Fish Cap: Ugly Padres series highlighted by awful Nolasco start


This recent sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres was hard to swallow, but there were not too many aberrant events during the games. The Marlins had one bad offensive game, resulting in a decently competitive shutout. The Marlins mounted a comeback after a bad performance by Javier Vazquez, but they could not complete the comeback in the third game of the series.

Oh, and there was Ricky Nolasco‘s highly ineffective performance in the 14-3 blowout second game. It was one of the worst pitching performances the Marlins have suffered through recently, but how bad was it? This Fish Cap is particularly dedicated to this game.

Worst start of the year?

According to Game Score, Nolasco’s start was the worst of the year:

PitcherGameGame Score
Ricky Nolasco07/20 vs. SDN1
Ricky Nolasco05/29 vs. LAN8
Elih Villanueva06/15 vs. PHI14
Ricky Nolasco06/13 vs. ARI14
Anibal Sanchez04/10 vs. HOU16

Conspicuous in his absence from this list is Javier Vazquez, who delivered some of the more memorably poor performances of the 2011 season early in the year. Vazquez’s opening start against the New York Mets ranks as the ninth worst of the season, and that is the lowest ranking start for him this year. However, from the ninth through 20th worst starts of the season, Vazquez happens to own six spots.

Nolasco, in the meantime, happens to own three of the five worst starts of the season, which should not surprise most Marlins who have watched his career as it has unfolded. Nolasco is notorious for his awful starts, almost as much as he is known for his share of excellent starts. Indeed, since 2006, Nolasco is the proud owner of five of the ten worst starts by Game Score from Marlins starters.

But was it all that bad?

But was Nolasco’s start all that terrible, or were some of those problems partially not his fault? Let’s use FIP as a tool to evaluate what those above listed five starts looked like in terms of fielding-independent pitching stats.

PitcherGameGame ScoreGame FIP
Ricky Nolasco07/20 vs. SDN112.85
Ricky Nolasco05/29 vs. LAN84.88
Elih Villanueva06/15 vs. PHI1411.08
Ricky Nolasco06/13 vs. ARI149.41
Anibal Sanchez04/10 vs. HOU162.22

Indeed in this case, Nolasco was well-deserving of an “awful start” designation even when evaluating his fielding-independent results only. Much of that was probably due to the fact that Nolasco was failing to record outs and get through innings due to his extreme hit rate during the game. It’s notable that a couple of these bad starts had legitimately decent performances from the starters involved, including Anibal Sanchez’s game against the Houston Astros in which he allowed ten hits, many of them bloopers, while not walking a hitter and still getting two strikeouts.

Nolasco’s start

Take a look at where Nolasco put his pitches in that start (courtesy as always of Brooks Baseball).

I don’t think that, looking at those pitch locations, you could have told that Nolasco was or was not pitching well. His velocity wasn’t down compared to his seasonal average, so there was nothing mechanically wrong. As reader nothingxs on Twitter, much of what went down in the last series was some bad luck and some bad play, including this start. While it is disappointing, it is not a harbinger of bad things to come. Nolasco is not going to give up a hit on every ball in play he allows in every game, and given nothing mechanical seemed to go wrong with him this time around, it does not seem likely that this is a terrible sign of thing to come. Chances are that this was just one isolated awful start.