pick, in deeper leagues.

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