Ivan Nova threw arguably the best game of his young career last night, notching a career-high .262 WPA (besting his previous outing against Chicago last season on August 29 — his top game in 2010 — by .034 WPA). There seems to be something about the White Sox that matches up very favorably with Nova — probably some sort of combination of the team’s propensity to swing at everything (47.3% Swing%, second-highest in the AL) and relative impatience (7.1% BB%, third-worst in the AL) — but I also wanted to see how Nova’s pitch breaks compared with his season averages and previous start against the ChiSox.
Here’s what Nova did last night, c/o Brooks (click to enlarge):
Here are Nova’s 2011 seasonal pitch break averages, c/o TexasLeaguers.com:
Nova’s four-seamer’s vertical break was right in line with its seasonal average last night, though he was, on average, nearly half an inch closer to the plate horizontally yesterday. His four-seamer also had some additional kick on it (up 0.9mph from its seasonal average).
His curveball was outstanding last night, racking up -1.8575 linear weights. The curve’s v-break was also in-line with its seasonal average, but, like the four-seamer, also broke further away from right-handed batters horizontally. Nova also used his curve more frequently than he’d been doing (33% last night compared to 19.9% of the time on the season).
For kicks, here’s Nova’s pitch break data from August 29, 2010, against the White Sox:
The four-seamer was nearly 2mph faster and broke almost an inch higher on 8/29, but had similar average h-break to the one he was throwing last night. His curve had a completely different break on it last August (considerably less h- and v-break) compared with last night , he generated more swinging strikes (16.7% Whiff%) on 8/29 than he did yesterday (10%), and he also threw the curve about 3mph harder in that August start. It was good (-0.7195), but not as good as it was last night.
Based on last night’s results, it appears a slightly slower curve with more dramatic h- and v-break may suit Nova rather well.
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