Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Edinson Volquez or Ricky Nolasco?

Yesterday morning, Steve e-mailed:

Well my Volquez gamble didn’t pay off, I picked him up last week, hoping to get a couple of wins before Eduardo Sanchez came back. that plan back-fired last night.  I am going to have to figure out a trade for a pitcher coming off the DL so I can drop one of these guys: Volquez or Nolasco. I keep thinking Nolasco will turn it around, and he was going good last night, until another Marlins manager kept him in too long.  Who do you like going forward? Volquez’ win potential?

First, I like your gamble on Edinson Volquez in theory.  His AAA starts suggested that he might have the control issues resolved, or at least temporarily remedied.  His first two starts (against the Cubs and Giants) looked like a course correction.  Of course, the reality is different than the expectation: in 22.3 innings since his return to the major leagues, he is 1-1, giving up 26 hits, 15 walks and 11 earned runs in four games.  That is a 4.44 ERA and 1.84 WHIP for those of you counting, and his last two starts look like his early season starts.

For the season, Volquez is now 73.1 innings in, giving up 73 hits with a 75/50 K/BB.  ZIPS actually has him doing pretty well the rest of the way out, predicting an ERA just over 4.00 and another 4 wins to add to his total.  I am not buying, however; sometimes, when a pitcher loses the plate, it takes a long time for it to come back.  Volquez looks lost, and his make-up (which reminds me of a petulant child many times while watching him) is not going to help.

So, is Ricky Nolasco any better?  If you take a look at Fangraphs and FIP/xFIP, you might jump on him right away.  While Nolasco has a 4.44 actual ERA, his FIP and xFIP are 3.49 and 3.38 respectively.  Here is the rub.  Tell me how these numbers fit together: .324 BABIP, 25.3 LD% and 66.9 LOB%?  They do not.  Add to that a significant decrease in K/9 and increase in BB/9, and you present me with a pitcher who is screaming: “I am going to regress…a lot...on a terrible team in turmoil.  The ZIPS projection, however, tells a different story, predicting 6 more wins and a 3.89 ERA the rest of the way out.

Putting ZIPS aside for a moment, Nolasco is your better choice.  His strikeout rate is not as good as Volquez’ rate (which counts for something in 5x5), but he has better overall control, better overall command and puts the ball on the ground more often.  Generally speaking, I think he is a better bet for success the rest of the way, while Volquez is a candidate to go back to the minors for the rest of the year.  Take the surer bet here.

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