It's been a bit of a strange season for Gio Gonzalez.
When Gonzalez has been good, he's been really, really good. See: last night's one-hit shutout of the Mets in a 9-0 Nationals win. That was dominance, and it sure looked for a while there like Gonzalez had a legitimate shot at a no-hitter the way he was throwing.
But on the rare occasion when Gonzalez has struggled this season, he's really struggled.
The left-hander has allowed more than four earned runs in a start five times this season. Nothing all that shocking there, in and of itself. But those five outings have been ones Gonzalez would like to have deleted from his memory bank.
He allowed seven runs on 10 hits over just 3 1/3 innings in a loss to the Royals a few weeks ago. Four outings prior to that, Gonzalez again went just 3 1/3 frames, allowing 10 runs on 11 hits in a Tigers rout.
Back in April, there was a funky four-start stretch where Gonzalez got hit hard in three outings, but dominated in the other. He held the Reds to just one run on one hit over eight innings in an April 25 win, but sandwiched around that performance, he allowed 17 runs and 12 walks in 13 innings during starts at home against the Braves, at the Mets and in Atlanta.
Add it all up, and Gonzalez is left with a 3.31 ERA on the season, despite really pitching well for a large portion of the year.
Gonzalez's consistency was a large reason why he finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season. He allowed more than four earned runs in just one of his 32 starts, and even that one blip wasn't a disaster, merely a shaky outing against the Mets where he allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Things have been more volatile for Gonzalez this season. He's had trouble finding his arm slot at times, leading to control issues and a sense of frustration while on the mound. He's allowed nearly twice as many home runs as he did last season (16 this year in 176 2/3 innings, compared to nine in 199 1/3 innings in 2012), and his walks per nine innings have risen while his strikeouts per nine have dropped.
None of this is to say that Gonzalez isn't having a solid year. During a 15-start stretch starting in May and going up until that 10-run disaster in Detroit on July 31, Gonzalez posted a 2.20 ERA and held opponents to a .211 batting average and .611 OPS.
Even since that stretch, Gonzalez has had a couple of gems - he held the Marlins to three hits over seven scoreless innings three starts ago, and last night was totally on his game.
The lefty certainly isn't the first pitcher to drop off a little after finishing in the top three in Cy Young voting the year before, but the lack of consistency has been a bit of an issue for Gonzalez this year. And it's why, despite a handful of tremendous outings, he won't find himself back in the Cy Young discussion this time around.