Fishing For Nolasco

The Florida Marlins, thought of as very unlikely to compete at any point this season, currently sit in a second-place tie in the so-far-disappointing National League East. They are a team built almost entirely on offense and, because of this, are even less likely to replicate their relative success over the season’s remainder. Because nobody talks about their pitching, and rightly so because those talks might not be so nice, Ricky Nolasco has pitched quite well and deserves some kudos.

In 19 games, two of which were relief appearances, he has posted the following numbers:

3.74 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 110.2 IP, 104 H, 29 BB, 82 K
2.83 K/BB, 1.20 WHIP, .279 BABIP, 74.4% LOB

The statistics above have helped result in a 0.45 WPA, tops amongst starters on the team. Scott Olsen is close behind him at 0.35, but while these two have some similarities in their overall results, there are also some noticeable differences, mainly in their controllable skills:

Ricky Nolasco: 3.74 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 110.2 IP, 2.83 K/BB, 1.20 WHIP
Scott Olsen: 3.96 ERA, 5.01 FIP, 111.1 IP, 1.49 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP

Over the last thirty days, Nolasco has made six starts, giving up just 31 hits and 4 walks in 44.2 innings, striking out 42 in the process. His 0.78 WHIP ranks second and, while the average HR/FB is around 10-11%, Nolasco has sliced his in half to the tune of 5.8%. Though his K/9 of 8.46 in this span ranks 21st, his ridiculously low 0.81 BB/9 helps result in a first place 10.50 K/BB.

Something struck me as particularly interesting with regards to his pitch data: from last year to now he is throwing harder across the board. His fastball has increased from 89 mph to 91.2 mph; his slider from 79.8 mph to 83.6 mph; his curveball has risen from 72.5 mph to 75.6 mph, and his changeup, though used just 2.4% of the time compared to last year’s 9.1%, has increased velocity from 78.5 mph to 82.3 mph.

Ricky has been pitching very much under the radar primarily due to the Marlins’ pitching woes serving as a generalization for the entire team and their propensity for offense. Nolasco is not a Cy Young Award contender—though now that I think about it his W-L record could convince voters he may be—but he has been a nice little diamond in the rough to date.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

7 Responses to “Fishing For Nolasco”

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  1. Nate says:

    After his incredible start against the Rays on June 15th, I read somewhere that he has started using a new pitch (cutter I think) to help get lefites out. I picked him up in a league, and it has been a fun ride so far.

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  2. Eric Seidman says:

    Nate, according to the data here it isn’t a cutter, but he has thrown 3-4% Splitters this year after never throwing one before, so that’s likely what it is.

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  3. dmk says:

    Ricky himself says he’s throwing a cutter this year. It was also believed that before his 2007 injury he was hurt, which is why his velocity was down compared to 2008 and 2006.

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  4. Eric Seidman says:

    Yeah the injury could do a good job at explaining the velocity fluctuation. Or it could be steroids!!!!!! Kidding.

    As far as cutter/splitter, if he says it’s a cutter I’ll take his word even if the BIS numbers here classify it as a splitter.

    Regardless, it’s a new pitch that wasn’t there before.

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  5. dmk says:

    Yeah, it’s a new pitch. What’s weird is in that mid-June article Nolasco said he was throwing a cutter, but in spring training he said that he was throwing a splitter.

    Maybe he started the year with the split and moved on to the cutter? Or he’s throwing both? Who knows.

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  6. Eric Seidman says:

    Who knows? I can probe my pitch f/x database and see if anything surfaces. A couple thoughts (completely off the top of my head without checking):

    1) Perhaps he’s throwing a splitter this year and it isn’t a new pitch relative to June 15, but rather a new pitch for this season.

    2) Going off of #1, the new pitch wouldn’t be a splitter but rather a Cutter being misclassified as a Slider. These two pitches are often mistaken for each other; Papelbon calls his a “Slutter” in fact.

    Those would be my initial thoughts. He began this season by adding a Splitter to his repertoire and then began throwing a cutter recently that is being classified as something else; which could mean it moves like a slider or splitter.

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  7. dmk says:

    #2 is probably right, although that’s just based on watching him pitch on the tiny screens. It makes the most sense in terms of how his pitches are classified and his results.

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