Miami Marlins 2012 Season Preview: # 4 Starter

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Today we will continue our 2012 Miami Marlins season preview. We will look at the number 4 and 5 starters today, before finishing up tomorrow by looking at my projections, as well as the rest of the staff’s.

The first pitcher we will look at today will be Ricky Nolasco. If there is one pitcher in baseball that makes everyone scratch their heads, this pitcher has to be Nolasco. As Michael Jong, on Fishstripes says, he may be the biggest enigma in all of sports today. Nolasco has been puzzling for many analysts to figure out for the last three seasons. Ricky has not had a strong ERA season since 2008, but has also consistently posting strong peripherals.

If you were to look at Nolasco’s FIP over the past three seasons alone, you would automatically assume he was a very solid pitcher. His 3.57 FIP in the past three seasons has him alongside pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and Hiroki Kuroda. Many would consider these three to be number 2 pitchers in a rotation.

So what is the problem? Well, Nolasco’s ERA in the past four seasons is 4.76. That ranks 116th, next to pitchers like Derek HollandRich Harden, and A.J. Burnett. Not good company for Nolasco to be placed with, although Holland does seem to be on the rise, while the other two are trending downwards.

The difference between Nolasco’s ERA and FIP is the largest in all of baseball, by far.

Michael has found one of the reasons for Nolasco’s issue. Nolasco has struggled quite a bit with runners on base. Nolasco’s overall peripherals tend to get a lot worse when he has a runner on base. Here is a look at his numbers:

Bases Empty, YearPAK%BB%GB%HR/FB%FIP
201149418.43.444.714.23.28
201041122.93.938.49.03.18
200946529.03.940.613.82.63
200853822.93.539.18.23.42
2008-2011190823.23.740.911.43.13
Runners On, YearPAK%BB%GB%HR/FB%FIP
201139714.46.845.65.03.87
201025420.96.742.815.43.67
200932018.88.136.610.03.99
200833019.17.038.011.44.09
2008-2011130117.97.141.09.53.92

Even in his strong season of 2008, Nolasco dealt with the same problems. Here is Michael’s explanation on that:

"As you see from the tables, he is almost 0.8 runs worse in terms of defense-independent statistics with runners on, and that presumes a normal run value based on the average situation and not necessarily the average situation with runners on or bases empty. Needless to say, with Nolasco pitching so much worse with runners on, he is certainly costing his team more than 0.8 runs every nine innings."

Looking at those numbers, to me it looks like Nolasco somehow gets distracted with a runner on base. When he gets distracted, he starts to walk more batters. Nolasco has the best control of any pitcher on the Marlins staff, but that seems to fade when ever he runs into trouble.

That would explain a good deal of his struggles the past few seasons. The unfortunate thing, I am unsure of how Nolasco can fix this. We do not know if it is something mental, or if it is a mechanical thing.

If the Marlins can have Nolasco improve with runners on base, he jumps to another level as a pitcher.

So how do we think Nolasco will fare in 2012? Here is a look at some projections:

"Nolasco, ProjIPK%BB%ERAFIPZiPS181 2/319.75.14.213.55Steamer18417.75.63.973.79PECOTA182 2/319.75.14.003.63Fans19420.24.74.083.58"

The projections seem to be in agreement that Nolasco will be a pretty durable pitcher in 2012, as he has in the past. He will be able to eat up innings for the Marlins. The significant difference between his ERA and FIP tell us that the projections are still very unsure of what Nolasco is going to provide the Marlins with.

Here is a look at my projections:

ProjectionIPERAFIPBABIPK%BB%GS
1853.974.08.31819.75.529

My projections would have Nolasco posting a 2.6 WAR. This projection compares fairly to Mark Buehrle‘s. Although Nolasco is the better pitcher, Buehrle’s durability helps him out a lot. The Marlins rotation has had the capability of being one of the best before, but because the team did not know what to expect from Ricky, they went out and pursued pitching help.

The lowest ERA Nolasco has posted since 2008 is 4.40 in 2010. So these projections maybe a bit optimistic, but with Nolasco, projections never seem to hit the nail on the head. He is as unpredictable as Carlos Zambrano‘s temper, the next pitcher we will look at.

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