Thursday Rockpile: Rockies right to pull out of Ricky Nolasco sweepstakes

Doug Pensinger

Certain members of the Denver media have been critical of the Rockies' decision to end their pursuit of Ricky Nolasco, who ended up in a Dodgers uniform. Here's why Colorado made the right move, despite what the local media says.

For whatever reason, the Colorado Rockies just can't win with the local media.

When the Rockies made what has been said to be a strong offer of prospects to the Miami Marlins in exchange for starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco, the 30-year-old righty was coming off a month in which he posted a 4.55 ERA and allowed 37 hits in 29 2/3 innings. While Nolasco's overall numbers were decent -- he held a 3.85 ERA while striking out 7.2 batters per nine innings and walking just 2.0 -- the Rockies had other concerns.

First of all, Nolasco was owed roughly $5.7 million. That's a lot for a small- to mid-market team to take on, and that becomes even more true when considering Nolasco's status as a rental; he'll be a free-agent following the season.

Secondly, Nolasco has always been a flyball pitcher. We know how flyball pitchers with statistics that were otherwise decent have worked out for the Rockies in recent years. I present to you, Exhibit A:

ERA/ERA+ K/9 BB/9 H/9 HR/9 GB/FB ratio
Pitcher A 4.49/93 7.4 2.1 9.6 1.1 0.72
Pitcher B 4.12/107 5.5 2.6 8.9 1.2 0.69

Pitcher A is Nolasco, and those are his career numbers prior to this season. Pretty decent strikeout-to-walk ratio there, but he gives up a good amount of hits and is an extreme flyball pitcher, as evidenced by that last column. It's also worth noting that, over the past three seasons, Nolasco's strikeout rate has decreased to a little more than six per nine innings, while his flyball tendencies remain and propensity to give up hits has gone up a bit, as well.

Pitcher B is Jeremy Guthrie. Those are his career figures prior to landing in Colorado. Better ERA, less hits allowed (while primarily pitching in a hitter's park and against the AL East, no less) and a similar batted ball profile.

Of course, Guthrie's massive failure in a Rockies uniform had every radio show host and reporter endlessly jabbering about how much of a "clown" Dan O'Dowd was and that the Rockies' front office was a "joke" for trading away Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, two guys who have already reached their respective peaks, for Guthrie, who went on to post a 6.35 ERA in Denver before finding success in Kansas City following a mid-season trade.

Nolasco might just be the guy the Dodgers need to cruise to a division title. But, that's because his pitching style fits his new ballpark. Had the Rockies given up talent and absorbed Nolasco's salary, there's a good chance they would have wound up getting stupid adjectives thrown their way once again while Nolasco failed to adjust to the toughest place for a pitcher in the league.

The Rockies do have some work to do. While I think staying away from Nolasco was the right move, the team needs to decide if it is a contender in a weak NL West, and if it deems itself as such, Colorado must fill a couple of holes -- notably, in the starting rotation, middle of the bullpen and at first base. The Rockies' series against the Dodgers this weekend -- in which they should have healthy versions of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler in the lineup -- will go a long way toward determining how they should approach the deadline.

As it sits now, members of the Denver media are, of course, attacking Rockies ownership (and are even making things up) for declining to take on Nolasco's full salary. It seems Colorado, which is in the midst of a 9-18 stretch thanks in part to the loss of their starting centerfielder and shortstop, just can't win -- on the field or otherwise.

Off-topic

Links

The Rockies will option outfielder Corey Dickerson to Triple-A Colorado Springs, according to Troy Renck, to make room for Dexter Fowler, who will come off the disabled list in time for tonight's game against the Dodgers. Renck also mentions that Troy Tulowitzki will be, more or less, a game-time decision, noting that Josh Rutledge would be the likely roster victim if Tulo is deemed ready.

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