Thus far, Nova has been as lackluster as the numbers (at least most of them) would indicate, and has clearly been given a lift by the Yankee bats. One could only wonder what his record would look like if he was not getting almost nine runs per start. For a moment let’s forget about the ERA and go a little deeper. What is particularly discouraging is his ground ball rate, which at 45.6% is only slightly above the league average of 44%. Considering the fact that he’s a sinker-baller, inducing ground balls should be his livelihood. Although Nova’s fly ball percentage is below the league average at 34.9%, an alarmingly high number of those fly balls are leaving the ball park with his HR/FB ratio at nearly 20%. However, this is a team-wide trend as the entire pitching staff has an average HR/FB ratio of 14.4%. Just to give a little context, according to FanGraphs, an average HR/FB ratio is 9.5% with a ratio of 13 % being considered awful. I’ll let you fill in the blanks as to where the Yankees stand.
Back to Nova, despite a general perception of mediocrity surrounding his season to date there are some encouraging numbers to point to that would suggest he will be able to turn it around. For one, he is striking an awful lot of guys out, averaging 9.55 K’s/9 and also has a K/BB ratio of 3.25. The 25-year old righty has been able to generate so many whiffs by getting batters to chase at over 30% of pitches outside the strike zone. The two key numbers to look at in terms of Nova’s ability to strike batters out is the contact percentage of opposing batters on balls thrown outside the strike zone (which is 54.5% with the league average at 68%) and his overall contact percentage, which is below the league average of 81% at 77.9%. These numbers indicate that the issue with Nova obviously has nothing to do with his stuff, but being able to effectively locate it. If he is able to do that, his ERA is bound to come down and he may actually be able to earn that winning record.