Game 144, Mariners at Angels
Ariel Miranda vs. Ricky Nolasco, 7:05pm
It sounded crazy – and I still think it WAS crazy, for the record – that the Angels would turn to Ricky Nolasco to help their beleaguered starting rotation limp across the finish line in 2016. The league was punishing Nolasco again, and his four-year contract was something of a joke throughout baseball, and probably a key piece of evidence when the Twins’ ownership decided to fire GM Terry Ryan. But the Angels thought he’d be enough of an upgrade over Hector Santiago that they took on some currenty-year salary to do so. And hey, it’s actually worked! For once, Nolasco’s ERA isn’t wildly out of line with his FIP, and Santiago’s been awful in the twin cities.
In the kind of trade that only sabermetric data wonks would be interested in, the Angels acquired a guy who’s always posting worse actual runs-allowed numbers than his FIP would predict. The return, Santiago, was the opposite: thanks to a consistently low BABIP, he had a string of good ERAs backed up by marginal-at-best FIPs. If this was a pure regression bet, you’d assume a team could do a sell-high, buy-low kind of a thing, but again: the two were traded for each other.* If you’re making a bet that your staff can fix some specific weakness, that’s cool, but then I’d expect to see something different in Nolasco’s numbers or approach pre- and post-trade, and I don’t; his FIP was 4.30 before the trade, and 4.32 after. He still throws the same pitches, and has a nearly-identical K:BB ratio and the same problem with HRs. It’s just that he’s stranded more runners in California than he did in Minnesota.
If the Angels have done anything, it’s a small change to his pitch mix. Nolasco appears to be throwing more sinkers now than he did with the Twins. That’s resulted in a *slightly* higher GB% with the Angels, though the difference is small enough that it could simply be noise. Theoretically, that should help Nolasco’s HR problems (and playing in Anaheim should really help them), but like a balloon that’s been squeezed on one end, the problem just pops up somewhere else. Nolasco’s throwing fewer four-seam fastballs, but batters are making more contact and hitting them harder now.
Ariel Miranda’s had a very Hector Santiago-y stint with Seattle. In six starts, his walk rate’s awful and his HR-rate is hide-your-eyes bad. But he’s allowed 15 earned runs (18 total) in 32 2/3 IP, which…I mean, that’s not exactly good, but it’s perfectly acceptable. It’d be nice to fix something, as his peripherals are bad enough that he could collapse at any moment; no one like Miranda should have a walk rate that high, for example. His fastball’s still getting destroyed, but I *still* like his splitter, even though he’s now throwing more of his change-up, a pitch that seems kind of superfluous for a guy with a good splitter. He’s not really throwing a breaking ball, which is odd, but I’d prioritize command work over refining his slider/learning a curve any day.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lee, 1B
7: Martin, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Marte, SS
I’ve now written about Ricky F#$^ing Nolasco three times this year, after writing about him in 2014, etc. I like what I do enough to keep doing it, but there are times when I look at the sheer volume of words I’ve expended on Nolasco or Brett Oberholtzer or whoever and I get a lump in my throat.
Then I read something like this phenomenal write-up on Bakersfield and their staff pulling together to run a Cal League franchise on a shoestring, and now playing each game like it may be their last…*ever* and I vow not to feel sorry for myself for voluntarily writing about Ricky Nolasco. Seriously, go read that article by Bobby DeMuro and tell me you don’t feel for Dan Besbris and the rest of the Blaze staff, players and fans. The parallels to Tacoma are somewhat eerie, from that look people (used to?) give you when they heard where you were from to the fact that the Rainiers had been saddled with a historic-but-problematic park and were thus kind of a money pit. Tacoma really could’ve gone the way of Bakersfield, but didn’t, as the City ended up helping out with a stadium remodel. Obviously, that didn’t happen in Bakersfield. Bako is down 0-2 in their best of 5 against Visalia. They’ll start Osmer Morales at Sam Lynn field and try to forestall contraction for another day.
Since last we spoke (sorry, another camping trip), the Rainiers were eliminated by the yapping Chihuahuas of El Paso. The other affiliates are still alive, with Bakersfield facing elimination and Clinton now in a decisive game 3 in their series against Peoria. The Lumberkings Kevin Gadea struck out 11 in 6 shutout IP last night in a dominating Clinton win to force the 3rd and final game that’ll decide which team will play for the MWL championship. Clinton sends ace Nick Neidert to the hill tonight opposite 19th round draft pick and Harvard man Sean Poppen. Go L-Kings.
Jackson kicks off their 2nd round match-up with the Mississippi Braves tonight. Andrew Moore, who dazzled in game 1 of the opening series against Montgomery, gets the start for the Generals. The M-Braves counter with Michael Mader, a former Marlins prospect who came to the Braves system in a deal for reliever Hunter Cervenka as the Braves have loaded up on young, MiLB talent. He’s been very tough since moving over to the Braves, and the Generals haven’t seen him before. The big pitching prospect for Mississippi is former Angels #1 prospect, Sean Newcomb, who shook off an awful start to 2016 to finish strong. The club also includes dimunitive catcher/contact wizard Willians Astudillo, speedy CF Mallex Smith, and hyped middle IF prospect Ozzie Albies.
Everett’s in the second and final round of the NWL playoffs against Eugene, who are up 1 game to 0 thus far. Tonight, the AquaSox send Ljay Newsome to the hill against Tyson Miller down in Eugene. Miller was a 4th rounder this year out of a small school in California and gets rave reviews for his competitiveness, but hasn’t missed many bats in pro ball thus far. Newsome was drafted out of a Maryland HS last year, and definitely features more present stuff, but has been victimized by HR problems. If he can keep the ball in the yard, he’s got a good chance; he blanked the Emeralds over 4 IP back in late August.
* Technically, the prospects in the deal – one on each side – complicate things, as the Angels got the guy with the higher upside/bigger name. Not sure it really changes the picture, especially when you add in the salary differences.