Tag: Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco Signing Just First Step for Minnesota Twins in Rotation Rebuild

The Minnesota Twins took a step toward improving their miserable starting rotation on Wednesday when they agreed to a deal with free agent Ricky Nolasco.

Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish broke the news first, with Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirming the report:

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports broke the terms of the deal:

Signing Nolasco is a great move by the Twins, as he is coming off an impressive 2013 campaign during which he went 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP.

Nolasco also finished the season strong, going 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP after being traded from the Miami Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After such an impressive showing in 2013, Nolasco was among the top free agents this offseason, ranking eighth among available starting pitchers prior to his signing, according to CBS Sports.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Twins are interested in bolstering their starting rotation after the way they’ve struggled over the past few years.

The Twins have been among the worst three teams in terms of ERA in each of the past three seasons, due in large part to the inefficiency of their starting pitchers.

As you can see from the table above, the Twins have been at or near the bottom of the AL Central for the past three years largely because of their woeful pitching staff.

The 5.26 ERA among starters was the worst in MLB last season—even worse than the Houston Astros. The next-worst ERA by starters was 4.81 by the Toronto Blue Jays, an incredible 0.45 better than that of Minnesota.

In fact, the last time the Twins had a decent pitching staff was in 2010, when Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano led the starting rotation and Jesse Crain and closer Jon Rauch highlighted the bullpen.

Unfortunately, signing Nolasco isn’t nearly enough to save the Twins starting rotation. If the team hopes to have a decent starting five next season, it will need at least two more starters.

To its credit, Minnesota has certainly been sniffing around and checking out the market.

The team has been linked with Bronson Arroyo, but it has yet to make him an offer:

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also connected the team with Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Scott Feldman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and its own Mike Pelfrey.

In addition, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com said the team is interested in Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka but called Tanaka an “extreme long-shot.”

The Twins know they need pitchers and have a long wish list, but is it possible for the worst starting rotation in baseball to turn things around enough to become serviceable in 2014?

As of now, the Twins have Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno as their best starting pitchers alongside Nolasco. Correia and Deduno are both back-end starters who shouldn’t be higher than fourth and fifth in the team’s rotation if it wants to be solid next season.

The team can also hope and pray that Vance Worley returns to his 2011 form, when he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA and finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting for the Philadelphia Phillies. However, it can’t rely too much on a guy who went 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA in 2013.

If the Twins are going to be good, they’re going to have to sign at least two of the pitchers they’re targeting right now.

Minnesota simply doesn’t have the money to sign Santana or Jimenez and pick up another decent free agent this offseason, which limits its choices.

One creative way for the team to bolster its rotation might be to sign former New York Yankee Phil Hughes.

Hughes is coming off a few bad years in a row with the Yankees, but a big reason he has been unsuccessful in New York is his tendency to surrender home runs.

Over the past two years, Hughes has given up 59 home runs, but 39 of those home runs have come in the launching pad known as Yankee Stadium.

It’s no surprise Hughes has struggled against power hitters, considering he has pitched in the stadium that had the most home runs of any ballpark in 2012.

Minnesota could be a much more welcoming place for Hughes.

According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, Target Field had the second-fewest home runs of any AL stadium this past season. It is a much more pitcher-friendly park than Yankee Stadium, and Hughes could be able to recapture some of his old magic there.

Signing Hughes to a short-term contract would also leave the door open for the Twins to make a major signing for the other pitcher they need.

With some financial wiggle room after giving Hughes a cheap contract, the Twins would be able to make a play for a guy such as Garza, who has had success pitching in Minnesota in the past.

Adding Garza and Hughes to a rotation with Nolasco, Correia and Deduno could potentially give the Twins a middle-of-the-pack rotation, which would be a huge improvement.

However, we have to keep in mind that there’s a chance Hughes doesn’t bounce back in Minnesota and Garza continues to struggle in the AL, as he did with the Texas Rangers in the latter half of 2013 (4-5, 4.38 ERA, -0.1 WAR).

Realistically, the Twins are going to need a few years to fix their starting rotation—and part of their rebuilding process will need to come from within the organization.

According to Baseball Prospectus, five of the Twins’ top nine prospects are pitchers. The team is going to have to hope that Alex Meyer (Double-A), Kohl Stewart (rookie ball), Jose Berrios (Single-A), Lewis Thorpe (Rk) and Felix Jorge (Rk) all continue to develop and that two or three of them turn out to be solid pitchers in the majors.

However, the Twins will have to wait a few years for these guys to start making a difference. Three of them are still in rookie ball, and Meyer is the only one in Double-A or higher.

With so much rebuilding to do and their prospects still a few years away, it would be unfair to expect the Twins to fix their rotation issues by the time the 2014 season rolls around.

In all likelihood, the Twins won’t have a top-tier starting rotation for at least another three years. But that won’t stop them from trying to add a few more guys like Nolasco for the time being.

It’s going to be a long rebuilding process for the Twins, but this signing is a step in the right direction. Minnesota fans can only hope the team continues to build on its latest move.

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Ricky Nolasco Agrees to Deal with Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins have agreed to terms with free-agent pitcher Ricky Nolasco. The deal between the club and the right-hander was first reported by Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com on Wednesday afternoon:

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press received confirmation from Nolasco:

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports provides the financial details:

The Twins and Nolasco have been linked for a couple of weeks now, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Minnesota desperately needed some pitching help after finishing 2013 ranked 30th in MLB team ERA among starters (5.26). With a rotation that didn’t feature a single 10-game winner this past season, Nolasco could step right in and be the ace.

Nolasco started the 2013 season with the Miami Marlins but was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July, serving as a major force in the rotation during the Dodgers’ playoff push.   

He went 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA in his first dozen starts with Los Angeles, but posted a 12.75 ERA and .393 opponents’ batting average in the final three starts of the regular season. Still, he finished the year with a 13-11 mark, 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 7.4 K/9 rate, and now has an 89-75 record and 4.37 ERA during his eight-year MLB career.

No financial figures have emerged about the deal yet, but you have to assume the Twins paid a pretty penny to sign Nolasco, who was reportedly seeking a five-year, $80 million contract this offseason.

It’s hard to make a case that he’s worth $16 million annually, but the Twins needed an innings-eater and they got one in Nolasco, who has averaged 192 innings pitched in each of the past six seasons.

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Why Ricky Nolasco Is a Big 2014 MLB Free Agent Bargain

There are no proven No. 1 starting pitchers on MLB‘s free-agent market this year. Too many are signing extensions these days. Others, presumably, have simply migrated to warmer climates.

What the market does boast is a solid collection of No. 2 and No. 3 starters who can be had at fair prices. And if there’s one guy who’s likely to be had at a fairer price than anyone, it’s Ricky Nolasco.

Nolasco, who spent 2013 with the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, is certainly more of a No. 3 than a No. 2. And while he’s not old, that he’ll turn 31 in December means he’s not young either.These are key reasons why Nolasco’s not projected to get a huge payday.

 Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com projects a four-year, $50 million deal worth an average of $12.5 million for Nolasco, while Tim Dierkes of MLBTradeRumors.com projects three years and $36 million, an average of $12 million per season.

It’s doubtful that Nolasco will end up doing better than the $12-13 million-per-year range, but he is better than that. He is better than that now, and he will very likely be better than that in the future, too.

How do we know Nolasco is better than that now? Well, FanGraphs has a handy-dandy system that converts WAR into free-agent dollars, and what their system says is that Nolasco was worth $15.2 million in 2013. And ever since 2008, he’s been worth an average of $14.3 million.

For a guy with a 4.30 ERA over the last six seasons, that might come off as a bit excessive. But there are reasons why Nolasco has been worth that much, starting with his ability to eat innings.

Nolasco has pitched 1,151.1 innings over the last six years. Per Baseball-Reference.com, that ranks 24th among all pitchers. He’s averaged at least six innings per start each year.

In and of itself, an ability to eat innings like that is a valuable commodity, especially in a day and age when everyone is on a pitch count and bullpens are being tasked with picking up more slack. To this end, Nolasco is a member of the upper echelon.

Beyond that, he’s a pretty good pitcher—certainly better than his 4.30 ERA over the last six seasons says he is. In fact, he’s basically Hiroki Kuroda.

That’s what the numbers say, anyway. Courtesy of FanGraphs, here are said numbers:

The only difference between Kuroda, who could make as much as $15 or $16 million in 2014 if he decides to come back, and Nolasco over the last six years is that the former has had a much lower ERA. However, categories such as WAR, FIP, xFIP and SIERA all say that’s misleading.

If you don’t know what those last three are, well, those are ERA estimators. Their function is to take luck and other things beyond a pitcher’s control out of the equation and tell you how well he actually pitched.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) does it by focusing on strikeouts, walks, hit-by-pitches and home runs. The xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) metric is similar, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many homers he should have allowed. SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA) is complicated, but what makes it different is that it analyzes batted balls in more depth.

A major reason why these stats like Nolasco more than his ERA would indicate is because of his command. He’s walked only 5.3 percent of the batters he’s faced over the last six seasons, which places him fourth among starters with at least 1,000 innings pitched.

Nolasco is a classic case of a guy who doesn’t hurt himself with free passes and, at the same time, he is an example of how perilous balls in play can be. That’s the larger message sent by FIP, xFIP and SIERA regarding Nolasco’s six-year run, and it’s something that’s been a sort of annual narrative for him.


The ERA estimators say that Nolasco got an ERA he deserved in 2008. But from 2009 to 2012, his ERAs were consistently worse than he deserved. The only year there was a close agreement between the estimators and ERA was 2012, when xFIP and SIERA deemed Nolasco worthy of his 4.00-plus ERA.

Playing into that was Nolasco’s severe inability to miss bats. He struck out only 15 percent of the batters he faced in 2012. He also got beat up on balls in play once again, but xFIP and SIERA didn’t give him a pass this time, largely because there were too many balls in play going on.

And therein lies a big explanation for why Nolasco’s luck finally changed for the better in 2013.

For the first time since 2008, Nolasco ended up with a sub-4.00 ERA in 2013 that the ERA estimators say he actually deserved. And he deserved it in large part because he started missing bats again.

Like so:

The league average swinging-strike rate for starting pitchers in 2013 was 8.7 percent. The league-average strikeout rate for starters was 18.9 percent. Nolasco was safely above both, and it was no fluke.

If you head over to Brooks Baseball, you can see how Nolasco got more whiffs on pitches outside the strike zone than ever before. Also, you can see that his slider and splitter reached a common new height in the whiffs per swing department.

These two things just so happen to be related.

Because we’re still working on getting the green light from Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus, I have to refrain from posting a couple images from Brooks Baseball that I want you to look at. But I can direct you over there to see for yourself, so I’ll do that.

If you check out where Nolasco was throwing his slider and splitter from 2007 to 2012, you’ll see some warmness inside the strike zone. If you check out what things were like in 2013, however, you’ll see less warmness inside the strike zone.

And that’s good. Sliders and splitters are pitches largely designed to get hitters to expand the strike zone. It’s hard for a pitcher to be successful when he’s throwing sliders and splitters in the strike zone consistently. Nolasco stopped doing that in 2013, and it worked.

That Nolasco sought to make an adjustment like that fits with what he’s been busy doing over the last few seasons. He’s been doing a lot of experimenting recently.

One thing FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan noticed is that Nolasco has changed his positioning on the rubber, a subtle change that seems to have paid off.

A less subtle change is what’s happened with Nolasco’s repertoire. With more data courtesy of Brooks Baseball, here’s how Nolasco has changed over the last few years:

Nolasco used to be a fastball-slider guy who occasionally mixed in a slow curveball. He’s now a five-pitch pitcher, as he’s developed a sinker to go along with his four-seamer and has put more trust in his splitter. 

Nolasco’s sinker has been a key pitch in his transition. He used to be an extreme fly-ball pitcher,but over the last three seasons, his ground-ball rate has been at least 43 percent each year. That’s his sinker at work, as it’s induced more ground balls than any of his pitches since 2011.

The diversity of Nolasco’s repertoire is an advantage that he has over other free-agent starters in line for multi-year deals. Ervin Santana is a fastball-slider guy. Matt Garza is a also fastball-slider guy. Ubaldo Jimenez dabbles in many different pitches, but he’s basically a fastball-slider guy as well.

What one worries about with these guys is what will become of them if age starts to bring their fastball velocity closer to or even below league average. They’ll suddenly find it harder to overpower hitters, and that’s when they’ll be needing more go-to pitches.

This concern doesn’t apply to Nolasco. FanGraphs has his average velocity over the last three seasons at just above 90 miles per hour, which is already below the league average for starters. It doesn’t strike me as a coincidence that we’re talking about the same three-year period in which he’s been active adjusting his pitching style.

He’s become what we call “crafty.” And the best thing about “crafty,” friends, is that it doesn’t age.

Thus concludes this treatise on Ricky Nolasco. Whoever signs him will be getting a pitcher who can eat innings, is undervalued thanks to his fluky showings in the ERA department, and whose renovated pitching style makes him a candidate to age well.

A general manager who’s looking for a top-of-the-rotation guy shouldn’t get the wrong idea. A general manager who wants to get some good bang for his buck, however, should put in a call to Nolasco’s people.


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Marlins Trade Ricky Nolasco to Dodgers for 3 Prospects

The Miami Marlins have agreed to a trade that would send veteran starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three prospects in Steven Ames, Josh Wall and Angel Sanchez.


UPDATE: Saturday, July 6, at 9:45 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford

The Dodgers released official details of the trade via the team’s website:

The Los Angeles Dodgers today acquired right-handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league right-handed pitchers Steven Ames, Josh Wall and Angel Sanchez. The Dodgers also acquired international signing bonus slot No. 96 valued at $197,000 from the Marlins as part of the deal.

—End of update—


Original Text

MLB‘s official Twitter confirmed news of the deal on Saturday, citing reporting by MLB.com’s Marlins writer Joe Frisaro:

Nolasco has won at least 10 games in six of his previous seven MLB seasons, but has a rather high 4.44 ERA in his career. However, the 30-year-old presents decent value at this juncture, and his 3.85 ERA in 2013 shows marked improvement from the prior three campaigns.

There is $11.5 million of salary on Nolasco’s contract, and he’s set to be a free agent following this season.

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports reported on Saturday that Nolasco had been the target of four of the five National League West teams, but the Dodgers have come out on top.

As Knobler pointed out, the Dodgers have won 11 of their past 13 games and will be getting another asset in Nolasco to join the fold as they look to finish strong ahead of the impending All-Star break.

There won’t be as much pressure on Nolasco in LA, and he’s also from California originally, so it’s feasible that he could re-sign with the Dodgers this winter.

Staff ace Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu have pitched very well. However, Los Angeles needed another decent starter to supplement the struggles of Zack Greinke, who has a 4.30 ERA yet still boasts a record of 6-2.

The addition of Nolasco adds depth to the rotation for the Dodgers, who entered Saturday sitting just 3.5 games back of the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.

In terms of the Marlins’ side of the deal, they get three promising players for the future while still in the midst of rebuilding. Miami sits in last place in the National League with a record of 32-54 after Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

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4 Rumored MLB Trades You Shouldn’t Believe

I’ll take a wild guess and say that about 98.32 percent of rumored trades between now and July 31 won’t happen. In fact, a large percentage of those probably weren’t even seriously discussed by the teams mentioned.

So while we were all seriously discussing how those players would fit on their new teams and speculating on which prospects were going to be part of the trade package, the general managers involved in the rumored deal were probably working on a deal that was completely under wraps and then surprised the heck out of everybody once it was announced. 

And despite being completely fooled year after year, those discussions among fellow baseball fans are what makes this one of the best times of the year to be a baseball fan.

You can’t predict baseball on or off the field. Expect the unexpected. Just don’t expect these four rumored trades to happen.     

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Giants Must Beat NL West Rival Dodgers in Ricky Nolasco Trade Sweepstakes

In light of how things were going for a while there, it didn’t occur to me to imagine a scenario in which there would be a huge fuss over Ricky Nolasco.

But lo and behold, such a fuss is happening now.

ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that the Miami Marlins are “aggressively” shopping Nolasco. FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal has painted the NL West as the central hub of Nolasco mania, and it sounds like his destination could be decided by a bidding war between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.

If it does indeed come to that, the Giants had better win it. They and the Dodgers both have a need for Nolasco, but the Giants’ need is stronger.

Obtaining Nolasco could be tough. Rosenthal and Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com have both noted the Giants’ interest in the 30-year-old right-hander, but Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle has indicated that Nolasco has become the Dodgers’ latest obsession:

Makes sense indeed. The Dodgers have lost Chad Billingsley for the season due to Tommy John surgery. Josh Beckett is next to him on the disabled list, and he may not pitch again this season either if he needs surgery to repair a nerve issue. Ted Lilly should be back, but the Dodgers should know by now that they can’t count on him to stay healthy.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, the Giants only have one starting pitcher on the DL to the Dodgers’ three: right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. Unless you want to count Chad Gaudin, who was filling in for Vogelsong, as a starter, in which case the Giants have two starters on the DL.

But while these numbers say the Dodgers are worse off than the Giants in terms of depth, other numbers say that their starting rotation isn’t holding them back as much as the Giants’ rotation is.

For all their difficulties, the Dodgers’ starting pitching ranks fifth in MLB in ERA at 3.51, according to FanGraphs. Over the last 30 days, their rotation has a 3.38 ERA.

The Giants occupy the opposite end of the spectrum. Their starters rank 23rd with a 4.47 ERA, and “improvement” over the last month has only meant a 4.09 ERA. Their rotation has shown signs of life, but these signs have only served to take it from bad to mediocre.

This speaks to the major difference that exists between the Dodgers’ rotation and the Giants’ rotation. Both may be lacking in depth, but at least the Dodgers have some stability.

Clayton Kershaw needs no introduction. Behind him is Zack Greinke, the $147 million man who is rounding back into form with solid seven-inning performances in three of his last four starts. Behind him is Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has surrendered more than three earned runs only twice in 15 starts. 

After this super-solid trio comes Chris Capuano, who was solid last year and now has a 2.55 ERA in his last six starts. Stephen Fife hasn’t been too shabby as a fill-in, as he boasts a 3.25 ERA in five starts thanks in large part to a huge ground-ball rate (see FanGraphs).

This is an embarrassment of riches compared to what the Giants have. Madison Bumgarner has been consistent and Matt Cain has been largely terrific since the start of May, but there’s a limit to how much one can trust Tim Lincecum’s June revival given what he’s become since the start of last season.

Barry Zito is fine at AT&T Park, but he has a better chance of cutting down a tree with a herring than he does of turning in a decent performance on the road (11.28 ERA in five starts). Chad Gaudin was doing all right in Vogelsong‘s place, but who knows how long he would have been able to keep it up? He hadn’t been a full-time starter since 2009.

So when you think about where Nolasco would fit on these two clubs, there’s certainly a bigger role for him to play in San Francisco than in Los Angeles. On the Dodgers, he would at best be a No. 4 behind Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu. On the Giants, Nolasco would easily be a No. 3.

This being Nolasco—he of the 4.68 ERA between 2009 and 2012—that may seem far-fetched. But this season, it’s really not.

As I first noted a couple weeks ago, Nolasco was never really as bad as his ERAs indicated. While those floated in the 4.50-5.00 range, his FIPs and xFIPs were consistently in the 3.00s and low 4.00s.

In 2013, Nolasco‘s 3.68 ERA is sort of a happy medium between his 3.55 FIP and 3.86 xFIP. It should also be looked at as his reward for the adjustments he’s made.

Nolasco is breaking out his sinker more than ever before this year. And while the numbers aren’t as good as they were the last time I checked, Brooks Baseball has the batting average against Nolasco‘s sinker at .264. Opponents hit .324 off it last year.

Nolasco‘s slider has also been better. He’s taken some velocity off if, and that’s seemed to help. Hitters are only hitting it at a .185 clip in 2013.

If Nolasco were to join the Giants and keep doing what he’s been doing, he’d be nothing short of a godsend. He could help satisfy their need for some stability for their rotation, and they’d have options available to them upon Vogelsong‘s return. There would be a logjam, sure, but ’tis better to have a logjam than a shortage of logs.

In terms of actually striking a deal for Nolasco, the key thing for the Marlins is going to be offloading the rest of his $11.5 million salary. The Dodgers can afford that easily, but the Giants can too. It wouldn’t be a long-term commitment either, as Nolasco is due for free agency at the end of the year.

Neither the Giants nor the Dodgers have a particularly strong farm system to dip into, but I wonder if the Giants could entice the Marlins with a just-about-major-league-ready reliever in right-hander Heath Hembree with another prospect on the side. That could be enough to get the Marlins to bite.

Yeah, I know. The last time the Giants broke off a chunk of their farm system for a rental was when they dealt Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. That’s in the “Would love to have that one back” file in Brian Sabean’s office.

But consider the circumstances this year. It counts for a lot that Buster Posey isn’t down and out. And given the ballpark they play in, the Giants are always going to be better off putting their faith in pitching than in hitting.

Also, nobody’s running away with the NL West or even threatening to run away with it. The Arizona Diamondbacks are the top contender, just as they were in 2011, but this year it doesn’t seem like they have much of an idea what to do with first place. They might as well be keeping it unprotected on their front lawn.

A single move could make a difference for the Giants, and Nolasco is both a sensible and a practical target. All they have to do is beat the Dodgers to him.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Full Scouting Report on San Francisco Giants’ Trade Target Ricky Nolasco

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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Breaking Down Marlins Hurler Ricky Nolasco’s Budding Trade Market

Before the season even began, Miami Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco stood out as a virtual lock to be traded.

Here we are a couple of months into 2013, and the word “virtual” no longer applies. We can go ahead and say that Nolasco is a lock to be traded.

Last week, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reported that the Marlins were open to trading Nolasco, a free-agent-to-be whose $11.5 million salary is by far the biggest on the club’s payroll. Now we’re starting to hear about potential suitors.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark says the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees have their eyes on Nolasco. Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com says that the San Francisco Giants are looking at Nolasco as a potential elixir for their uncharacteristic starting pitching woes.

With the buzz building, here’s a primer on all the trade-y goodness surrounding Nolasco.


Trade Value: Better Than You Probably Think

There are sexier pitchers on the baseball landscape than Nolasco. He’s no Cliff Lee, Matt Garza or Josh Johnson, each of whom could find his way to the trade block before long.

If there’s a word to describe Nolasco, it would be “solid.” Not great. Not even good. But solid, and he’s been even more solid this year than usual.

The one thing Nolasco has always been able to do is eat innings. He’s topped 200 innings twice since 2008, and last year he topped 190 innings. Of his 31 starts, 14 were of the quality variety.

Nolasco is already up to eight quality starts in 14 outings this year. Quality starts are hardly gospel, but in this case they do reflect how well Nolasco has pitched this season.

Nolasco came into 2013 with a 4.42 ERA over the previous five seasons. Anybody who checks out his showings in the FIP and xFIP departments over at FanGraphs, however, would notice that he deserved better. His FIPs and xFIPs tend to be lower than his ERAs.

The story is different this year. Nolasco‘s 3.80 ERA is right about where his FIP (3.65) and his xFIP (3.87) say it should be. He also owns a 102 ERA-plus, giving him a shot to finish the year as an above-average pitcher for the first time since 2008.

It helps that Nolasco has his highest strikeout rate since 2010. After striking out under 17 percent of the batters he faced in 2011 and 2012, he’s striking out close to 20 percent of batters this year. 

An increased swinging-strike percentage has helped as well. Another thing that’s easy to notice is the increasing use and effectiveness of Nolasco‘s sinker. Here’s some data from BrooksBaseball.net that are equal parts juicy and telling:

Year Sinker% Sinker BAA Sinker K
 2010  7.64  .350  0
 2011  16.87  .384  2
 2012  20.89  .324  13 
 2013  23.11  .241  10

Nolasco told ESPN’s Jim Bowden back in 2011 that he was looking to improve his sinker. If these data are any indication, he finally has improved it to a point where it’s become one of his better pitches. He’s keeping the hits from falling with his sinker, and it’s also become a halfway decent strikeout pitch.

Along with his traditional four-seamer, slider, splitter and curveball, the sinker gives Nolasco five offerings that he can rely on. And while he is throwing fewer strikes this year, the size of his repertoire hasn’t hurt his command to an alarming degree. His walk rate is about where it was last year.

Nolasco was a back-end starter coming into the season. He’s more like a No. 3 now, which means that the price to acquire him has gotten a boost in Miami’s favor.

A source told Frisaro that the Marlins could probably get a mid-level prospect for Nolasco. A higher-level prospect is out of the question given Nolasco‘s spotty track record and impending free-agent status, but the Marlins might be able to generate some competition and get more than just one prospect for him. Maybe a mid-level prospect and a low-level prospect with some cash on the side. 

As for when the Marlins could move Nolasco


Trade Timeline: Soon

The trade deadline is still well over a month away, but expect Nolasco to be long gone by the time it arrives.

The Marlins know they’re not contending this season, and they also know that Nolasco‘s trade value is only going to dip if he continues to make starts for them, because that would mean fewer starts for some other team.

As Stark pointed out in his report, the Marlins also have some reinforcements on the way. Per the team’s official site, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi are nearing their returns from injury. Once they’re ready, the Marlins will have an excuse to make some room in their rotation.

It’s plausible that Nolasco will be gone before the end of the month. If not, he’ll certainly be gone closer to the beginning of July than to the end.


Known Suitors: Orioles, Yankees and Giants

Per the reports from Stark and Knobler, we know that a trade for Nolasco is being pondered by Dan Duquette of the Orioles, Brian Cashman of the Yankees and Brian Sabean of the Giants.

The Yankees’ interest is, well, interesting.

The Bombers have three solid starters in CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes isn’t bad for a back-end guy. The No. 5 spot in their rotation is in flux, but the Yankees could just wait and hope that Michael Pineda is the guy for the job. After missing last year recovering from shoulder surgery, he’s finally nearing major league action.

It’s easier to understand the Orioles’ interest in Nolasco. They’re hanging in there in a tough AL East, but their starting pitching is once again a question mark. The O’s have a rotation ERA near 5.00, and Nolasco would bring some much-needed stability.

The fit in San Francisco, however, is quite good. The Giants are in need of stability with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum struggling and Ryan Vogelsong on the disabled list with a busted hand.

If the Giants were to acquire Nolasco, they could use it as an excuse to move Lincecum to the bullpen down the line. That worked out well for them last postseason.

Any one of these three teams can pay the price for Nolasco, but the Giants might be a little more desperate. Whereas the Yankees and Orioles have other internal options to turn to, starting pitching depth is one of the Giants’ biggest organizational weaknesses.

As for other teams that could give Nolasco a look…


Additional Potential Suitors: Angels, Dodgers, Rockies, Royals, Indians

If the Angels and Dodgers are going to salvage their respective seasons, they’re going to need to stabilize their starting rotations.

The Angels’ rotation is intact for now with the return of Jered Weaver, but an upgrade over Joe Blanton would be a welcome addition. Tommy Hanson is no sure thing either.

The surplus of starting pitchers for the Dodgers in spring training is long gone now, as Aaron Harang was traded and Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Josh Beckett are all on the disabled list.  

Billingsley is gone for the year, and Beckett’s status is up in the air at best. Nolasco would be a good get and a decent No. 3 behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

The Rockies, meanwhile, have been lying low as contenders virtually all season. We know they can hit, but in Colorado it’s always going to come down to pitching. The Rockies’ pitching has been solid, but the rotation hasn’t been nearly as strong as the bullpen.

The Royals are hanging around in the AL Central race, in large part because they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted out of James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana. Wade Davis has been a different story, however, as he has an ugly 5.77 ERA. Acquiring Nolasco would give the Royals an excuse to move Davis to an already very strong bullpen.

The Indians’ starting pitching was holding steady for a while but not so much lately. Nolasco would be an upgrade over the hit-or-miss Scott Kazmir, and he would be a nice placeholder for Trevor Bauer until his time comes next season.

Those are the clubs that stand out, but Nolasco could appeal to just about any team. He could solidify any rotation, and it’s not going to cost an arm and a leg to rent him.

Unless, of course, the Marlins feel like throwing Giancarlo Stanton into a Nolasco trade, but…nah.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


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Miami Marlins: Five Keys to a Successful 2012

Every season for the past four or five years, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria has said that if his team “does not make the playoffs, they have fallen short of the front office’s expectations.” While that might have been considered an unrealistic goal given the budget the past few seasons, using that criteria to analyze the team’s productivity the past few years means that the Marlins have fallen well short of expectations.

In an attempt to make sure this team at least competes within their division during the upcoming season, the Marlins’ front office core has made significant moves that have dramatically improved their roster.

While bringing in names such as Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, the success of the Marlins in 2012 will most likely depend on players that have been on the roster for several years, such as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.

An injury-plagued Marlins team struggled in 2011, however the new Miami Marlins might only be five keys away from making the playoffs and becoming a contender once again.

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Miami Vice: 5 Reasons Ozzie Guillen Will Fail with the Miami Marlins

Ozzie Guillen was a terrific manager for the Chicago White Sox the last eight seasons, but the 47-year-old new skipper of the Miami Marlins is going to fall flat on his face in 2012.

A World Series champion and former AL Manager of the Year (both 2005), Guillen has already set himself up for a few struggles next season and in one of the baseball’s most unforgiving divisions, it’ll be an uphill battle.

After the Winter Meetings massive haul, expectations are immense for Guillen and the new-look Marlins next season. I don’t see how he is going to meet them.

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