Thanksgiving 2013 will go down in Twins Territory as the Thanksgiving of starting pitching. The weekend started with Ricky Nolasco signing with the club before Turkey Day and Phil Hughes signing right after. Both hurlers received the two biggest contracts in Minnesota Twins free agency history, Nolasco winning the biggest spot.
Let’s focus on Nolasco. The sense is that Nolasco will be the Twins ace with the parade of Hughes, Kevin Correia and two others following. Even if Nolasco doesn’t get the start on Opening Day, most see him as the number one guy for the Twins.
As noted when the signing was first broken, Nolasco has spent his whole eight-year MLB career in the National League, seven and a half of those years with the Florida/Miami Marlins and the last half of 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nolasco will be moving over to the American League which tends to be a tougher league for pitchers, so let’s see what the numbers say.
Nolasco has played 23 games against American League teams in his career and all 23 have been starts. This is obviously not a large sample size, in fact he has started against the Atlanta Braves alone 23 times, but it is still something worth looking at.
The right-hander has a career ERA of 4.37, while his ERA against the American League exclusively is 4.66. Nothing is out of the ordinary here; a slight raised ERA should be expected against a lineup with one more hitter. Also, Nolasco not having a lot of exposure to these hitters and still maintaining a somewhat close-to-norm number is a good sign.
WHIP is one of my favorite stats (mainly because every time I read WHIP a rope wipe sound effect plays in my head). Walks plus hits per inning is a nice metric to feature, a lower WHIP means that selected pitcher is not allowing anyone on base, not allowing chances to score. Nolasco’s career average WHIP is 1.288, against the American League it is 1.230; another positive sign for Nolasco’s chances in the new league.
Ricky boasts a career 7.4 strikeouts per nine, that lowers to 6.9 against the American League. This is not much of a drop off, especially considering Nolasco probably got about two free strikeouts a game against the opposing pitcher in the National League.
Nolasco has a career 3.52 walks per nine, which increases to 3.66 against the American League. See every other point I’ve made about the National League to American League and transfer it here, too.
Nolasco has thrown nine complete games in his career, two of them have occurred against American League teams. (Boston Red Sox in 2009 and Oakland Athletics in 2011)
Nolasco has thrown four shutouts in his career. His 2011 complete game Oakland was one of those shutouts. He allowed five hits and two walks on the day.
Nolasco pitched one game against the Minnesota Twins in his career. April 23, 2013, a game I was at and I can confirm that it was insanely cold. He got the win on five innings of three run ball. The Twins got six hits off of Nolasco, but he struck out four.
Again, Nolasco does not have a big resume against the American League, but it does look like he does not struggle against the American League. All of Nolasco’s stats are close to his career norms and that’s all Twins fans can really ask of him.
Go get ‘em, Carlos Enrique Nolasco.