Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tom Gorzelanny is a Gobot

Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron asks the question that has confounded us literally for hours, several hours -- "What is Tom Gorzelanny?" Gorzelanny's been a strikeout guy, kind of, but at other times hasn't been; he's had abysmal control at times, then it's been okay other times; he's been a gopherball guy, except when he hasn't; he's had okay ERAs with bad peripherals, and then he's had bad ERAs with okay peripherals. It's confounding! The answer's out there, one supposes, and maybe it's in Cameron's face, but he can't grab it -- "He’s one of the most confusing pitchers in the game."

So what is Gorzelanny? Well, on a somewhat less analytical level, he's a Gobot.

The Gobots, of course, were similar to the Transformers, but not nearly as cool. Gobots were rather clunky and blocky, and their individual names tended not to capture the imagination. The Gobot modeled after a tank, for instance, was named "Tank." Gofigure. When they went off the reservation a little bit and tried to be creative, the results were even worse. The name of the dump truck was "Dumper," which seems apt.

Yet, while they most definitely were not the Transformers (and thus never earned the distinction of Michael Bay's muse), the Gobots were a serviceable toy. The Gobots could play, especially for the family on a budget.

The Transformers of the pitching realm this offseason were Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, and Matt Garza. Garza might be stretching the analogy a touch, but generally speaking, these three belong in the class of pitchers you keep around for quite awhile. You use them regularly with confidence, you display them prominently, and you really don't want to imagine losing them. The Nationals were in on all these guys, at least in theory, but they were never really in the catbird seat on any of them (albeit for different reasons).

So the Nats downshifted yesterday and got Gorzo, a Gobot. He'll fit in decently, unless he breaks down, but in any event he probably won't be around for a very long time because he doesn't figure to be very important to the Nats' long-term interests, win or lose. So they'll use Gorzo for awhile, and maybe the results will be pleasant -- knowing all the while that he's being acquired with discarding him in mind, just like a Gobot.

The biggest key to understanding the Gorzelanny trade, in my view, is in accepting that a Gobot is a fine thing to have. It's not a great thing to have, like a Transformer, but it's fine nonetheless. If you're expecting a "No. 1 starter," then the trade for Gorzelanny leaves a sour taste, but he's appreciably better than the guy who would have been the last pitcher on the pitching staff prior to yesterday. His presence improves the situation, if modestly. And the Nats can use all the improvements they can manage to squirrel up.

The second biggest key to understanding the Gorzelanny trade is knowing what the Nats gave up to get him. This does give me some pause -- not really in the case of Michael Burgess, but perhaps in the case of A.J. Cole. John Sickels rates Cole as a Grade B prospect, and Sickels is known as a tough grader. But Cole has a long way to climb until he's in a position to make any kind of impact, and bad stuff can happen to a pitcher in that time. This is not to suggest that such bad stuff would happen to Cole (whether a Nat or a Cub), but the posture of this trade as it stands right now is that the Nats have surrendered two projects and a filler.

EDIT: Well, crap. That should be A.J. Morris, not A.J. Cole. Whoops. Thanks, Steven. I suppose I do have a dim view on pitching prospects, since I was okay parting with Cole. But as you can tell, I don't really follow the Nats minor leaguers all that carefully anymore -- if I ever really did. Okay, back to the post . . .

It is fashionable in this narrow niche known as Nats fandom to state that the Nats already have many, many fourth- or fifth-starter types, and that perception is correct. And at some point the Nats will have to see what they have in Detwiler and Maya. But the Gorzelanny trade gives the Nats an acceptable alternative to those guys, or alternatively, some time to season them a little more. Gorzelanny is insurance should Wang face yet another setback, or if Livan turns back into a pumpkin, or if Lannan goes through another one of his punching bag spells. In other words, Gorzelanny is Scott Olsen except with the potential for sustained competence. He's not the difference between being bad and contending, of course, but he might help late July or August or September be a little less dismal. That would be worth whatever he'll be making in 2011, and the front office guys were willing to risk that it was worth what they gave up to get him.

The alternative was to overpay on Carl Pavano, who, to extend the analogy, is a Micro Machine. He's relatively cool, and he comes with some flashy (or cheesy) packaging, but in the end you're probably left to ask, "What the hell was that?"


  • Morris, not Cole. If it was Cole, it would be a disaster.

    By Blogger Steven, at 1/18/2011 9:07 AM  

  • AJ Morris appears to be a right-handed reliever, at best, if he makes the majors. I typically am OK when teams move "prospect" bullpen arms

    Gorzelanny will give the Nats a couple of years of service, ideally as a SP but at worst as a RP. I think it's a solid move to make the deal given the pieces

    By Blogger Brian, at 1/18/2011 9:10 AM  

  • Please tell me you aren't the one who edited the Gobots wikipedia page to include you in the Cultural References section...

    By Blogger test, at 1/18/2011 1:24 PM  

  • Nope -- never edited a Wikipedia entry in my life. And considering I confused A.J. Morris with A.J. Cole, I'd rather the post not get too much more attention. I do find solace in the fact that everybody assumes Chris wrote this ....

    By Blogger Basil, at 1/18/2011 2:26 PM  

  • I always thought "Cy-Kill" was a really cool name. "Megatron" is nice and imposing but it could be a hero or a villain. "Cy-Kill" was rolling down a one way street when he was born/made.

    Carl Pavano is not a Micro Machine - he was the building robot from the movie "Big". Deceptively terrible ("I don't get it. Who wants to play with a building?") and probably expensive.

    By Blogger Harper, at 1/18/2011 4:46 PM  

  • I kind of like the move. If nothing else, at least we have a hell of a lot better idea of where our rotation stands than we did last pre-season.

    By Blogger Rob B, at 1/18/2011 7:26 PM  

  • There are so many mixed metaphors, similes, comparisions to characters I've never heard of, and stuff that just plain gives me a headache in this analysis. All I want to know is this:

    Is Gorzy going to have a longer career than Brian "Shoulder Pop" Lawrence?

    By Anonymous Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me, at 1/19/2011 9:33 PM  

  • Sorry, Carps. To use terms with which you'd be familiar, the Transformers are 1967 Orlando Cepeda. The Gobots are 1971 Joe Hague.

    By Blogger Basil, at 1/20/2011 7:48 AM  

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