Blogservations: Nolasco dazzles, Marlins win series

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.


Are those sliders?

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.

Tags: Miami Marlins Ricky Nolasco

  • Stan Makowski

    I attended the Met home game when Seaver struck out 10 in a row back in the Dark Ages. As someone who loves baseball history, I knew that the former record was 8 by Max Surkont(sic). So naturally everyone around me was told what was happening long before it was posted on the scoreboard. As I also saw Nolasco’s feat on TV, here are my thoughts on both performances.
    1) Seaver’s performance was against a horrible Padre team and in the afternoon.
    2) Seaver didn’t strike guys out as much as just blow them away…it was simply no contest.
    3) If not mistaken, Seaver pitched a complete game

    1) Nolasco faced far better hitters. Pundits who say that the Braves are deficient in hitting should have seen those Padres.
    2) While dominating, Nolasco didn’t “seem” as dominant as Seaver in any way…and that is not meant as a slight on him but praise for a great pitcher.
    3) While both were close to the same age, Seaver already had a reputation along the lines of a Lincecum as a strikeout pitcher.

    One year Seaver actually struck out more batters than the total of walks plus hits he allowed. Was that rare? Well, I looked up other great K pitchers. The only ones I could find (among starters) were Vida Blue once, Koufax 3 times and I think Nolan Ryan once toward the end of his career. Maybe there were others but generally the big K pitchers walked too many to qualify. Most didn’t even come close. It is probably far more common during the past couple of decades when everyone seems to strikeout out a lot and it no longer carries the stigma that it used to.

    For those of you who never saw him, here are a few words about Seaver who was and always will be my most admired player. He always took the ball…I don’t ever remember him missing a start. He never complained about or tried to renogetiate his salary as was the vogue back then. Until he got to the Cinn. Reds, he always pitched for awful hitting teams in NY. Those Met teams won because of great pitching; they couldn’t hit a lick! And he never asked to be traded. In his late 30s, he went from the Reds (then Mets again for one year) to the Chicago WS and it was predicted that he would make an excellent #5 starter. All he did was win 15 and 16 games each year and was their best pitcher. When you hear people compare Gibson, Marichal(sic) or anyone else of that time to him, just smile, it isn’t even worth an argument. During a recent interview, he told of a teammate making an over the shoulder catch in CF while he was pitching. He said he held that fellow against the wall and told him that next time he had better get off his you know what and be there to catch the ball facing the field and ready to throw. Other players tell of pre game pepper games that Seaver always ran and how it was considered a privelege to be asked to participate. Yea, I loved the guy.

  • michaeljong


    As always, thanks for bringing some historical perspective into the debate. I thought your stat regarding pitchers who struck out more than he allowed walks+hits was interesting, so I dropped by the B-R Play Index and decided to find some more guys. Since I could not search the exact criteria, I searched for players who struck out more than 9 per inning and had a WHIP (Walks+Hits per Innings Pitched) of less than 1.

    Here’s the link with the list, and it’s a who’s who of good players. It included three seasons by Johan Santana, two by Pedro Martinez, and a plethora of other single seasons, including Seaver’s 1971, Randy Johnson in 2004, Mike Scott’s Cy Young season of 1986, and Ben Sheets’ 2004 when he went 12-14 (again, that’s why we never look at records and wins). That’s not all-encompassing, but I think it’s a good approximation.

  • Stan Makowski

    As you point out, all of those pitchers came later. Isn’t it amazing how guys like Lefty Grove, Dazzy Vance, Bob Feller, etc. never came close. It also shows just how good Koufax was as well. And he did it by one in the year before he retired. Vida Blue was a surprise to me. One can only wonder about his career if he didn’t screw himself up with drugs.

    I would love to hear some of your other readers comment on Seaver’s greatness. I think the greatest pitcher since the dead ball era was Lefty Grove and Seaver might be #2. If you look at stats alone, there are arguments. Once Seaver was asked what achievement he was most proud of. He said the fact that he could go 0 and 20 for 5 straight years and still have a winning record. There are others who can make that claim, but few except maybe Walter Johnson had poorer support behind him for so many years.

    Here’s a little tidbit from those Met years. If memory serves me right, Bill Hands, the Cub pitcher, hit (maybe beaned) the Mets Tommy Agee. Jerry Kooseman, the Mets great clutch lefthander, then proceeded to break the arm (or hand I forget)of a prominent Cub…I think it was Ron Santo. WOW!