One of my personal favorite pitchers in baseball is Ricky Nolasco. I somehow acquire him every year, and for the last two years he has on the surface been a disappointment. His cumulative ERA between 2009 and 2010 was 4.81.
However, that only tells part of the story with Nolasco. He's also been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball during that time, mostly harmed by bad luck and bad defense. His other numbers have been fantastic so I had to figure at some point Nolasco's ERA would match his peripherals, which over the past 2 seasons have included:
K/9 of 9.0
BB/9 of 2.0
K/BB of 4.44
That K/BB ratio is the 4th best in baseball during that time behind only Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Dan Haren. Unfortunately his 4.81 ERA is the worst of any pitcher in the top 35 of this statistic. Why?
I'll tell you after the jump.
This is where I start to get into advanced statistics. Now, I don't know how much Ray has gotten into advanced stats here, (understandably most fantasy leagues don't use advanced stats) but I will just do a minor tutorial on how advanced stats can help me become a much more well-prepared fantasy player. Keeping me ahead of the curve in any league.
The first reason that Nolasco hasn't been as lucky is a .316 BABIP against. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is mostly a luck-based stat that should stabalize at some point. There are other things that factor into it, but Nolasco has been hit around the past two seasons, and it's not all his fault. By comparison, the BABIP against Halladay during that time is .298. Against Haren, its .290.
Secondly, is a 65.8 Left On Base percentage or LOB%. Nolasco isn't stranding ANYBODY. (Okay, he is stranding 65.8 percent of somebodies, but by comparison that's not a lot.) In fact, its the lowest LOB of anyone in the top 35.
What does it all equate to? A 4.81 ERA but a 3.58 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) FIP basically measures what the pitcher is doing minus how crappy (or good) his defense has been behind him. That difference of 1.22 runs is the largest in baseball over the past two seasons and by far. 2nd place Jason Hammel, another very underrated pitcher, has a .93 run differential. Nolasco has the 25th best FIP in baseball over the past two seasons.
I drafted Nolasco again this year, and thus far its paid off in terms of ERA, which is finally matching his ability.
So without further ado, I give you this weeks "Ricky Nolasco All-Stars" which will highlight 5 pitchers who are doing much better than they appear to be doing!
Kyle Davies, Kansas City (3.79 Run Differential)
I would be remiss to not mention the leagues most unfortunate pitcher thus far in 2011. While not yet an addable player in most leagues, the once promising pitcher in the Braves organization hasn't gotten any help from his team or the Baseball Gods this year.
Davies is running an awful 7.20 ERA this year despite his highest K/9 since 2006 (7.20 strikeouts per 9 innings) and his lowest walks per nine innings since 2007 (3.60) He's also allowing less than half as many home runs as he did last season.
But the BABIP against is a putrid .420, he's not burning any worms (Groundball Percentage of 31.9) and he's stranding just 61.2% of runners.
KC is on the way up, and a luckier Davies might be the benefit of some extra wins this year, as his 3.41 FIP would suggest, but his year hasn't gone this way. Even at his best, he may only be an option in very deep leagues, but he's someone to keep an eye on that you may have never considered before.
Travis Wood, Cincinnati (3.03 Run Differential)
The 24 year old Wood had a fine rookie debut with the Reds last season, posting a 3.51 ERA in 17 starts. He seems to be in a sophomore slump out of the gate, posting a 5.73 ERA. But look closer.
Wood's strikeout and walk numbers are nearly identical from last season, and he's cut his HR allowed rate in half. The rest of his numbers should reflect that, but a .338 BABIP against and a 55.9 LOB% aren't helping. Unlike Davies, Wood is someone you may want to consider adding in the near future as the Reds continue to make a playoff run, a luckier Wood could be the benefit of some wins this season. His 2.69 FIP is 19th best in baseball so far this young season.
Chris Tillman, Baltimore (2.51 Run Differential)
From the "OMG R U CEREAL?!" pile comes Chris Tillman. Baseball America's former #22 overall prospect may finally have figured out how to succeed in the pros.
But wait, he has a 6.16 ERA you say? And that's actually worse than his ERA last season you say, when he was unrosterable?
Yes, but look at the other numbers. Last season Tillman had a K/9 of 5.20 and a bb/9 of 5.20, making him one of the worst pitchers in baseball.
This season those numbers have improved to a K/9 of 7.58 and a bb/9 of 2.84. His FIP has improved from 5.89 last year to 3.64 this year.
Tillman may never be the "ace" he was once thought to become, but he could be a very servicable #2 or #3.
Daniel Hudson, Arizona (2.37 Run Differential)
No relation to Stanley Hudson, Daniel has lost each of his first four starts and sported a 5.92 ERA. That wasn't what owners were expecting when the prize piece in return for Edwin Jackson last year went 7-1 in 11 starts with the D'Backs and had a 1.69 ERA.
Hudson is striking out better than a batter per inning this season, but his biggest problem has been the free pass. After issuing 2.55 bb/9 last year, that's sky-rocketed to 4.44 this season. However, it doesn't help that his LOB% has plummetted from a very fortunate 83.1% to just 53% this year.
Basically Daniel Hudson is the girl in high school that had a low self-esteem and became very popular. He lets guys on for free and then lets them score.
I don't know that Hudson will be a star in the league, but he's much more servicable than this.
Bud Norris, Houston (.94 Run Differential)
A little further down the list, but someone I felt I had to mention, was Norris. I tried to add Norris in my league yesterday but found he was taken despite the fact that he's only 12% owned in Yahoo leagues.
Why was he snatched in my keeper league? Because we count K/9 and K/BB in our stats. That's very significant with Norris. He's got a not so pretty 4.91 ERA but his other numbers suggest Norris could actually be a really good pitcher.
The biggest issue with Norris would be if he could cut down on the walks. We knew he could rack up K's, but would he ever have good enough control and would he ever stop getting knocked around?
Well he's at least address the walks so far this year. His 10.64 K/9 is great (4th in baseball) but now it also goes along with a 2.86 bb/9. His 3.71 K/BB ratio is 21st in baseball. His FIP is still just 3.97, but a more stable HR allowed rate (He gives up the long ball) suggests that could go down.
I think by the end of the year, if Norris continues this trend of not walking everybody, he'll be universally owned. But don't you want to be ahead of the curve? I think there's a backend spot for him on every roster except the shallowest of leagues.
And that concludes the longest first article in the history of SBN!