Watching Sean Nolin tonight, I liked the same things I liked in his first start. I really like the way he works both sides of the plate with his fastball, his over-the-top delivery has some deception, and his changeup is quite good.
I can see why the A's thought highly of Nolin as a prospect with a 91 MPH fastball, a good changeup, a developing curve and generally good control, and I can see where if Mike Napoli could not sit on the slow curve, where if batters had to start their swing a bit earlier before gauging pitch type and location, Nolin could be an intriguing pitcher to follow.
Nolin sat pretty consistently right around 86 MPH tonight and when he didn't it was often due to "maximum effort" that played out with a lower arm slot slinging the ball or a pirouette that landed Nolin clear on the infield grass. If Nolin were to move forward as a pitcher with a fastball in the 86-88MPH range, armed with a very good changeup, the ability to cut the fastball and a curve, he would pretty much be ... Tommy Milone. That is, assuming he throws a heck of a lot more strikes than he has his first two starts.
*** Warning: Completely Irresponsible & Baseless Speculation Ahead ***
Folks, I'm not a journalist, I'm an A's fan who is, for some reason, paid a little bit to sit in his bedroom saying what he thinks and occasionally making bad jokes on good words. As such, I don't have a responsible to keep my baseless speculations to myself.
To my eyes, Nolin has "Dan Meyer II" written all over him. Meyer came to spring training with a reputation for throwing 93MPH and I vividly recall watching him pitch in the Cactus League, and even with no radar gun available I watched him and said, "There's no way he's throwing more than mid-80s." He was throwing a ton of changeups and slow curves, and a fastball that no one could mistake for low 90s.
Well, it turned out that Meyer was in fact hitting all of 85 MPH on the gun, and it was because his arm was hurting but he didn't want to tell anyone lest he be deprived a shot to make the club. I don't know why the A's kept letting him pitch, because when you're throwing not 1-2 but 5-7 MPH slower than usual, it's never good.
I can totally see a scenario where Nolin sees a shot to pitch in the big leagues, and the last thing he is inclined to do is to suggest that he should not pitch. I have no idea how his shoulder is feeling -- perhaps it is in the best shape of its life, for all I know -- but I do know this: whether it's fatigue, pain, arm strength not fully built up, mechanics altered to compensate for issues elsewhere, there is really no scenario where a pitcher's velocity is down 5 MPH and it's fine.
Let me be abundantly clear here: Sean Nolin may feel just super fantastic, and I have no knowledge otherwise. I just know two things: One is that at his current velocity, or even a tick or two higher, he is not going to sustain success as more than a fringey back-end SP and the other is that if he has to push the ball extra hard just to throw 3 MPH slower than he normally throws, it's not good.
That being said, nice job limiting the damage and keeping the Rangers to just 1 ER in 5⅔ IP tonight and picking up your first big league win. You are now just 2 career wins behind Dan Meyer.