Tagged: Ricky Nolasco

Ballpark Figures Trade Deadline Breakdown


Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports


Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw break down some of the major storylines in baseball as the trade deadline approaches.


Trade Analysis: Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers

The Dodgers made a splash by acquiring former Marlins sensation Hanley Ramirez for Nathan Eovaldi and a willingness to take on Ramirez’s salary. First of all, this is the way it should be for Los Angeles. The Dodgers are supposed to be the West Coast Yankees, so it’s good to see them open the check book to bring in some star potential.

The move also makes baseball sense. The team already has two of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball, so it’s not a bad idea to go for the gold now. Eovaldi is too young to be depended on, while, even at his worst, HanRam is scoring runs and offering some pop and speed. On a side note, of all stadiums where Ramirez has played at least 65 games, his .388 average at Dodgers Stadium is easily the highest.


On the Market: Alfonso Soriano

With 19 home runs and 58 RBI, Alfonso Soriano is once again a solid slugger at the big-league level. He is also due to make $18 million in each of the next two seasons. His high performance provides the Cubbies with a window to trade him. Ken Rosenthal reported that at least one team has interest in the veteran outfielder.


Sellers: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are in a very interesting situation right now. They have some very bad contracts, though their huge investment in Cole Hamels is not one of them. He is still young at 28 years old and was developed within the Phillies system. The team is out of contention this season and must rebuild in the next few years. The only way players such as Shane Victorino could be dealt is if the Phillies get back prospects who will be ready to start next year.


Sellers: New York Mets

After a great first half, the Mets have won just one game since the All-Star break and could try to make a move. Johan Santana’s injury hurts them, as he is due so much money andcould have been traded. The Mets would have been happy to deal him in return for prospects.

With Santana injured, if there is a Mets player to be traded, it’s infielder Daniel Murphy. Jordany Valdespin has been incredible this season and offers more versatility and better defense than Murphy. However, the Mets will only make a trade if they get something back which they are really able to use, such as a power arm for the bullpen.


Sellers: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have been buyers recently, bringing in players such as Zack Greinke and Aramis Ramirez, but it has not worked out. The best case scenario for them is that Greinke decides to stay in Milwaukee, which may not be very realistic. The Brewers were also shopping reliever Francisco Rodriguez and tried to increase his value. K-Rod, however, imploded with blown saves in consecutive appearances against the Phillies, likely costing the Brewers some prospects.


For more insight, visit BloombergSports.com. 

Why Fly-Ball Pitchers May Be Better Bets Than Ground-Ball Pitchers

By Eriq Gardner //

One of the fundamentals in evaluating starting pitching is to focus on three key areas where pitchers hold a measure of control over their statistical production:
  1. The ability to retire batters via strikeouts
  2. The ability to limit base-runners by avoiding the issuance of walks
  3. The ability to limit home runs by keeping the ball on the ground

Pitchers who do a good job at these three things are commonly assumed to be very skilled. Pitchers who do these things well but don’t have a superb ERA to match are seen as unlucky.

Makes sense. However, we’re not quite certain that ground-ball pitchers are better fantasy baseball assets than fly-ball pitchers. Perhaps slightly more valuable, yes, but not as profitable. Confused? Read on…
We examined statistics from starting pitchers between 2006 and 2010 to get an idea what kind of production we could expect from starters who were elite at keeping the ball on the ground versus starters who were terrible at keeping the ball on the ground. We put the pitchers into four quartiles:
  • Pitchers with elite ground-ball skills (above 47 GB%) including stars like Felix Hernandez and Chris Carpenter and lesser ones like Paul Maholm and Aaron Cook.
  • Pitchers with above-average ground-ball skills (about 44.5%-47%) including stars like Tim Lincecum and CC Sabathia and lesser ones like Joe Saunders and Jeff Suppan.
  • Pitchers with below-average ground-ball skills (about 40.5%-44.5%) including stars like Jake Peavy and Cole Hamels and lesser ones like Kevin Millwood and Kyle Lohse
  • Pitchers with terrible ground-ball skills (below 40.5%) including stars like Jered Weaver and Matt Cain and lesser ones like Jarrod Washburn and Oliver Perez.

Now, let’s look at each of the categories.

First up, here’s a look at ERA for each of these groups. You’ll notice that the ground-ball “elite” have a superior advantage over the rest of the field. It’s easy to understand why. Pitchers who don’t give up a lot of fly balls save themselves from the trouble of allowing many home runs, which tends to very unhealthy to a pitcher’s ERA. 
However, also notice that pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball rates perform better in ERA than pitchers with “below-average” and nearly as well as “above-average” ground-ball rates.
It should be no surprise that the category of WINS tracks similarly. After all, there’s a pretty strong correlation to preventing runs and getting wins. Pitchers with “elite” ground-ball skills do best in wins, but perhaps surprisingly, pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball skills don’t do as badly as pitchers in the 25%-75% range.
So far, we’ve shown that elite ground-ball pitchers have the edge. Let’s now turn our attention to WHIP. Surprise! Pitchers with “terrible” ground-ball rates are the best of the bunch:
Maybe non-HR fly balls are easy to field than ground balls and that’s why pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates have good WHIPs. 
Here’s another theory: These pitchers tend to pound the middle of the strike zone instead of nibbling near the bottom of the strike zone. As supporting evidence, we now present a look at how each of these four groups of pitchers perform in the STRIKEOUT category. As you’ll see below, pitchers with terrible ground ball rates typically get the most strikeouts:
Obviously, ground-ball rate doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with strikeout rate. There are definitely pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez who do a great job of keeping the ball on the ground and getting strikeouts. But the norm tends to be that fly ball pitchers do better at inducing whiffs.
Add it up and we have two categories (ERA, W) favoring pitchers with elite ground-ball rates and two categories (WHIP, K) favoring pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates. Based on the fact that wins tend to be most scarce, the edge in overall fantasy value goes to pitchers with elite ground ball rates. But do fantasy folks overestimate that edge?
Many competitors tend to focus on the sexy stats of wins, strikeouts, and ERA and give short shrift to a category like WHIP. The pitchers commanding top prices in fantasy drafts do very well in those first three categories.
How about some fly ball pitchers? The top pitchers include Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver. As for the potentially longer list of draft day bargains, think Ted Lilly, Ricky Nolasco, Scott Baker, Javier Vazquez, and Aaron Harang. Each of these players are fly ball pitchers who project to have great WHIPs and strong strikeout rates. 
At very least, there’s a floor to their prospective value that makes them good bets to at least earn back their draft investment. 
The upside for more is also there. As demonstrated above, pitchers with terrible ground-ball rates don’t do as badly in ERA and wins as one might assume. Furthermore, each of these pitchers play home games in pitcher’s parks, which may dampen the number of home runs they give up and might, very possibly, make them just as valuable as elite pitchers going very early in drafts.

Top 10 Injury-Risk Starters

by Eno Sarris //

Pitchers get injured. We all know this, and Adam Wainwright serves as a fresh reminder. Still, you might be surprised to learn that the average starting pitcher is 39.1% likely to hit the disabled list? Yes, two out of five starting pitchers will hit the DL this year, and for an average of 66 days. Let that sink in.

So we know that all pitchers are fairly likely to be injured, and that helps us avoid spending too heavily on pitching early in our draft. But once a pitcher is tabbed as an injury risk and falls in drafts, he could become a value. Hey, if all pitchers are 39% likely to hit the DL, how much worse could an injury risk be?

With that in mind, I used the Bloomberg Sports Front Office Tool to make a list. Using “Negative Durability” as a factor, I sorted injury-risk pitchers by their B-Rank for the next year. What follows are the Top 10 Injury-Risk Starters for the upcoming season. Click here to see the full list.

B-Rank  /  Pitcher
152 Shaun Marcum
177 Ricky Nolasco
440 Josh Beckett
670 Anibal Sanchez
748 Edinson Volquez
752 Dallas Braden
777 Brett Myers
803 Kevin Slowey
814 Jake Peavy
840 Jordan Zimmermann

Obviously, all the entrants on this list are not created equal. Shaun Marcum has averaged 169 innings over the last three seasons, Ricky Nolasco 185 and Josh Beckett 171. They may be less durable than your average pitcher, but they are more durable than the rest of this list – and that’s probably why they rose to the top. All three are projected for around 170 innings this year, and all three are generally regarded as sleepers later in your draft.

Another type of pitcher that shows up on this list are the Tommy John returners, Edinson Volquez and Jordan Zimmermann. B-Rank is skeptical about their innings totals – it projects them both for just short of 140 innings – but thinks they might be useful enough at the back end of a rotation, with ERAs around four and WHIPs around 1.3. Both have the upside to better those numbers based on their best outputs to date, but they’re also coming off major injury. Wait a little bit longer for these guys, but if you need a home run pick late, they might be for you.

Maybe the least interesting group on the list consists of injury-ridden pitchers that with less upside. Brett Myers (161 three-year IP average), Dallas Braden (152) and Kevin Slowey (136) have all averaged fewer innings than the healthier group, and don’t have the upside of the TJ survivors.

And then there’s Jake Peavy. Projected for 123 innings after averaging 128 over the last three years, he might belong in the high-upside group if you believe he can approximate his early-career work in the American League. If you believe he was more a PetCo mirage that benefited from the environs of the NL West, you’ll probably stay away. The nice thing is, he’ll be cheap if you do deign to pick him up.

And there you have your list of injury-risk starters for 2011. Naturally, they should go after the more durable at their position. But they might also provide some nice value for their cost.

For the best fantasy baseball analysis and insight please visit BloombergSports.com

Should You Hold Onto Wandy Rodriguez, Rich Harden, and Ricky Nolasco?

By Eriq Gardner
Time to take a look at some more “toxic assets,” or players who may have been highly drafted but have done little so far this season to warrant fantasy roster spots, besides a recognition of past accomplishments and potential upside.
Deciding when to cut bait on these underperforming players often requires a gut check. But with so much potential help on the waiver wire in standard leagues, teams can only afford so much latitude in giving players time to get their act together.
Let’s examine some pitchers who are candidates for dumping.
Wandy Rodriguez has been a tremendous disappointment this season. He entered the year as a borderline fantasy ace, with solid peripheral skills. In 2009, he posted 14 wins, a 3.02 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP. He backed those numbers up with a strong strikeout rate (193 in 205 IP), nice command (more than 3 Ks for every BB), and a respectable ground ball rate (45%).
Right now, he’s showing just 3 wins, a 5.60 ERA, and a 1.67 WHIP. He’s gone from a potential #1 on a fantasy team to just the third-based SP on the awful Houston Astros, behind Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers (perhaps behind Felipe Paulino too). What’s especially concerning about Rodriguez is the big dip in his strikeout rate: It’s gone from 8.45 K/9 IP to 6.22 this season. Most recently, he’s shown modest improvement in striking out batters, but unfortunately, it’s gone hand-in-hand with rising numbers of walks and home runs allowed. His xFIP is a pedestrian 4.48 at the moment – much better than his ERA, but still nowhere near his former ace status.
Rodriguez has never been a hard thrower, averaging just over 89 MPH on his fastball throughout his career. Velocity readings show not much change this year, and other than an increased use of his changeup, there doesn’t seem to be that much difference in his pitch selection. Instead, his buckling curveball has become a lot less effective this year, as word spreads that he hasn’t been able to locate it well. 
Perhaps this is a minor adjustment, but if it was so easy, he probably would have made it already. Rodriguez’s next two games are both at home, against Texas and San Francisco. He’s traditionally played much better at home. He’s probably a hold for at least another couple of games, but if he can’t turn in a solid game against the weak-hitting Giants at home, he deserves to be cut.
Rich Harden recently went on the injured list, which in some ways may have been good news for some owners with DL roster allowances. Before succumbing to the inevitable injury, Harden was terrible, posting just 3 wins, a 5.68 ERA, and a 1.68 WHIP. 
Harden wasn’t great in 2009 with an ERA over 4 and a WHIP at 1.34. But he performed better than his superficial stats may have suggested, striking out nearly 11 batters per 9 innings and posting a solid xFIP of 3.70.
This year, Harden’s strikeouts are down to 8.17 Ks per 9, which would be a strong enough rate if not for the fact that his command has been truly lousy. He’s walking nearly 6 batters per 9 IP, the worst rate in the major leagues. Harden is also allowing more HRs (nearly 2 per 9 IP) and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that putting men on base by walk and then allowing HRs is not a formula for success.
If he wasn’t on the DL, we’d recommend he be dropped. After all, the injury-prone player misses a lot of time anyway and plays in one of the friendliest hitters’ environments. If fantasy teams have room to stash him on DL in hopes of a turnaround after getting healthy, that’s fine. However, he shouldn’t be given much rope even when he does return.
Ricky Nolasco hasn’t won many fans this season with 5 wins, a 5.05 ERA, and a 1.38 WHIP. 
He’s also no stranger to bedeviling fantasy owners. Last season, his ERA was in the 9’s in May before he got demoted to the minors. Nolasco eventually brought his ERA down to 5.05 by season’s end; his xFIP was an outstanding 3.28.
But last season, Nolasco was striking out more than a batter per inning and flashing elite command. In 2010, his strikeout rate has dipped down to 6.6 K/9 and his flyball and HR rates have both climbed. According to an analysis by Mike Axisa at Fangraphs, the problem seems to stem from lost movement on his pitches, which has made them easier for batters to connect.
Nolasco has a neutral upcoming schedule, with battles against the Rangers, Orioles, and Mets. It’s also important to note that Nolasco could be a trade candidate for the Marlins, which may take him out of the stadium that ranks fourth-best for hitters this season. For now, Nolasco shouldn’t be dumped, but his leash is definitely growing shorter.
For more on hold-or-dump toxic assets, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools

The Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Squad

By Jonah Keri

It’s one
thing to dig into the numbers and make a bunch of predictions for the
upcoming fantasy season. It’s quite another to put your fantasy draft
where your mouth is. That’s just what I did last week in the Brian Kenny Show Fantasy Baseball League.

Run by ESPN anchor and radio host Brian Kenny, the league
includes some heavy hitters at the Worldwide Leader, along with a special guest from the pigskin world. Mike Greenberg (of the Mike and Mike Show), Linda
Cohn, Jay Harris, Ryen Russillo, Amy Lawrence, Buster Olney, Rob Neyer
and NFL wide receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh (I was as surprised as you, but the man’s got a good team) joined me in the league, along
with Kenny, his producer Mike Urrunaga, and three listeners.

The format is a little different than your typical fantasy league.
Instead of the standard 5×5 format, or the original 4×4, this is 6×6.
The offensive categories are: HR, RBI, R, SB, along with OBP and SLG
(no Batting Average). The pitching categories are: W, K, ERA, WHIP,
along with Quality Starts and Saves+Holds (instead of Saves only).

The strategy here was simple: Load up on offense early and grab
quality starting pitching periodically. Then take advantage of the
league’s unique categories in two ways: 1) Punt saves, so that while
others are fixated on lousy closers, I can swoop and take elite set-up
men who’ll produce almost as many holds, with much better ratios. 2)
Target hitters late in the draft who are better in real life than in
fantasy, since they typically put up low batting averages but also
strong on-base percentages and slugging averages.

Picking 10th in the draft, I grabbed Rays third baseman Evan Longoria
with my 1st-round pick. I wanted big power numbers right away, since
cheap steals figured to be abundant. Third base is also a thin position
this year, Alex Rodriguez was gone, and I trusted Longoria’s improving game and stacked Rays lineup over David Wright, the 10 home runs he hit last year, and his abysmal Mets teammates.

I was hoping to address position scarcity again and grab Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki with my 2nd-round pick, but he went four slots ahead of my #19 selection. Come on down Roy Halladay! The Phillies’ new ace is the most dependable starting pitcher in the game, ranked #2 behind only Tim Lincecum
this season and #14 in B-Rank (Bloomberg Sports’ proprietary ranking of
all MLB players). The initial goal might have been to target offense
early, but you don’t say no to Halladay at this point of the draft.
That Quality Starts were an additional category in this league only
made Halladay (and other top SP) more valuable.

The next four rounds were an offensive blitz. Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez
is already an elite hitter in standard leagues; add OBP and SLG to the
mix, though, and he’s arguably a top-10 hitter. So heck yes, I’ll take
him at #38. With Longoria and Gonzalez now anchoring the infield and
the power categories, it was time to look for speed, which is copious
this year in the outfield. Kenny was hosting his radio show as the
draft was going on, and had no qualms about calling out players he
wanted. In Round 4, he was jonesing for Rays outfielder B.J. Upton.
At #47, I was already planning to take Upton if he fell to me; huge
source of steals, and now that he’s reportedly over the shoulder injury
that plagued him in 2009, I expect big bouncebacks in OBP, SLG and
counting stats. Taking Upton three spots ahead of Kenny, and eliciting
a horrified on-air reaction, only made the pick sweeter.

For my fifth-round pick, I turned to the first of several Bloomberg
Sports Blog-profiled players I would nab in this draft: newly-minted
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson. Here again I wanted a power-speed guy and agreed with the take of colleague Tommy Rancel, who profiled Granderson as a
30-home run player coming to Yankee Stadium, a place that greatly
favors slashing left-handed hitters. Much later in the draft (16th
round), I would grab Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, adding more speed to the roster, and a second Bloomberg Sports Blog-touted option for 2010.

4-5-2010 11-25-20 am.png

With the five-outfielder format of this league, I wanted another power-speed OF early, so Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz (33 HR, 20 SB, .524 SLG in his first full season last year) made it three such picks in a row, at #75.

Then, the pitching onslaught began. In recent weeks, we’ve discussed the huge upside of Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco and Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez (as well as his slightly less talented but still solid teammate Jorge de la Rosa).
I landed all three of those pitchers, in the 7th, 8th, and 15th rounds
respectively. All three project to put up big strikeout numbers, with
Nolasco and Jimenez also targets to produce stellar ratios and even
darkhorse Cy Young seasons.

4-5-2010 11-21-42 am.png

In the later rounds, I drafted a
boatload of players who figure to benefit from the league’s OBP/SLG
yes, AVG no format, including Yankees outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham and Angels catcher Mike Napoli. Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks
is a definite injury risk, but his power/speed/OBP potential made him
too good to pass up in Round 11 (and I hedged by grabbing Twins second
baseman Orlando Hudson in post-draft free agency as a backup).

Rounding out the draft, I landed no fewer than four top set-up men
who figure to combine for 100+ holds plus occasional saves, all four
with strong strikeout and ratio numbers. Good to have you, Matt Thornton, Daniel Bard, George Sherrill and Mark Lowe. You’ll be a lot easier to carry all season than shaky Opening Day closers like Matt Capps and (shudder) Matt Lindstrom.

I’ve pasted the roster for the Bloomberg Sports Squad below. We like our chances. (Round selected in parentheses)

You can follow the league, all season long, here.

C Mike Napoli (13th)
1B Adrian Gonzalez (3rd)
2B Rickie Weeks (11th)
3B Evan Longoria (1st)

SS Everth Cabrera (16th)
MI Marco Scutaro (18th)
CI Nick Swisher (14th)
OF B. J. Upton (4th)
OF Curtis Granderson (5th)
OF Nelson Cruz (6th)
OF Denard Span (10th)
OF Josh Willingham (20th)
UT Paul Konerko (17th)

SP Roy Halladay (2nd)
SP Ricky Nolasco (7th)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez (8th)
SP Brett Anderson (9th)
SP Max Scherzer (12th)
SP Jorge de la Rosa (15th)
SP Ervin Santana (22nd)
RP Matt Thornton (19th)

RP Daniel Bard (21st)

RP George Sherrill
RP Mark Lowe
2B Orlando Hudson
1B Russell Branyan (DL)

For more on how to build and manage your fantasy team throughout the season, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.

Ricky Nolasco’s ’09, Bad Luck or Bad Form?

By Tyler McKee

Going into last season, Ricky Nolasco‘s solid rookie campaign pointed to a budding star poised to make a large fantasy impact. He finished the year with a solid 13-9 record for a decent Florida Marlins club, but also put up a disappointing 5.06 ERA — a full run and a half higher than his previous season.

Some might see Nolasco’s extremely large jump in BABIP from .284 in 2008 to .336 in 2009 and his impressive FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching – a measure that runs on a similar scale to ERA but strips out factors such as defense, run and bullpen support) of 3.35 for the year as signs of a particularly unlucky season and thus expect regression to the mean this year. But there’s more to it than that. The key is to look at the splits.

The disparity between his April/May and June/July splits is quite astonishing. Nolasco posted a huge 6.49 FIP in May coupled with an absurd BABIP of .418 and a left-on-base percentage of 37.6%. This means that 62.4% of batters that reached base against Nolasco ended up scoring! Compare this with one month later, when all of those stats fell faster than stock in Toyota. In June and July, Nolasco saw his BABIP fall to around .300 and his LOB% rise to a solid 75%. His FIP fell below 3.00. So what happened? We know that he was not injured, so the answer must have involved his mechanics. 

Whatever it was did not seem to affect Nolasco’s ability to hit the strike zone. Bloomberg Sports’ performance grid shows that his walks per nine innings (BB/9) stayed right around his career average. Instead, it appears the culprit was an inability to keep the ball down in the zone, as evidenced by his flyball percentage (FB%), which jumped to 50%, from his usual average of about 41%. Needless to say, this is a big problem for a major league pitcher, especially one that depends on a dominant slider as one of his go to pitches.

If a slider is thrown properly it should have significant lateral movement as well as diving action, causing hitters to swing over top of the ball and drive it into the ground, or miss it completely. However, delivery issues could significantly hinder a pitcher’s ability to achieve this breaking action. When thrown poorly a slider will stay flat and be easily distinguished by the hitter, (as explained in detail here) which is what appears to have happened to Nolasco. 

The increased FB% and a drop of two strikeouts per nine innings, to 7 from 9, indicates that batters were able to square up his pitches far more often then normal. Instead of hitters rolling over his breaking stuff and driving it into the ground, they were able to make more solid contact — and Nolasco struggled as a result. The Bloomberg Sports hits per nine innings chart (H/9) shows just how bad it got for him. At one point he was giving up five more hits than the league average. The H/9 chart also shows a strong correlation with the BABIP chart. This is a clear indication that what many thought was a run of bad luck, was also the result of bad pitching. 

On May 22, Nolasco was sent down to Triple-A to work out his issues, and whatever adjustments were made worked out well. After he returned on June 7, Nolasco saw a return to his old results. His flyball rates fell in both June and July, bottoming out at 24.1%, his groundball rate skyrocketed to 54.2%, and his K/9 returned to its normal rate of better than 9.0. During this time Nolasco achieved a miniscule 2.34 FIP.

In 2010 it won’t be better luck, or better fielding that enables Ricky Nolasco to return to the mean, and the hearts of fantasy managers. Look to see if he can become more consistent in his delivery. If he can do this, he will make a very solid number two starting pitcher for any fantasy team. 

For more on Ricky Nolasco and other starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ fantasy kits.