The Colorado Rockies have absolutely no choice but to cut ties with Juan Nicasio. He has one option available, but at this point why even use it? What potential has he shown lately that would make anyone believe he will become any better than he already is??
Let me back up. This is not a freak out, over-reaction post from the game that Nicasio just tossed against the Chicago Cubs. His final line is not indicative of how bad the outing truly was: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO and the 1 HR to Alfonso Soriano. What makes this outing “bad” in my opinion doesn’t show up in a pitching line. Of the 8 hits Nicasio surrendered, 5 were doubles and he hit Starlin Castro with a pitch. These hidden stats scream issues with control, but the problems with Juan Nicasio doesn’t stop there.
Juan has always had some fantastic “stuff”. If you are a baseball fan, you know what “stuff” is, and you want your pitcher — no you need your pitchers — to have it. The problem with having stuff is that stuff doesn’t always equate to success. These are no longer AAA players that you can blow a 95 mph fastball by erratically. If you can’t locate your “stuff”, then you end up with career ML stats that look like this: 164 IP in 37 starts (5 IP/start), with a career ERA of 4.66, nearly 10 H/9IP, 1+HR/9IP, 3 BB/9IP, & 7.5 SO/9IP. No this isn’t a trick, these are Nicasio’s career stats. For three years Rockies fans have been watching Nicasio pitch every 5th night and what becomes very obvious is that he can get through a lineup only one time effectively. Once these very talented batters figure out he isn’t throwing anything other than his fastball and an occasional slider, all of the sudden hitting becomes much, much easier. Just how easy? In Nicasio’s career he has a miniscule 13% swinging strike rate. Yep, you’re right, that means that only 13% of the time does a hitter swing and miss. And after 3 years of only throwing 2-3 different pitches, every scout for every team has figured out that hitting Nicasio is not rocket science. In fact it is closer to game-speed batting practice.
Don’t take my amateur opinion for it. Check out some facts. Below is the 2013 location chart to LH and RH hitters of Nicasio pitches. Blue diamonds are fastballs, red squares are sliders, and the green triangle is his change-up. Yes, only 3 pitches show up, and seeing the change-up is as rare as seeing Nicasio pitch the 7th inning. Also, note that Nicasio’s fastball is splayed across the zone like a Dick Cheney shotgun blast.
In his most recent outing against the Yankees, Nicasio went 5 innings and never even varied from the fastball & slider combo. He somehow only allowed 2 hits and 2 runs while striking out five. Go figure.
Nicasio has thrown his fastball 470 times out of 646 pitches so far in 2013, not including his 5/13/2013 outing against the Cubs. That’s a whopping 73% of the time. He has thrown his slider 131 times, or 20 % of the time. So Nicasio has relied on two lonely pitches 92% of this season! NINETY-TWO PERCENT of the time he is throwing one of two pitches. In his career Nicasio is not much different, relying on the fastball 68% of the time and either the slider or fastball 88% of all pitches. Let that sink in for a minute… If I am a professional hitter, I would simply sit there and wait for his fastball, because in a 4 pitch at bat I have pretty great odds to see that pitch 3 times. Is it any wonder why he is getting shelled at the big league level?
The fact is, if Nicasio is only going to rely on 2 pitches he will never be successful as his “stuff” is merely no more than what any major league reliever could provide. Let’s be real, every high school pitcher can throw a fastball and a slider. That’s really not what earns you a starting role with a professional baseball team. Does this all come down to confidence or control, who knows? A few years Nicasio showed the promise of a fastball that had late movement and an active slider, and a scout was able to talk the Rockies into taking a chance on a live young arm with upside. Perhaps the original idea was to teach Juan a couple more pitches to make him effective? It hasn’t worked. And I am not even going to get into the horrible line drive Nicasio took off his head and the broken neck that he fully rehabilitated because that conjures up emotional attachment. The Rockies need to break that attachment as his inability to locate pitches has left the Rockies in a tough and often losing position. If it were up to me I wouldn’t waste any more time. Happy Trails, Juan.