Say what you want about the Nationals this season. They have shown throughout the season that they are a deep team, with several players who have greatly contributed to the team's success. The team was even able to net 5 all-stars this season, but in my mind, there is one player who has stood out beyond all the players on the team, and he wasn't even an all-star. That player is Gio Gonzalez.
Gio's reputation throughout his tenure here is that he has had a tendency to get himself into trouble by being erratic at times. He has lead the team in base on balls during his time in DC and that has often lead him to quite a number of high leverage situations. Starting the season out, there were so many of these situations that would occur, that he miraculously got out of, that there were some in the sabmetrics community who believed he was due for a post all-star collapse. Instead of collapsing though, Gio has improved even more by reducing his Walk Rate down to 6.5% which is down from 10.5% pre all-star break, has a post all-star break WHIP of 0.89 and batters are batting .177 against him since the Summer Classic.
Barring a collapse, Gio has a chance to set new career-highs in nearly every standard pitching statistic outside of walks and wins. And this is considering that he lost a number of wins due to the dubious performance of the Nationals' early season bullpen that lost leads in games in which Gio came out of the game with the lead.
When you look at how this season has unfolded, Gio has become the most reliable starter on the staff. Max Scherzer is certainly the best pitcher, without a doubt, but both he and Strasburg have battled injuries and have missed starts as a result. You also have to consider the ups and downs of Tanner Roark this season and of course the season-ending injury to Joe Ross. There hasn't been another starter on the staff that has been as productive as Gio. When you consider health and the consistency of the position players as well, it's hard to find another player on the roster who from beginning to end, who has performed to the level that Gio has on a consistent basis.
If you ask me, Scherzer could certainly be in the running for another Cy Young, Daniel Murphy could absolutely be in consideration once again this year for MVP (and maybe even Ryan Zimmerman or Anthony Rendon), but when we reflect on this season and think about who helped keep this team afloat and was a stabilizing force behind this team's success, my money is on Gio Gonzalez.
Stats: MLB.com, FanGraphs.com