Game 117, Mariners at Angels
Felix Hernandez vs. Ricky Nolasco, 7:05pm
A splendid Felix Day to you all!
Tonight, the M’s face off with ex-Twins hurler Ricky Nolasco, traded to Anaheim in something of an odd deadline deal that sent Hector Santiago to Minnesota. We’ve talked a lot on this blog about pitchers that for whatever reason consistently “beat” their fielding-independent stats. Chris Young had a consistently low HR/FB ratio (until this year), and knuckleballers often post very low BABIPs, and some high-K pitchers have the ability to strand more runners. In Nolasco, we’ve got a textbook example of the *opposite* phenomenon – a guy whose FIP makes him look decent, worth extending a 4-year, $49 million deal to, as the Twins did, but has posted just one above-average (2 WAR) season in a fairly lengthy career.
By Fangraphs’ FIP-based WAR, Nolasco’s been worth nearly 23 WAR over his career, which is more than respectable. His career average FIP is 3.86, and paired with decent durability (he’s been hurt a bit more recently), that drives some real value. But his ERA is 4.59, and it’s been well over 5 for his last 300IP over three seasons. That pushes his fielding DEpendent WAR under 10, a bit more in line with what you’d expect from a pitcher who’s allowed so many actual runs. Part of his problem is a stubbornly high BABIP, but Nolasco compounds it by failing to strand runners. Yes, I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating after the Angels not only took on the end of Nolasco’s deal, but also sent a so-so prospect to the Twins. Sure, sure, they got back injured-but-formerly-highly-regarded Alex Meyer, but fundamentally, the Angels took on salary presumably because they saw this as a decent buy-low guy. By FIP, it’s a decent bargain – it’s a roll of the dice, but you could get a bit of value and not have to burn service time on your actual prospects while your window of contention is closed. But how many innings is enough to confirm to us that Nolasco simply isn’t as good as that perfectly solid FIP?
1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lind, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Martin, CF
9: Marte, SS
SP: King Felix.
The M’s made a minor trade today, sending UTIL/SS Luis Sardinas to San Diego for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Sardinas was coming off a terrible year at the plate in 2015, and despite a very good spring training, had another awful year at the plate this year. Sardinas just can’t hit – after a .457 OPS last year, he “regressed” to .467 this year.
Most teams run instructional league teams where guys who’ve been hurt or need extra work can play games but without worrying about their stats. The M’s made the somewhat surprising move of not fielding a team this fall – they’re opting to send more guys to the Caribbean winter leagues, but also they want their players to work on things *outside* of game action. It’s easy to see this as a cynical move to save money, but as Andy McKay’s said in that BA article, they want to replicate what they see as the success of that “hitting summit” they held last winter – a workshop on reworking hitting mechanics outside of games. Given their success this season, it’s hard to quibble with that.