After an often dominant first season in which he led the major leagues in wins, Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez finished third in the National League Cy Young voting behind winner R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, the first knuckleball pitcher to ever win the award. Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw edged Gonzalez for second place.
Gonzalez received one first-place votes, which came from Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Dickey won in a landslide, claiming 27 of the 32 first-place votes. Gonzalez received 12 second-place votes and finished behind Kershaw by only three points. Gonzalez appeared on 31 of the 32 ballots, with only Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch leaving him off.
In his first season in Washington, Gonzalez validated General Manager Mike Rizzo’s decision to ship four minor leaguers to the Oakland Athletics to acquire him. Gonzalez arrived at spring training intent, he said, on simply fitting in. His outsize smile, constant playful chatter and wicked stuff ensured he would do far more than fit in.
Gonzalez, 27, mesmerized hitters with his hard, late-breaking curveball and overwhelmed them with a darting, low-90s fastball. While leading the Nationals to the NL East title and becoming their de facto ace after the shut down of Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez led the majors with 21 wins and posted a 2.89 ERA over 199 1/3 innings. He struck out 207 hitters, good for an NL-best 9.3 per nine innings, and opponents batted a scant .206 against him.
“It’s been great,” Gonzalez said during an interview on MLB Network, sitting in his favorite pizza place in his beloved hometown of Hialeah, Fla. “What Rizzo did for me and what the Lerner family did for me, giving me a chance to play for a different team and a different city, it was unbelievable. It’s been a beautiful year.”
Gonzalez may have fallen short, ultimately, because of his innings count. While he was every bit as dominating as Dickey and Kershaw in the time he pitched, he threw at least 25 fewer innings than the other finalists. Gonzalez also walked more hitters than both despite the innings disparity. He threw two complete games, including the first shutout of his career, but he also pitched less than six innings in seven of 32 starts.
While Gonzalez did not claim the trophy, his third-place finish continues an impressive showing for the Nationals in award season. Bryce Harper won rookie of the year and Davey Johnson was named manager of the year. In addition to the major awards, Adam LaRoche won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove and Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg both won Silver Sluggers.
Gonzalez will have more opportunities to contend for the Cy Young in Washington. Shortly after trading for him, the Nationals signed him to a five-year contract extension with two team option years. Gonzalez, slotted in a rotation between Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, is part of the Nationals’ bedrock.
Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price won the American League award, wresting the title away from 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander in the tightest vote in the honor’s history aside from a tie in 1969.