Your team is in need of some pitching. So, you go to the search feature on your league’s free agency section and type in the name Clayton Kershaw. He’s taken. You certainly were expecting that, but you do have a backup plan. Alas, Felix Hernandez is also gone. Wait, what about Max Scherzer, or even his scrub teammate Justin Verlander? Taken. Yu Darvish? Taken. Madison Bumgarner? Taken. Your plans have been foiled.
Hoping against hope, you scroll down the page and come across two names. Martin Perez of the Rangers, and Ricky Nolasco of the Dodgers. You can really only afford to bring one on board for the rest of the season. So, since both gentlemen are scheduled to start today, let’s answer the simple question. Who’d you rather? Martin Perez, or Ricky Nolasco?
Let’s take a look.
Advantages of Nolasco
If you’re a golfer, Nolasco is the equivalent of laying up on a short par-five instead of trying to hit over the water to reach the green in two. Unless you’ve got a pretty short game or putter, you’re not making a birdie, or certainly eagle, much of a possibility, but you’re also taking disaster out of play.
You have to go back to the end of June, when Nolasco was still pitching for the hapless Marlins to find a really bad start. Since moving west to the Dodgers, Nolasco has not surrendered more than three earned runs in any outing. So, you’re not terribly likely to have an outing that takes you out of it if you go with Nolasco.
Something else working in Nolsaco’s favor is his home park, Dodger Stadium. For the last 50 years, Dodger Stadium has been one of the best pitcher’s parks in the league. It’s part of being in California on the coast. The air is a little thicker, the weather rarely gets terribly hot (like it does in Texas), and balls get held up in the big gaps. All of the West Coast stadiums have that in common, and they’re all paradise for pitchers.
Also, the National League West has been a disappointing division this year. Some of that has been the flat year the Giants have had, but the Diamondbacks have flat-lined, and neither the Rockies or Padres have been consistent in any way. After today’s start against the Cubs, the Dodgers face only one non-NL West team for the rest of the season. That is the powerful Reds in Cincinnati, but Nolasco should miss that series.
He is likely start at both Coors Field and Chase Field, but who knows what the Rockies and Diamondbacks are going to be featuring, especially with the expanded rosters. The Diamondbacks are still partial contenders, but that’s not until mid-September. The standings could look quite a bit different by then.
Lastly, if nothing else, the Dodgers are a National League team, meaning they don’t have to go against the DH. I think the severity of that advantage gets overblown sometimes, but it’s certainly not a bad thing for him, especially compared to Perez. Speaking of which…
Advantages of Perez
You don’t have to go as far back to find a bad start for Perez, but he’s gone into the seventh inning or deeper in each of his last five starts, allowing more than four earned runs only once. Many of Nolasco’s outings have been cut short of that, going only five or six. So, even if he allows fewer runs, the ERA’s are similar, because Perez has had more innings to his name.
Actually, I’m going to tweak the golf comparison that I used earlier when talking about Perez. He’s the equivalent of going for a par-five in two shots, only hitting the ball over a bunker instead of water. You’re bringing eagle or birdie more into play but even if it doesn’t work out, there’s still a chance to save a decent hole. The water example would be more apt with someone like Tim Lincecum. Look at Perez’s last five outings.
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Which puts his total numbers over the last five starts at this:
That’s a pretty nice bit of momentum to be carrying into the season’s final month, isn’t it? Here’s certainly not all over the place with inconsistency. Nolasco’s ERA since joining the Dodgers is only marginally better at 2.53, while his WHIP is actually higher, at 1.14.
Now, a cynical person may point out that those outings haven’t been against the best offenses in the league. There’s certainly some truth to that, but he’s likely got six starts remaining this season: The Mariners, the A’s (twice), the Pirates, the Royals, and Astros. Of those teams, only the A’s rank in the top half of the league in scoring, and they’re barely in the top half, and struggling. So, I’m not seeing much there that really terrifies me for the rest of the way.
Also, I like the fact that the Rangers are actually in a race, one of the few really going right now. They’re only slightly ahead of Oakland for the AL West lead right now and while the Rangers are certainly likely to be at least in the Wild Card game, any player from last year’s team will tell you that they’d much rather win the division than take their chances in a one-game crap shoot.
Barring a really strange set of events, the National League West will have basically no suspense for the third year in a row. That means the Dodgers will spend the final part of the season setting their rotation up for the playoffs, and making sure the arms are fresh. That’s going to mean that Nolasco’s schedule is going to be a lot more in flux than Perez’s, as the Rangers will likely clinch the AL West in the season’s final week, if at all.
While the home park is an advantage to Nolasco, Perez has managed just fine in Texas, posting a 2.20 ERA at home in 2013. So, while that’s an edge for Nolasco, don’t let Perez’s home field play a huge role.
Who’d I rather?
I’m making a big assumption here. If you’re searching the waiver wire for pitching, you’re probably playing catch up and need to catch lightning in a bottle with a guy who can have a dominant month. So, from that perspective, Perez is the man. Nolasco is a fine pitcher and a pretty safe option, but Perez brings a higher ceiling, and I don’t think his floor is significantly lower than Perez’s.
Now, if you have an injured pitcher like Matt Cain on your team and you’re not trying to make up ground as much as you are trying to hold serve, then you have to give Nolasco a thought. In that scenario, the slight edge may go to him because he pitches at Dodger Stadium and (of course) in the National League.
Overall, it is worth repeating that I don’t see Perez as a massive risk and I do see him with a higher ceiling. So, with a few scenario specific exceptions, Perez is my guy.
Let’s look at some numbers.
Dixon’s Projections for the Remainder of 2013