Why the A’s might win the Gio Gonzalez trade this year

As part of the Gio Gonzalez trade this offseason, the A's picked up several high upside prospects from the Nationals. The player who perhaps most flies under the radar, however, is our recently named 3rd starter, Tom Milone. The more video I watch of him, and the more I study his stats, I think he has the potential for a successful MLB career, and to be better in 2012 than Gio Gonzalez.

First, one cool thing about Tom Milone is what he did in his first MLB AB. Here is the video and MLB.com writeup in case you haven't seen it:

Milone homers on first pitch he sees in Majors

While he won't be doing a lot of that with the A's, what he will be doing is throwing strikes. Detailed 2011 statistics for him can be found at minorleaguecentral.com, a great website akin to StatCorner for MiLB data. Here are some of the usual suspects (component FIP statistics):

K% 26.4 (lgavg 19.7)

BB% 2.7 (lgavg 8.5)

HR/9 0.55 (lgavg 0.87)

These numbers, when calculated, give him a 2.24 FIP in 148.3 IP for Syracuse He also throws nearly exactly 2-to-1 (68%, to be precise) of his pitches for strikes.

Contrast this with Gio Gonzalez's component FIP statistics:

K% 22.8 (lgavg 18.6)

BB% 10.5 (lgavg 8.1)

HR/9 0.76 (lgavg 0.94)

This led to Gio having a 4.12 FIP in 202.0 IP for the A's in 2011. Gio had about 59.8% of his pitches go for strikes.

Of course, the main difference between these two pitchers (aside from about 5MPH on their average fastball), is their major league experience. Gio has 535.1 MLB IP to MIlone's 26. That said, Gio also faced AL West opponents for 10 starts (11 starts if his interleague start against the Giants is included) and now moves to the NL East, where he faces offenses that are better (at least, less inept) than AL West offenses, as a whole. Milone, however, moves from one relatively-pitcher friendly league to a pitcher-friendly division, where he is also bound to make ~10 starts against one poor offense (Mariners), one average offense (Angels), and one high-powered offense (Texas).

Luckily, ZiPS (the most readily available projection system) has gone through the hard work of taking all that into account, coming up with a 2012 FIP of 3.65 for Gio and 3.45 for Milone. Unfortunately, what ZiPS also predicted was 195.1 IP for Gio and 159 IP for Milone.

Granted, Milone has now become an Oakland A, where injuries collect like dust bunnies behind the refrigerator. But, if we say he makes 30+ starts, he could easily move to also throwing 195 innings of 3.45 FIP baseball, which would rival Gio's lesser FIP in the same amount of innings, which some innings to spare.

In addition, here are the HR park factors for Nationals' Park and the O.co, via StatCorner (LHB/RHB):

O.co: 89/80

Nationals' Park: 94/100

Nationals' Park clearly has a more favorable profile for batters from both sides of the plate. Gio is moving here, whereas Milone is moving to the O.co, one of the most notorious pitchers' parks in all of baseball.

Again, of course, none of this is to say that it's a lock that Milone will outperform Gio. Indeed, Gio may have finally turned that corner with his control that allows him to elevate his game to higher levels. And Milone might not transition well between leagues, might find out about an injury while opening a bottle of shampoo, or dive into a pool against his team's wishes. But, with Cole, Peacock, and Norris waiting in the wings as well, it's easy to see how this trade might benefit the A's now and for years to come.

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