2013 Dodgers in Review #32: SP Ricky Nolasco

3.15 ERA90topps_rickynolasco / 3.52 FIP 87.0 IP 7.76 K/9 2.17 BB/9 (A)

2013 in brief: Production for nothing, and starts for free: a good trade at the time looked even better in retrospect.

2014 status: Signed a four-year contract with Minnesota in November.

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When the Dodgers acquired Ricky Nolasco from Miami in early July, after days of speculation, I was out of town (naturally), but I was still able to find my way to a computer to point out how much sense this trade made:

Of course, all along we worried about the cost, and that’s where this really seems like a win. Going back to Miami are righty minor league pitchers Steve AmesAngel Sanchez, and Josh Wallper Jon Heyman and Chris Cotillo, and I have to say I really, really like this idea. We’ve seen Wall, and he’s fine, but he’s 26 with a middle reliever ceiling at best. Sanchez has shown talent but is on his third year in A-ball and probably profiles as a reliever. Ames has gaudy minor league numbers — at least he did until getting to Albuquerque this year — but is 25 and doesn’t have the scouting reports to back up those numbers.

So what Ned Colletti has done here is beef up the pitching depth by adding a starter who immediately becomes one of the team’s best five starters, and he’s given up only three good-but-not-great relief prospects to do it. No Zach Lee, no Ross Stripling, no Zachary Bird, not even a Chris Withrow or a Garrett Gould. The Dodgers also pick up all of Nolasco’s remaining salary for the year — which, who cares — and there were unconfirmed reports that the Dodgers may collect some international signing cap room as well.

If they do, that’s just gravy. Nolasco isn’t great, but he’s an improvement, and the price is minimal. Really, really nicely done by the Dodgers, once this is official.

If it looked good at the time, it looked even better when Stephen Fife immediately got hurt and Nolasco stabilized a rotation that was facing some severe back-end depth issues and ripped off about two months of excellent performance. In his first 12 starts, he allowed one or zero earned runs five times, never once allowing more than three, and putting up an absurd 62/17 K/BB. He shut out the Red Sox over eight innings; he struck out 11 Cubs in eight shutout innings; he went into St. Louis and tossed five shutout innings. We were hoping for depth, but we got greatness instead.

Yet it wasn’t just magic, was it? After seeing how new teammate Zack Greinke used his fastball, Nolasco began using his slider as his primary pitch for the first time in his career:nolasco_pitches

By early September we were envisioning just how wealthy the free agent market would make him — I guessed 4/$60m — but some of the shine came off when he completely fell apart in his final three months of the year, allowing 17 earned runs, and then getting passed over for a start in the NLDS when Clayton Kershaw took Game 4 on short rest. For a while, we thought the same thing might happen in the NLCS, but he did start Game 4, despite not having started in three weeks, and he lasted just four innings.

Though it seemed clear Nolasco preferred to remain as a Dodger, the team never gave any public indication they were willing to match what he would get on the market, and the arrival of Dan Haren on a one-year deal seemed to seal his fate. Nolasco heads off to Minnesota, but this was a trade absolutely worth making, one that worked out well.

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Next! Hyun-jin Ryu!

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NLCS Game 6: Cardinals Lots, Dodgers Less

Well, that was horrible. I mean, really, truly horrible. It was awful, atrocious, unbelievable, terrible, whatever else you want to call it to the point that I have absolutely no interest in breaking it down. Other than “Dodgers bad,” what can you really say? What a complete letdown and disaster from every angle.

Clayton Kershaw suddenly forgot how to miss bats, and Don Mattingly seemed to forget that the rules of baseball allow for relief pitchers after it became clear Kershaw wasn’t going to figure it out. (The strike zone was lousy, yeah, but it was like that for both teams all series.) Every ball the Cardinals hit, it seemed, found a hole. Mark Ellis couldn’t play defense. A.J. Ellis really couldn’t play defense. Even if they could, Michael Wacha and friends held the Dodgers to two hits, and one was merely a first-inning single by Carl Crawford that he barely beat out.

And yes, as you’ll surely read, Yasiel Puig had a pretty rough night on defense. Other than the fact that the first poor throw was nearly as much on Adrian Gonzalez as it was him, his other two errors were deserved. I won’t pretend otherwise. I also won’t pretend as though it really was more than an incidental side note to the game, because, well, you know. Just keep that in mind when fools go overboard on it.

2013 really was a great year, you know. We should probably remember that, and I’ll have something to say about that tomorrow. Tonight? Bottoms up, or whatever helps you forget this game ever happened. Numb the pain. That was awful.

NLCS Game 6: Kershaw. Wacha.

buschstadium

Clayton Kershaw. Michael Wacha. A Dodger Game 6, for the first time in 25 years. If you’re not bouncing off the walls yet, with the Dodgers down 3-2, you might be doing it wrong.

But as you’ve surely heard by now, Hanley Ramirez will not be in the lineup as the Dodgers try to extend their season by one more day. As I wondered about this morning, it seems that his ribs are so painful that it’s not worth having him in the lineup; Don Mattingly said that Ramirez “feels worse than yesterday,” and that they aren’t even sure if he will be able to pinch hit.

Dodgers
Cardinals
LF
Crawford
2B
Carpenter
2B
M.Ellis
RF
Beltran
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Holliday
SS
Ramirez
C
Molina
CF
Ethier
3B
Freese
RF
Puig
1B
Adams
3B
Uribe
CF
Robinson
C
A.Ellis
SS
Kozma
P
Kershaw
P
Wacha

While disappointing, I think we all know that it’s the right move. Ramirez looked to be in terrible pain over the last few days, and if it’s actually worse now, I’m impressed that he can even walk. But if he can’t even pinch hit, that does mean that we’ll be seeing more double play opportunities for Michael Young, which I’m sure we’ll all love.

Without Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez moves up to third and Yasiel Puig hits fourth, as Don Mattingly makes good on his intention to split lefties Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. On the St. Louis side, Shane Robinson takes Jon Jay‘s place in center; Mike Matheny says that he wants to add another righty bat against Kershaw, but somehow I doubt that Jay’s hilarious defensive play in center doesn’t play into it.

Anyway, all the talk, and horrendous Bob Nightengale columns, are behind us. It’s time for baseball, and Kershaw against Wacha is more than fans could ask for. Enjoy.

(Update: and then just before game time, Ramirez IS in. Insanity.)

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

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What To Do With Hanley Ramirez

ramirez_nlcs_game5_grass

Steve Dilbeck thinks the Dodgers should sit him. Ken Gurnick & Chris Haft suggest that dropping him in the order might be a possibility. In practice, the Dodgers are likely to do neither.

What should be done with Hanley Ramirez? At this point, your guess is as good as mine.

What’s clear is that Ramirez is terribly limited by the fractured rib he suffered when Joe Kelly hit him with a pitch in Game 1. Ramirez missed Game 2, came out after 8 innings in a double switch in Game 3, and made it through only six innings in Games 4 and 5. Over the three games in Los Angeles, he collected just two hits — neither hit hard — while striking out three times, and while he hasn’t caused any obvious damage in the field, he’s certainly not looking great out there.

We’ve seen all too often how different this lineup looks without Ramirez in it, but there’s an argument to be made that the Ramirez we know and love isn’t actually in it right now even when he is. Unfortunately, the alternatives are sparse. Nick Punto offers a defensive upgrade, at least; Michael Young absolutely does not, and I’m not even going to talk about Dee Gordon here.

It’s possible, of course, that the day off in between games has Ramirez feeling better headed into tonight. We can’t know that from this perspective, but it also doesn’t seem like a mere day can make a lot of difference there. So what do you do? Do you put him out there hoping that he can get around on Michael Wacha fastballs? Do you drop him in the order, perhaps pushing Yasiel Puig up? Is it perhaps more effective to have him off the bench for a tight spot late, hoping that he’ll be more effective in one plate appearance than he would be trying to gut his way through three or four plus an evening in the field, especially when that might get him up rather than Young inevitably grounding into a double play?

I think he’ll be in the starting lineup, hitting third, because it’s Game 6 of the NLCS and it’s an elimination game, so of course he will. But whether or not that’s the right way to go, well… I’m just not sure.