On Friday night, the San Francisco Giants received a first-hand look at Ricky Nolasco—a pitcher who they reportedly have interest in acquiring, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.

Clark Spencer of The Miami Herald also reported that the Giants were interested in Nolasco, in part because of his success at AT&T Park. Spencer wrote:

The Giants are among the handful of teams interested in Nolasco as a possible acquisition target before the July 31 trade deadline, and for reasons that go beyond their need for rotation help. Nolasco has owned AT&T. Nolasco has gone 4-0 with a 0.83 ERA in four lifetime starts at the Giants’ ballpark by the bay.

Nolasco labored through 5.2 innings against the Giants—who were without three regulars in Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford. Nolasco allowed nine hits, two walks and three runs while striking out only one hitter.

It was far from Nolasco‘s best effort in what has otherwise been a solid season for him. Nolasco is only 4-7 through his first 16 starts. His poor record has predominantly been the result of pitching for the worst offense in baseball, as the Miami Marlins are dead last in baseball in runs scored.

The rest of Nolasco‘s numbers are quite solid. He’s put up a 3.68 ERA over 100.1 innings. He’s allowed 95 hits, only 25 walks and just nine home runs. His 3.55 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)—an ERA estimator based on walk, strikeout and home run rates—ranks 39th in the game.

Nolasco doesn’t have overpowering stuff, so he doesn’t miss many bats. He’s struck out 77 hitters this season for a mediocre strikeout rate of 18.5 percent. However, he’s an effective pitcher despite lacking elite stuff because he throws strikes and mixes his pitches well.

According to BrooksBaseball.net, Nolasco threw six different pitches against the Giants. He threw 26 two-seam fastballs, 18 four-seam fastballs, 11 changeups, three splitters, 23 sliders and 21 curveballs. He showed very good command of all four of his off-speed pitches. The slider appeared to be his best offering, though the curveball and changeup were solid as well.

According to  FanGraphs.com, Nolasco‘s slider has been his best pitch this season. It’s been worth a little over seven runs for him thus far.

Nolasco‘s two-seam, sinking fastball was also an effective pitch for him on Friday night. He induced nine ground-ball outs including three against reigning NL MVP Buster Posey. Most of those groundballs appeared to come against Nolasco‘s two-seam fastball. He was also able to steal some strikes by throwing his two-seam fastball on the outside corner to right-handed hitters with sharp movement running to his armside

Nolasco has good command of a deep arsenal, which includes three above-average secondary pitches. However, he profiles as a third starter because he doesn’t have enough juice on the fastball to pitch at the top of a rotation.

His two fastballs averaged around 90 mph against the Giants, and that’s where his velocity has been all season. He just doesn’t have enough speed to blow the ball by hitters.

His strikeout rate currently ranks 56th out of 100 qualified starters. If he had more velocity, he would get more swing-throughs on his fastball, and his off-speed stuff would be tougher to hit because hitters would have to show more respect for the heater. To pitch at the top of a rotation, a starter has to be able to miss more bats than Nolasco does.

The good news is that the Giants already have two front-line starters in Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. As long as those two continue to pitch well, the Giants don’t need an ace. They just need someone to stabilize the rotation, and Nolasco is a perfect fit for that role.

The Giants saw Nolasco struggle through 5.2 innings on Friday night. In the end, he limited the damage even though he was in trouble for most of the night.

If the Giants want an ace at the trading deadline, Nolasco is not their man. If they want a third starter to fortify the middle of the rotation, they should indeed try to acquire Nolasco.


All statistics in this article are courtesy of ESPN.com.

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