clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Dodger Greats, Then and Now: Tony Gonsolin and Orel Hershiser

Hershiser had a career year in 1988, but Gonsolin made some magic of his own in 2022.

Harry How / Getty Images and Focus on Sport / Getty Images

Hear me out: There’s a lot more going on here than you might first think. (Seeing a trend in these stories?) Tony Gonsolin had an incredible 2022 season despite a late injury, going for a career-high 130 13 innings in the majors—more than double what he’d pitched previously. And Hershiser? He started in 10 more games than Gonsolin in his 1988 season and had quite a few more strikeouts, overall batters faced, and innings pitched as a result, but taking a look at less-discussed stats shows that he and Gonsolin could go toe to toe.

Starting Pitcher: Orel Hershiser vs. Tony Gonsolin

We’re comparing Tony Gonsolin’s 2022, his fourth season in the majors at age 28, with Orel Hershiser’s 1988 season, his sixth at age 29. Hershiser pitched a total of 267 innings even, while Gonsolin hit the aforementioned 130.1.

Hershiser vs. Gonsolin on the Mound

When it comes to basic pitching stats, averages and numbers over nine innings tend to be the best for comparison. Case in point: The ERA of these pitchers is pretty close at 2.14 for Gonsolin and 2.26 for Hershiser.

Hershiser vs. Gonsolin

Rk Name Year Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
Rk Name Year Age W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
1 Orel Hershiser 1988 29 23 8 0.742 2.26 35 34 1 15 8 1 267 208 73 67 18 73 10 178 4 5 6 1068 149 3.18 1.052 7 0.6 2.5 6 2.44
2 Tony Gonsolin 2022 28 16 1 0.941 2.14 24 24 0 0 0 0 130.1 79 32 31 11 35 1 119 4 0 5 498 196 3.28 0.875 5.5 0.8 2.4 8.2 3.4

Gonsolin won 16 of the 17 games in which he was awarded a decision, while Hershiser went 23-8, translating to win-loss percentages of .941 and .742, respectively. Gonsolin also gains the edge on hits and strikeouts per nine innings along with WHIP. Hershiser, meanwhile, crushes it on WAR, with a 7.2 rating compared to Gonsolin’s 4.6.

Both pitchers are fairly even on homers given up per nine innings, where we clock in at 0.6 homers per nine for Hershiser and 0.8 for Gonsolin, and on walks per nine innings, at 2.4 for Gonsolin and 2.5 for Hershiser.

The less-common stats for each of these pitchers are where things get interesting. When it comes to extra bases, Hershiser saw about 25% of hits given up resulting in extra bases. Gonsolin, meanwhile, sits at 42% of hits for extras. Hershiser also has a big edge on win probability added; given the average team, Hershiser adds 6.7 wins to the season, while Gonsolin adds 3.7.

League Leads, Career Highs, and Awards

In addition to his career-high 130 13 innings, Gonsolin had the best ERA (2.14) and win-loss percentage of his career (.941), leading the majors in the latter. Gonsolin was also named to his first All-Star team.

Hershiser had several league leads of his own. He topped the National League in wins (23), innings pitched (267.0), and total batters faced (1,068) and led the majors overall in complete games (15) and shutouts (8). As for awards, there were plenty: like Gonsolin, Hershiser made a trip to the All-Star Game in 1988. He also won the Cy Young and a Gold Glove and finished sixth in MVP voting.

We’d also be remiss to not mention Hershiser’s scoreless innings streak. In 1988, he pitched 59 consecutive scoreless innings to break Don Drysdale’s previous record of 58, though not without some hesitancy.

“I wanted to stop at 58,” he said, according to Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times. “I wanted me and Don to be together at the top. But the higher sources (Lasorda and Perranoski) told me they weren’t taking me out of the game, so I figured, what the heck, I might as well get the guy out.”

But Drysdale took no offense: He was in the broadcast booth for the Dodgers that year and met Hershiser in the dugout almost immediately for an interview.