As of January 1st, 2012, I am quitting cold turkey and finally forcing myself to lay off the sauce.
No more I say! NO MORE! I quit Ricky Nolasco! You hear me Ricky? I QUIT!!!
Way back in 2008, Nolasco broke onto the fantasy scene with 212.1 innings of outstanding numbers, including a 3.52 ERA, 186 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP. The following season, Nolasco increased his strikeout rate to 9.5 K/9, but his ERA ballooned to 5.06. "Nonsense!" cried sabermatricians still enamored by a 4.43 K/BB rate and 3.23 xFIP.
Then, in 2010, Nolasco did improve his numbers, but only to the tune of a 4.51 ERA in an injury shortened 157.2 innings. Still, his 4.45 K/BB rate kept us believers investing in a potential breakout season. 2011 HAD to be the year! Right?
Nolasco started last season looking like the pitcher we thought he was going to be after that 2008 season, but as the season moved on, his numbers worsened. A 3.70 first half ERA nearly doubled to 6.21 in the second half of the season as his strikeout rate plummeted. In the end, Nolasco once again left fantasy owners disappointed with a 4.67 ERA and the worst WHIP of his career (1.40).
The problem is pretty simple: Nolasco is just plain hitable. While the fact that he rarely issues a free pass (2.1 career BB/9) is a positive, it also turns out to be a negative. Opposing hitters know that Nolasco is going to be around the strike-zone and they also know that his command is so inconsistent that before long he'll leave a pitch out over the middle of the plate. The result? Over 20 home runs allowed per season and a career 1.15 HR/9. Nolasco has also allowed more hits than innings pitched every season since 2008 and he allowed a line-drive rate of almost 24 percent in 2011, which represents a career worst. His HR/FB rate actually declined in 2011, but one has to wonder if that will correct itself as he moves into a new ballpark in 2012.
At 29 years of age, there is less and less hope that he's merely a young pitcher trying to find his niche.
Of course, I can't go an entire Ricky Nolasco article without dishing out something positive (it's a process people). He did actually lower his home run rate as well as post a career high 45.1 percent ground-ball rate last season. If that trend continues, the addition of Jose Reyes at short could pay big dividends (because Hanley Ramirez has been a dreadful defensive shortstop). Given Nolasco's career high chase rate in 2011 (37 percent), there is room for a bounce-back in his strikeout rate as well. I mentioned that Nolasco allowed a career high line-drive rate against last season, but line-drive rates tend to fluctuate from year-to-year for most pitchers, so there is at least some hope that hitters won't be lashing line-drives left and right against Nolasco in 2012.
Wait. What am I dong? I'm falling back into the trap aren't I? The Hot Nolasco Sauce is starting to look like a promising flier pick once again isn't he? NO! Not again. I couldn't possibly. He's proven that year-after-year he is destined to let us (me) down.
I'm not drafting Ricky Nolasco in 2012...well...maybe...