This Blogservations will have nothing but love for Ricky Nolasco, so expect a lot of charts. Let’s dive right on in.
Ricky Nolasco dominates the Braves, strikes out 16
Last night, Ricky set a club record for strikeouts in a regular season game with 16, including a spectacular nine strikeouts in a row from the third through the fifth inning. He also only walked two Braves during the start, going seven and two-thirds innings. R.J. Anderson over at FanGraphs mentions that Nolasco is one of six pitchers to have struck out 16 with only 29 batters faced. If I had been listening in the whole time (I tuned in around the fifth inning, after the streak broke), it would have surpassed Josh Johnson’s start versus Colorado as the most dominant start that I’d ever been a part of. It was certainly the most dominant performance by a Marlin this season.
How did he do it? Let’s look at the good ol’ Pitch f/x charts, courtesy of Brooks Baseball.
Ricky threw 83 of 126 pitches for strikes, for a 66% strike%. He induced an absurd 20 whiffs, the same amount of strikes that he got looking, along with 43 foul balls. Look at his outside swings as well. Ricky got 14 swings and misses outside the zone, primarily of course on sliders and changeups. In total Ricky had Braves swinging on 17 pitches outside the strike zone, none of them resulting in lucky hits. His fastball got five whiffs, mostly in the zone and high.
Ricky’s strike totals from the breaking pitches were particularly surprising. He got 27 sliders out of 41 thrown over for strikes, including 10 of the whiffing variety. That’s a 65% strike% for a slider with solid break. Similarly, Ricky was able to get his changeup over 10 out of 15 times, four on whiffs. He did not have to depend on the change this time around, which is odd because the Braves host a bevy of lefty/switch hitters.
This is an interesting development. Ricky threw his slider 21 times against lefties, an odd thing to see. This is a usage pattern we see from Josh Johnson, who uses the slider as an out pitch against lefties more than the usual pitcher. As of late, we’d seen that Ricky was using his change a lot more, particularly against the lefties as a way to change speeds on them. If he can force whiffs against lefties with the slider, than he can use that entire arsenal, including an improved change, and that would give hitters even more to think about.
As you can see on the horizontal/vertical movement chart against lefties, he got six whiffs from his slider on lefties. He also is using that change primarily on lefties as initially mentioned. He also mixed in three of his four curves agains the lefties. Good stuff.
Ricky’s start was absolutely dominant. He’s brought his FIP down to 3.26 this season, an impressive feat especially given that his ERA is still above 5.00 for the season. An interesting note that I might take a look into later is the possibility that Nolasco has struggled out of the stretch. His career splits are huge between a bases empty situation and with runners on, to the point where he is a dominant Cy Young pitcher with no one on and a league average starter with runners on base. It’s an interesting dilemma and something I might use Pitch f/x to look into in the future, provided I can get this database work down pat. Nevertheless, we should not complain about Nolasco’s slight problems today and rather, we should revel in his dominance.
Of course, what we should complain about is how Nolasco almost lost the game thanks to Leo Nunez. More on that later today.