If you’re a returning customer to the DLWW, then you know the drill: we’re here to talk about the barnacles that crawl at the bottom of the ship’s keel, the biofouling whose consideration is merited, by and large, by the dearth of available options in the deepest of formats. Such are the circumstances that invite us to take a look at whether the following two hurlers offer any SP help in NL-only leagues.
Vidal Nuno / SP / Arizona Diamondbacks
1% Yahoo / .1% ESPN / 7% CBS
If this name sounds familiar in these parts, that’s because I wrote about him back in April when he assumed a rotation spot with the Yankees. That I’m returning to the trough most certainly says less about his ability than it does the waiver wire’s selection at this point in the season, but Nuno has actually pitched pretty well in his eight starts since being traded to Arizona, posting a sub-4 ERA, FIP and xFIP, or, in other words, improving in all three categories by about a full run compared to his 14 starts in the Bronx. On Monday, Nuno was solid again, this time against the Nationals, hurling seven strong innings and allowing just two walks and two earned runs while striking out seven.
Nuno, of course, wouldn’t be the first man to breathe a little easier after fleeing the Yankee Stadium launching pad and the punishment of the American League East’s bullies, and it goes without saying that he now benefits from facing the pitcher in the National League. He’s also made some changes to his approach, decreasing his slider usage — which our PITCHf/x lists as his least effective offering — and throwing more fastballs, particularly with two strikes against both left- and right-handed hitters. That helps explain why his K/9 has jumped about a half-strikeout since joining the Diamondbacks, nudging his strikeout rate toward a healthy 20%. Meanwhile, his BABIP and strand rate remain within reasonable limits, so there’s no reason to expect a massive market correction down the pike in regard to his WHIP and ERA.
Nuno, unfortunately, has yet to notch a win as a Diamondback, and pitches his home games in the unforgiving confines of Chase Field. Arizona’s offense also has been putrid all season, a trend that hasn’t changed since the all-star break and certainly isn’t helped by the loss of Paul Goldschmidt. But Nuno has a rotation spot and probably won’t hurt you too much in any particular rate category; if the man could start getting a win or two, he’d be considered a decent NL-only option in many formats.
Eric Stults / SP / San Diego Padres
2% Yahoo / .4% ESPN / 6% CBS
Speaking of second-half improvement, Stults is a decent case in a point, a pitcher who got absolutely creamed in his first 14 starts of the year (5.79 ERA, 5.21 FIP, 4.61 SIERA) only to replace those stats with 3.30, 4.37 and 4.13 over his last 10 outings. In that time, he’s also seen a jump in punchouts, with his strikeout rate climbing from a gawdawful 11.3% to a decent 18.2% over the past two months. Like Nuno, the Padres hurler has made some alterations in his pitch selection, relying more heavily on his slider, particularly when ahead in the count. That’s helped bring about a sharp decrease in line drives against him, and he’s also received a bit more luck in surrendering home runs, as a mediocre HR/FB% has stabilized a bit.
Of course, despite any excuses positive indicators, the fact remains that Stults’ 13 losses are tied for the most in baseball. But in his defense, I’ll point out that he incurred eight of those during his horrendous start to the season, has gone 3-5 since for a team that remains seven games under .500 and he ranks dead last in baseball in run support per game. He’s also only had one start in those last 10 in which he surrendered more than three earned runs, so he’s shown some consistency during his improved stretch.
Point is, since mid-June, Stults hasn’t been nearly as bad as his overall line would indicate. That might not be enough to make him a tolerable option outside of deep NL-only formats, but at the least, it does provide some justification for why his ownership is beginning to tick up in CBS leagues.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.