Athletics The Perfect Matchup For A Struggling Nova

Ivan Nova‘s numbers this year are far from flattering, and we’ve covered some theories behind why he might have a 5.69 ERA this season. A changeup issue appears to be responsible for some of his homeruns, but his slider has improved his strikeout rates. He’s currently looking at a 9.55 K/9, a 1.89 HR/9, and a .393 BABIP. It’s unlikely that Nova’s BABIP could legitimately jump .100 points in one season, and if you’ve watched his starts, bloop hits and groundball singles have become a common occurrence. As his BABIP regresses, I expect him to figure out his homerun issues, but also expect to see hitters figure out his slider. Patience will bring his ERA closer to that 3.47 xFIP he’s currently sporting, and there is no better team or stadium to get it started against tonight.

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Nova’s major fault in 2012 is his absurd 19.2% HR/FB rate. Fortunately, O.co Coliseum ranked 26th overall in home run rates for 2011.… Click here to read the rest

From prospect to pitcher: The Ivan Nova story

ESPN the Magazine’s Jorge Arangure Jr has an excellent piece up today on Ivan Nova, tracking his unlikely evolution from an unheralded prospect who grew up poor in the Dominican Republic to a key member of the Yankee rotation.  The entire piece is a must-read, as it describes Nova’s career all the way back to before he signed.  Nova was primarily a position player in his teenage years, until a growth spurt created curiosity among coaches about whether he could pitch.  Nova did, impressing against some older competition, and never looked back.

The article describes Nova’s tireless work ethic even as a teenager, getting up at 5 AM to work out and make up for lost development time as a pitcher.  It also describes how Nova wasn’t on the Yankees’ radar, and for a while, the only team that gave him an offer was the Red Sox (at whose academy Nova played for a few weeks).  However, because Nova and his father were both Yankee fans, he rejected Boston’s offer.  … Click here to read the rest

Nova’s Slider Giveth and Taketh Away

When Ivan Nova began his brilliant second half last year, he surprised everyone by adding a new and efficient slider. He increased it’s usage monthly, throwing it 11% in June, 16% in July, 24% in August, and 19% in September. Breaking out a pitch mid-year and showing plus stuff is very unusual, and many were unsure whether the pitch would hold up in 2012. Eight starts into the season and it would appear as if it will stick as a legitimate plus pitch, he’s nearly doubled his K/9, but Nova is showing obvious signs of instability throwing the slider.

In his most recent start, Nova threw 103 pitches against the Reds, 27 of which were sliders. (26.2%) He learned quickly in the game that he was going to struggle with fastball command and became reliant on his breaking pitches. Catcher Russell Martin said after the game that the only difference between Nova this year and last was the fastball finding it’s way up in the zone, which I brought up in early April.… Click here to read the rest

Yankees claw their way within one in the bottom of the ninth, but fall 6-5 to the Reds

The Yankees had no answer for either of those guys.

The Yankees came into this one with an opportunity to make a statement at home after a disappointing road trip. Instead, the team’s recent struggles continued. While the Yankees did manage to get a couple of hits with runners in scoring position, and plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Reds impressive bullpen proved too strong. Curtis Granderson tapped out meekly to first base to end the game with the tying and winning runs on base.

The box score said it all. The Yankees had eleven hits, more than the eight hits the Reds had, but the Yankees converted those hits into just five runs, one run too few. The Reds, on the other hand, got the big hits in this one. The biggest was a three run homer off Joey Votto‘s bat. Votto is hitting an insane .308/.456/.594. It was a wonder the Yankees got him out at all.… Click here to read the rest

Could Nova Be Tipping His Changeup?

Despite his 4-1 win/loss record, Ivan Nova has arguably been the worst pitcher in the rotation. His 5.44 ERA and 4.95 FIP are worrisome numbers for a pitcher coming off a great season, and stats show that he’s pitching to mixed results. Perhaps the scariest indication comes from his H/9, which has increased from 8.9 in 2011, to 12.1 in 2012. Despite an improved K/9, 5.33 in 2011 to 8.37 this season, and an increased flyball rate, 28.9% in 2011 to 35.5% in 2012, opposing batters have gone from hitting .254 last year, to .326 this season. This would appear backwards, a higher flyball and strikeout rate should mean less hits from offenses, but Nova’s BABIP has jumped from .283 last year, to .380 this year. Such a dramatic increase in BABIP can be a warning sign, but with a linedrive rate still at career 18%-ish, we’re likely seeing some bad luck in small sample size. Ground balls sneaking through the infield and bloop singles are likely creating extra baserunners for a guy that’s otherwise shown mostly improvements on the mound.… Click here to read the rest

Yanks win a wet, see-saw game 8-5

First things first both Ivan Nova and Clay Rapada left the game with various injuries. Raul Ibanez also got plunked and exited We’ll keep you posted if anything comes down. Also, David Robertson apparently has a set of sore ribs. When it rains it pours, eh?

As for the game itself, it was pretty back-and-forth. The Orioles struck first in the opening inning, getting a run on a J.J. Hardy single before an out was recorded. Hardy was chased home two batters later by an Adam Jones double. The score stayed 2-0 Baltimore until the top of the fourth. Alex Rodriguez led the inning off with a single to center. The next batter, Robinson Cano, also singled. After a Mark Teixeira groundout, Nick Swisher hit a double of the wall in right center, scoring A-Rod and Cano and tying the game at 2.

The very next inning, the Yankees would keep their momentum rolling. Russell Martin led off with a walk, and the Yankees looked poised to break the game at that point, but Derek Jeter grounded into a double play.… Click here to read the rest

Nova’s homers

Yesterday in my article about Ivan Nova and his problem with hard contact, I intimated that Nova’s high HR/FB% was a bit unlucky. He didn’t do me any favors by giving up two more homers, one to Jose Molina and one to Luke Scott, during his start last night. The one to Scott, though, was definitely a Yankee Stadium Special, so I went to Nova’s page on Hit Tracker to see if Nova was actually getting unlucky with the long ball, or if I was just being a bit of a Pollyanna.

He has now given up eight home runs on the year, leading to an 18.2 HR/FB%. If we go by the classifications on HTO, Nova’s given up one no doubt homer, the one to Nick Markakis in Yankee Stadium lat week. Three homers have been classified as “plenty” while the remaining four have been dubbed “just enough” to get out. What might matter more, though, is how many of those homers would’ve gotten out in xx number of parks.… Click here to read the rest

Ibanez’s two homers power Yanks over Rays

The Yankees beat the Rays 5-3 tonight, behind the power of three home runs, two by DH Raul Ibanez and one by Curtis Granderson, and a (mostly) strong start by Ivan Nova. Tonight’s game also featured a save by David Robertson, the first Yankee save since Mariano Rivera‘s knee injury. Let’s start with that story, shall we?

Robertson started the 9th inning easily enough, getting a grounder off of Jeff Keppinger‘s bat. Will Rhymes followed with a walk and Sean Rodriguez subsequently singled. The Rays sent up Brandon Allen to pinch hit aN. Robertson punched him out before issuing a walk to Ben Zobrist to load the bases for the powerful Yankee killer Carlos Pena. Robertson ended the game by striking Pena out on a 2-2 fastball on the outside corner. Much will be made of the fact that Robertson loaded the bases here due to the pressure of the 9th inning, but let’s be real here, people: David Robertson just tends to put people on base.… Click here to read the rest

Nova’s Hard Contact Problem

Ivan Nova‘s first three starts of 2012 were a collective lesson in tight-rope walking. Though he gave up 25 hits in the 19 innings he pitched, he only allowed 8 earned runs, good for a 3.79 ERA. He was able to mitigate the hits by not putting anyone else on base (2 walks and 1 HBP) and striking out 20. But, perhaps the proverbial writing was on the wall; Nova had a 4.15 FIP in that time and was giving up an opponent’s batting line of .321/.346/.621/.987. To put a .987 OPS in context, that’s somewhere between Mark McGwire’s (.982) and Manny Ramriez’s (.996) career OPS marks (9th and 10th all time, btw). Somewhat predictably, Nova’s next two starts were pretty ugly. He pitched 11.2 innings and gave up 20 more hits and 11 runs (all earned) while walking 7 and striking out only 8; he also gave up 2 home runs. His batting line against was a horrific .370/.452/.630/1.081 over those two games.… Click here to read the rest