Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pitching for His Happiness

(photo by Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

Some might say that Ricky Nolasco is pitching for his baseball life.  I think it might be more accurate to say that he’s pitching for his baseball happiness.  A Rialto native and life long Dodger fan, Nolasco told Kevin Baxter of the LA Times on the day of the trade (July 6th) that this was a dream come true: 

“Pitching at Dodger Stadium, that’s it.  That’s all we ever talked about,” he said.

So Nolasco pitches at home now and dozens of friends and family pack Dodger Stadium to live the special moments.  Heck, when he pitches in Arizona, his entourage packs up and travels to Phoenix to watch him in person.  It’s essentially a dream come true for the crafty right hander and his family.  

For the Dodgers, Nolasco has proved to be that 4th or 5th starter that is something that Joe Blanton, last season’s acquisition, couldn’t provide.  That was consistency.  If there’s one thing that Nolasco has been in his major league career, it is being consistent.  In seven major league seasons, Nolasco has averaged 190 innings pitched per year.  He’ll toss a dozen quality starts each season too.  This is a pitcher that has the ability to eat up innings and preserve a bullpen.  Few pitching qualities are more valuable in the heat of a pennant race.

Nolasco may have found a permanent home with the Dodgers.  It all depends on how much he values pitching near his home town vs. whether he wants a top dollar contract elsewhere in the off-season.  Some might think that concept is ludicrous, as the Dodgers have the richest ownership in the game, but I think Nolasco might have to consider giving the Dodgers a home-town discount if he really wants to stay.

The Dodgers know more than any team that you can’t have enough starting pitching.  They entered Spring Training with nine starters on the depth chart and by mid April, they were out of pitchers.  A guy like Nolasco could have stopped the bleeding. He’s coming off seasons in which he started 35, 34, 31, 26, 33 and 31 games in consecutive seasons.    He’s had five consecutive season of double digit wins.  That’s the type of production that any team will take from a number 5 pitcher.  Pitching in Dodger blue, close to family has even made him better.  In six starts as a Dodger, he’s 3-1 with a 3.0 ERA.

“Ricky isn’t someone who’s going to lose his focus or competitiveness because he is pitching close to where he grew up,” said Dodger G.M. Ned Colletti to J.P Hoornstra a few weeks after the trade.  “If anything, in his case, it could make him better,”  (link to Hoornstra's article HERE).

With the Dodgers entering the off-season with questions surrounding injured starters Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett, a productive Nolasco would probably be worth re-signing.  A lot depends on how things go for the remainder of this 45 game season and the post-season play thereafter.

For that reason, I say that Nolasco is pitching for his baseball happiness.  Playing for his dream team in contention for a world championship, it doesn’t get much better than that.  How important that is to Nolasco all depends on his performance the next sixty days.  He’ll continue that trek tonight against the Mets in the opener of a three game set.

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