It’s easy to look at Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales and see two very similar pitchers. But, what comparisons are valid, and where do the two separate?
Both were 21 years old, first round draft, 19th pick draftees. Both had finished their junior year at solid baseball programs. Wacha and Gonzales show an average to slightly above average fastball with the changeup as the go-to pitch. Sounds pretty similar, so far.
Wacha obviously moved quickly through the minor league system, pitching a total of 106 innings. Most of those coming at the AAA level. Gonzales is approaching 100 minor league innings, albeit mostly at the AA level and below. But, it would be an interesting starting point to compare some statistics.
Wacha had an unbelievable WHIP of .906 over his minor league innings, while Gonzales sits at 1.092. The next question to ask is “Why the difference?”
Gonzales tends to give up solid contact at a higher rate than Wacha did. Marco gives up 7.5 hits per 9 innings, while Wacha surrendered a paltry 6.2 hits.
As far as walks, they are both similar, yielding around 2 per 9 innings. Both have excellent command and are stingy with free passes.
So, how do these baserunners fare against Wacha and Gonzales once they are on base? One would think with a major difference in WHIP, we would see a similar difference in ERA. It’s not the case. Wacha finished his minor league career with an ERA of 2.29, while Gonzales is currently at 2.00. Gonzales seems slightly less susceptible to giving up the long ball and both have strikeout rates around 9 per 9 innings.
As far as personalities, neither are overwhelmed by the moment, and both have incredible mound presence. They don’t get rattled and both seem are able to work their way out of trouble situations. Although different in stature both are intimidating figures on the mound.
After the short and not-so-scientific review, Yes, the comparisons are valid in more ways than one. Marco will make his way through the system quickly and should be seeing some starts at AAA within the next two months. I see a path much like Carlos Martinez, Wacha, and most other Cardinals starters. A relief role, possibly as soon as this fall, leading to some spot starts in 2015, and a full-time rotation spot in 2016.