On the way to Best Buy this afternoon to replace the TV that I smashed Sunday night, I started thinking: What would be more ego-annihilating than a future Hall-of-Famer surrendering a bases loaded walk to a 47-year-old pitcher who resembles Creed from “The Office”, followed by a grand slam and a two-run moon shot, all in a huge nationally televised game against his team’s severely hated rival? Well, nothing, really.
However, a distant second would be a former 14-game winner, who was once favorably compared to Tom Glavine, receiving a demotion to the Minors in consecutive seasons by a team that averaged fewer than 65 wins during those seasons with a combined ERA of 4.96 among its starters. Oh, and then he’s rendered a thrown-in with a middle reliever in a mid-season trade that netted his team virtually nothing in return.
Well if you managed to follow all that, that’s precisely how the Pirates handled young southpaw Tom Gorzelanny in the years following his breakout campaign of 2007. And now, Gorzelanny is making everyone else pay on a revenge tour around the National League.
In ’07, a 24-year-old Gorzelanny turned heads all around the league by going 14-10 on a 68-win team, sporting a 3.88 ERA and even making the MLB.com Final Votefan ballot for the All-Star Game. However, after experiencing some ambiguous shoulder trouble, he (understandably) struggled during the first half of ’08. Now, with all the success the Pirates have had over the past two decades, you can understand them having a win-now mentality and keeping a short leash with talented young players …or something. That’s presumably why they sent Gorzelanny down to Triple-A in July of ’08, then again to begin ’09 and for a third time later that June. All he did during those Triple-A stints was dominate the competition, compiling a stellar 2.36 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with a 118/34 K/BB ratio over 122 innings. Yet, this wasn’t good enough for the Pirates.
After being dealt to the Cubs along with John Grabow on July 31, 2009 for starter Kevin Hart and Minor Leaguers Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison, Chicago rationally decided to give Gorzelanny another chance to start in the bigs. Outside of two rough shellackings that inflated his ERA, Gorzelanny looked like his old self, allowing two runs or fewer in his other five starts. The Cubs continued to show faith by making him their fifth starter heading into 2010, and he’s delivered.
After Sunday’s impressive 10-strikeout performance against the D-backs, the now 28-year-old pitcher has a 2.48 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, with a 27/10 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in all five of his starts, striking out at least seven in three of them while holding opponents to a .208 batting average. If you can digest all these numbers and confusing pronouns, you’ll see that Gorzelanny now appears to be basically the same hyped-up guy from 2007 who was one of the top pitchers in the NL. And while the impressive strikeout-rate many not last, he should continue to be a solid fantasy starter in mixed leagues.