Marlins not fooled by Nolasco's ERA

Our organization gets a lot of props, some of them well placed, and others not so much. I have a feeling like our organization may be behind on certain things that are prevalent in baseball front offices and that are helping small market teams win. I have my ideas of what the Marlins do and do not do well, and it is not as rosy a view as one may like.

Nevertheless, hearing these words from Joe Frisaro made me feel pretty good about our organization.

After 2010, Nolasco will be entering his third and final season of arbitration. The Marlins have already spoken with Nolasco’s agent, Matt Sosnick, who also represents Johnson, about doing a multiyear deal next offseason.

The condition is if Nolasco has another solid season, the squad would be receptive to locking up the right-hander long-term.

That has to be some promising news coming from the Marlins’ camp, especially given the strange year Ricky Nolasco had last season.

In some organizations, a situation in which a young starter posted an ERA in the 9′s early in the season, even one who eventually finished the year in the 5′s, would not be close to meriting a multi-year contract. This would especially be so if that pitcher had only one good season worth of track record. But in the case of Nolasco, as we all know, the poor season that was 2009 was not as poor as one might imagine.

Ricky Nolasco K% UIBB% HR/FB% (FG) FIP ERA
2008 21.6% 4.2% 10.6% 3.77 3.52
2009 25.1% 4.8% 11.0% 3.35 5.09

Of course, you could have seen much of this at FanGraphs, but it bears repeating. The things that Nolasco had the most control over were very stable through 2008 and 2009. In fact, his 2009 FIP was better than his 2008, indicating (if you buy the premise of FIP, which I do, mostly), that he improved in 2009.

Can that be said? Not necessarily. There are things that go into pitching that are not included in FIP, of course. I was worried that Nolasco might have an issue pitching out of the stretch, and he certainly performed worse this season out of it (more research on that as I continue to figure out my SPSS statistics package). But I can safely say that Nolasco did have what appears to be an insane bout of bad luck during the 2009 season, and barring an equally poor run of bad luck (or something inherently wrong with the way he pitches out of the stretch or with runners on), Nolasco is due for a more typical performance in 2010.

And that apparently is what he’ll need to earn a contract. The question in my mind is in how the team is determining what constitutes “performance.” If the team is measuring the same things smart Marlins fans are seeing, including (I hope) defense independence, than a solid performance like CHONE is projecting (160 innings of 4.16 ERA, with an underlying FIP of 3.68) should earn him a three- or four-year deal if he is interested. However, if the Marlins find that performance as merely average and not worth the price of admission due to ERA or some other peripheral stat while not digging underneath to view his performance, I will be sorely disappointed.

At this point, I don’t know what the team is looking at. When the club decides to keep Jorge Cantu for $6M, it makes me think that they are not valuing the right stats and numbers. At the same time, I believe that pitching is something that can be better scouted and coached, and that if the Marlins scouts see that Nolasco is still pitching well, I should hope that they can ignore the results and focus on those good inputs. It’s clear to most of us fans that after Nolasco came back from his Triple-A stint, regression to the mean hit in a big way and he began pitching much better. Perhaps the scouts and the organization saw that as well and thus considered him someone worthy of multiple years.

Or maybe not. Let’s just hope the team has a department where stat guys work and are digging through more than just ESPN.com’s stats page. Heck, it doesn’t even need to be FanGraphs. Baseball-Reference will do, folks.

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Tags: Miami Marlins Ricky Nolasco

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