Written by Tony Meale
Published: 26 May 2009
I just have one question for Ricky Nolasco: What happened?
In 2008 -- his first full season in the big leagues -- Nolasco, 26, emerged as the unquestioned ace of a young Florida Marlins starting rotation and one of the more promising young pitchers in the National League. He won 15 games, struck out 186 batters in 212 1/3 innings pitched, and had an ERA and WHIP of 3.52 and 1.10, respectively.
Ricky Nolasco pitching for the Marlins
This season, however, the Marlins’ Opening Day starter has looked like a fish out of water. In nine outings, Nolasco (2-5) has just one quality start, has yet to make it out of the sixth inning, and has allowed four or more earned runs seven times. But he saved the worst for last. In an 8-6 road loss to Milwaukee on May 13, Nolasco gave up eight earned runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings pitched. In his next start -- a 15-2 home loss to Tampa Bay -- he was stung for eight earned runs on eight hits and lasted just two innings. Later that night, Nolasco and his 9.07 ERA were optioned down to Triple-A New Orleans.
So like I said: What happened?
Unfortunately, no one seems to know. Granted, we’re not talking about a Johan Santana or a Roy Halladay or any other hurler who has been stellar for the better part of this century tanking. Still, we’re talking about a talented guy who is neither old nor injured (as far as we know). Although the dreaded DL can cripple a fantasy owner, there’s comfort in knowing why a particular player is struggling. But with no injury, there’s no explanation. And with no explanation, there’s no reason to believe that Nolasco’s “recovery” will be either swift or successful.
Nolasco is on my fantasy team. As mentioned in a previous article, I planned on drafting him and Kansas City ace Zack Greinke in back-to-back rounds. When forced to choose which player to draft first, I took Nolasco for two reasons: one, I -- like just about every other fantasy owner -- am partial to NL pitchers in mixed leagues (there’s no bonus for taking pitchers who have to face a DH, so why take them?) and two, Nolasco had slightly better numbers than Greinke last year, so Nolasco was more of a sure thing.
Greinke, of course, never made it back to me, having been selected two picks before mine. And, as the draft gods would have it, Greinke, 25, is the consensus No. 1 overall player in fantasy baseball with seven wins (five by shutout), 77 strikeouts, an ERA of 0.82 and a WHIP of 0.91. I won’t lie and say that I knew Greinke, who was 13-10 last season, would have this kind of year. I figured he’d get 15 or 16 wins, post an ERA between 3.00 and 3.25 and approach 200 strikeouts. Instead, he’s the second coming of Bob Gibson. Nolasco, meanwhile, toils in Triple-A.
Not surprisingly, the Greinke owner in my 12-team rotisserie league is in first place and has perfect 12s in wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. I, on the other hand, have just 12 points combined in those four categories. My offense (52 total points) is the only thing keeping me in the vicinity of contention in my league.
Nolasco still holds a spot on my roster. For how long, I can’t say. I’m hoping he abstains from Bourbon Street long enough to regain his form from a year ago sooner rather than later. I’m not giving up on him yet.
I just want to know what happened.