Before we begin, let’s just say that there’s no doubt Juan Nicasio is a tremendous survivor in life, and that he’s playing baseball at the highest level at this moment is nothing short of astonishing.
As for what he’s doing with that opportunity, however, leaves the Colorado Rockies with much to be desired.
While the story of his miraculous comeback from a near-death experience with a comebacker to the head and a broken neck in 2011 remains one to remember, it’s his forgettable performances on the mound with the Rockies these days that are putting a happy ending for the right-hander at risk.
After all, he is paid to be a pitcher and to use his ability to give the team a chance to win; and simply put, Nicasio hasn’t done a very good job of doing so in 2013.
But wait, wouldn’t his 4-2 record on the season suggest just the opposite?
Well, pitcher wins and losses are deceiving in a number of ways, but even taken at face value, it still doesn’t quite paint a complete picture: three of the wins came in May when the Rockies had the second-best offense in the league at 141 runs, enough to sugar coat that fact that he’s failed to factor into a decision in five of his 11 starts.
That’s alludes to Nicasio’s inefficiency, or inability to eat innings in more of a simple term. It’s one of those things that gives even mediocre pitchers value to their teams that exceed the expectation of their stuff, and it’s something that Colorado hasn’t been able to get out of their young starter.
The latest example of this came in the 26-year-old’s outing on Thursday, when he hit a brick wall against the Houston Astros.
After cruising through five on three hits, three walks and allowing just an earned run, Nicasio allowed four straight hits to start the sixth inning, earning himself yet another quick exit at just 81 pitches. Without getting a single out in the frame, he forced the team’s well-worn bullpen into action once more with the game tied.
Two homers and four runs later, and well, the rest was history as the team ultimately lost 7-5.
It may have been just Nicasio’s second loss on the season, but that doesn’t properly reflect the issues that he’s presented for the team. What does tell you more is the fact that he hasn’t thrown over 100 pitches in any of his starts, and in fact has lasted less than 90 in each of his last three outings. He has yet to throw more than six complete inning in one outing, and has lasted just five or less in four out of his last six.
Combined with his diminished K/9 (5.91 to 8.38 in 2012), and slight upticks in walks (3.51 to 3.41) and HR/9 (1.28 to 1.09), and not only is the Rockies hurler not throwing very many innings … he’s not throwing very many quality ones either.
With Jeff Francis on the mend, Roy Oswalt looming and Tyler Chatwood pitching like he should be going nowhere, Nicasio will need to turn things around, or the next chapter of his remarkable story may end up taking place outside of the major leagues.