If I told you that Ivan Nova would raise his K/9 by three full batters and his K% by seven percentage points while dropping his BB/9 into the two’s and cut his BB% by almost a full percentage, you’d probably think he’d be having a great year. Add in the fact that he’s increased his strand rate by just over two percentage points and you’d have to assume he was definitely having a fine year. Higher strikeouts? Lower walks? More guys left on the bases? That’s all a formula for run prevention. But of course, those numbers don’t tell us the entire story.
When I last checked in with Nova, he had a HR/FB% of 18.2. I thought there was no way that rate of homers could maintain itself and I was sort of right. Nova’s HR/FB% isn’t 18.2 anymore; it’s 18.8. Since I wrote that article, he’s given up five homers in 25 innings, good for a 1.8 HR/9. There’s been just one start this year, 4/27 vs Detroit, in which Nova hasn’t allowed a home run.
Mike at RAB touched on the overall pitching situation yesterday and I don’t think there’s any room for disagreement right now: something’s gotta give. Nova does deserve another time or two through the rotation to figure things out, but if he hasn’t by now, will he for the rest of the year? Rarely do I say I want a pitcher to strike out fewer batters or be less aggressive, but that seems like the remedy for Nova here, doesn’t it? While he’s got the velocity to do so, pitching up in the zone with his fastball isn’t working and he’s not getting grounders (GB% of around 44%) and he’s obviously getting tattooed. While his slider hasn’t been the most consistent pitch in the world this year, it’s still getting lots of swings and misses. If he can manage to keep it down in the zone (the pitch also has a HR/FB% of 20.59, per Brooks), then he can keep the strikeouts up and hopefully start to correct himself in regards to grounders.
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