“Bad luck,” Ivan Nova said. “I had a bad day. It was a tough day for me. I threw a lot of good sliders, I threw some good curveballs, I broke two bats and they got base hits. It’s not a good day. … I felt really good and I threw strikes but I gave up 10 hits, nine runs. That’s part of the game. I just have to turn the page.”
Wrong answer. I’m sure this quote will be analyzed ad nauseam today, but this is a terribly stupid thing to say. Not only does it show his own ignorance to how he pitched, but it shows a lack of maturity. Personally, I don’t need Nova to admit how poorly he pitched, in fact, I’d rather he not answer the question if he truly believes his 9 run start to the Orioles was some finely crafted masterpiece gone awry by 10 lucky hits and a fluke walk.
With that said, I am not in the business of arguing my opinion of how players should act, I’m here to offer an analytical look at the disastrous game last night. In perhaps the worst start of his career, Nova blew a 5-0 lead in the first inning by allowing 7 runs to score with 2 outs in the second inning. As surprised as I was to see the score go from 5-0 to 5-7 on my phone, I was more surprised to return home from work and watch Nova throw some strong pitches. As soon as the game ended, I had to check PITCHf/x to see what it said about his stuff. Sure enough, he was actually showing more movement than he had all season.
|Pitch||Velocity||H Mvt||V Mvt|
Movement on the slider and fastball indeed increased. The four-seam showed around an inch more rise and horizontal movement, while the slider had more than an inch more sink but more movement into right handed hitters. The curveball largely saw reductions in both types of movement. With so much variation, I expected to see some sort of mechanical flaw in Nova’s delivery.
On the left we have a slider that Nova was able to throw down and away, while the video on the right shows a slider that he hung. Mechanics-wise, the big difference is in the release, and you can see that the hanging pitch is released slightly too early. The result on the right, is a slider which breaks up and in to Mark Reynolds due to a relatively low spin rate and high spin angle. This is stems from less magnus out of the low RPM, and a high spin angle of 215, which makes it move similar to that of a fastball, and thus the movement into right handed hitters that we saw in the chart above.
We have a similar mechanical flaw here with the fastball. While both pitches are setup in the same location, the pitch on the left hits it’s spot, while the pitch on the right flies up and in. Again the ball on the right is being released too early and creating the same effect we saw from the slider. This pitch is again showing a higher spin angle than its counterpart, as well as a decreased spin rate. In the case of both the slider and the fastball, there is around a 250 RPM drop between the unflawed and flawed pitches.
“I had a bad day,” Nova said. “But I don’t feel that way. I felt really good in that (second) inning, too. I just got hit.”
As Paul O’Neil pointed out in the broadcast, Nova looked like he was pressing in the second inning. When he ran into some bad luck, he would often look frustrated trying to get out of the jam. It’s pointed out in almost all of his starts that he throws harder with men on base, however now it looks like he’s simply overthrowing. By rushing his delivery ever so slightly, Nova unraveled quickly. As unfortunate as it is, I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable if he acknowledged his flaws. I’m not looking for an apology though, I’m looking for dominance in his next start.
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