Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is Ricky Nolasco the next Carl Pavano?

Ricky Nolasco (Marlins) continues to amaze, but not in the way you'd expect.  While his strikeouts are way down from last year, his SO/9, BB/9, SO/BB are all pretty good.  Unfortunately, he is allowing a lot of hits (10.6 H/9) and a good deal of runs. 

Right now, he has of ERA of 5.05 (very similar to last year's 5.06) as well as 6.6 SO/9 and a 3.50 SO/BB ratio.  How unusual would it be that if he continued that?  Fairly common for him, incredibly unusual in the rest of baseball history.

6+ SO/9, 3.50+ SO/BB, 5.00+ ERA, 100+ IP (Since 1900)
Ricky Nolasco 2009
Carl Pavano 2009
Andy Sonnanstine 2007

It almost seems to violate a basic rule of baseball physics.  If a pitcher is able to strike out a decent number of hitters and doesn't issue walks, they are usually successful.  For instance, there are 14 pitchers in baseball this year that are striking out at least 6 hitters per nine innings, have pitched at least 50 innings and have better than a 3.50 SO/BB ratio. 

11 of them have ERAs under 4.00 and the two other pitchers that don't seem more like flukes (Dan Haren, James Shields) than pitchers who will struggle with their ERA for too long.  Nolasco is also giving up home runs like there's no tomorrow, 14 so far this year, which is a major part of the problem. 

He might be destined for a Carl Pavano-like career (although hopefully without all the injuries), where he has flashes of brilliance, but is somehow still around .500 with an ERA well over 4.00 after 12 years in the league despite a lot of talent. 

If he's lucky, he'll follow in Pavano's footsteps to the degree that he can win a ring with the Marlins and have a season good enough that it results in a monster contract.  After that, he'll just have to start more than 26 games over 4 years to surpass Pavano after that happens. 

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