When it comes to Nova’s fastball, his four-seam sat at 92.4 mph last year, but on Monday night, the big righty came out with some of the highest velocity we’ve seen from a Yankee starter this year. Sitting 93.3 mph on his four-seam, Nova hit 96 mph in the first inning of the game. To have such a velocity spike in the first game of the year is very rare, but Nova has done so many unpredictable things, I am curious to see what he’s up to.
Quick PITCHF/x Lesson: For those that haven’t looked at these plots before, PICTHF/x measures the “movement” of a pitch. After comparing “movement” to that of a straight ball with no spin, it will give the pitch thrown a positive or negative horizontal or vertical value in inches. On the chart above, look at Nova’s curveballs indicated in purple. They broke down and away from right handed batters. You can even see that a few pitches almost broke 10 inches vertically more than your straight no spin pitch. Now for fastballs you’re probably thinking that a positive vertical “movement” means they rose, but it actually means that they fell that many inches less than the no spin pitch. Since your four-seam fastball is thrown so that the spin fights gravity to stay elevated, the pitch is given a positive vertical movement. (No pitch can avoid the laws of physics unfortunately…unless your name is Roy Halladay)
Let’s get our hands dirty trying to identify these pitches ourselves. Although Brooks is in the process of manually updating every pitch type thrown, it appears that the newer data is still automatically being classified. Since you should now have a very basic understanding of how these graphs work, let’s reclassify some of these pitches. For one, a changeup is typically around the same horizontal movement as a fastball but with less velocity, that way the hitter believes he’s looking at a fastball and swings earlier than he should. As you can see, we have one changeup above that’s way off from the others. That pitch is sitting around the positive 3 inch horizontal spot with 2 sliders, and when you compare the velocity, I think we’re looking at a slider instead. To double check, we can look at the vertical movement from the graph above this one, and sure enough we’re sitting 2 inches closer to the slider than we are the changeup.
The main difference between a two-seam fastball and four-seam fastball is that a two-seamer sinks. When compared to a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer will often break more vertically, and most of the time horizontally. The key difference should be visible in the chart above, a velocity difference along with lower vertical movement should be obvious, yet a lot of blue is mixed in with green. It’s possible that Nova threw a few two-seam fastballs, but I don’t see it as part of his repertoire, thus I’m not going to analyze whether or not he threw a two-seamer. Now that we’ve picked apart this data a bit, let’s examine how Nova pitched on Monday.
From the three charts above we see that his repertoire for the first game of the season included a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider. In regards to the four-seam fastball, while his horizontal break was nearly identical to last year’s (-4.84 in 2011 v. -4.67 on 4/9/12), there was also more of a “rising” action. Last year, Nova averaged a 6.71 vertical break on his four-seamer, but Monday night he saw almost 3 inches more, sitting at 9.38. While PITCHF/x calibration at Camden Yards could be a culprit, 3 inches suggests something more significant than being slightly offline. When you figure that Nova is experiencing a sizeable difference in velocity and “rise” of his fastball, and that the 25 year old suffered from major fastball command issues in March, it leads me to believe that he’s throwing harder. From 2009 to 2010, Nova bumped up his innings from 139.1 to 187.0, which was followed by a velocity drop from 93 mph to 92.4 mph. It’s possible that Nova’s 2011 season was his “sophmore slump” or Verducci effect, or whatever you want to call arm fatigue after a long year. This new fastball in 2012 might not be so new after all.
As for breaking pitches, Nova threw only 3 sliders and 6 changeups, 1 of which was hit about 800 feet by Matt Wieters. His curveball was the star of the night. As you can see in the graphs above, his curveball dropped around 5 inches on average, with a 6 inch horizontal break away from right handed batters. Although his curveball was similar to his career curve, he was able to locate a very tough pitch to control. Of the 23 pitches that Nova threw, 17 were strikes, while 5 were good for swings and misses. Although it isn’t a huge sample size, a 21.74% whiff rate is phenomenal and was undoubtedly his best pitch that night. His success with the curveball was probably why he didn’t throw his other breaking pitches more often.
The graph above analyzes Nova’s approach against right handed hitters that night. Most of his fastballs were up in the zone, particularly up and in. His curveballs were mostly down and away, and although he was able to get plenty of swings and misses, he was also able to locate them within the zone for strikes. One thing I don’t like to see is all those fastballs in the middle of the zone; Nova with more command would be hitting corners. He’s probably lucky that this start came against the light-hitting Orioles.
The key difference against lefties was that Nova attacked with a lot more changeups. Again, we see that Nova kept his fastball up against lefties, but he also attacked the zone away. Still we’re seeing a lot of fastballs, and this time breaking balls, left in the middle of the zone. Nova faced 12 lefties that night, and gave up 6 hits to them, including a homerun and 3 doubles. Against a stronger lefty lineup like the Red Sox, Nova wouldn’t have made it very far.
PITCHF/x from Monday night has a lot of interesting numbers to say about Nova. While his fastball looks like it has more velocity and more “rise”, he’s probably going to continue to struggle locating it until he gets used to the break or tires out. His curveball was deadly, but mostly because of his ability to locate it to right handed hitters. All-in-all it was a decent start from Ivan Nova, who was really bailed out by a good curveball and some mediocre hitting.
A big thanks to Larry Koestler for PITCHF/x inspiration.
LIKE TYA ON FACEBOOK
- TYA To Merge With It’s About The Money, Stupid
- What about Kevin Youkilis?
- Teix Now Front And Center On The “Needs To Produce” Radar
- Cashman: Heathcott A Dark Horse Candidate
- A Dog Chasing Cars
- Outfield Trade Targets
- The Problem With Brett Gardner
- A Look At Relief Prospect Branden Pinder
- The Yankees Should Be Realistic, Put Team on Short Leash in 2013
- Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson
- lululemon factory outlet on Contact Us
- Cary on Will R.A. Dickey’s Knuckleball Succeed In A Domed Stadium?
- Brenna on Links: Prospects, Support for A-Rod, Mariano is Love and Who’s in Center?
- Louis Vuitton Outlet Sale Singapore on The Monthly Prospector: April Edition
- Authentic Louis Vuitton Outlet Store on The Monthly Prospector: June Edition
- Louis Vuitton Outlet San Diego on Banuelos to Undergo Tommy John Surgery, Yankees Prospectors to Undergo Grief Counseling
- related web site on The Great Subway Race
- get your lover back on Contact Us
- Dorothy Silvan on Pineda’s Torn Labrum, or Does the lemon law apply to baseball?
- tao of badass on Open Thread | Game 3 | Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees | Sunday, April 3, 2011
TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees