Just wanted to touch on an observation I had during yesterday's game. I don't know how much we can take from one start, but it's worth noting that Ivan Nova's sinker looked really good yesterday. He's struggled to command the pitch since coming back, and that lack of command has contributed to his hittability and low strikeout/swing-and-miss rates. Not yesterday. Here's where Nova's 43 sinkers were located:
Of those 43 sinkers, Nova threw 26 of them for strikes. He drew swings on 20 of them and swings and misses on 5. 3 of those 5 whiffs came on strikeouts, which might be the best part about Nova's outing yesterday. He struck out 7 batters overall, 6 of them swinging, and got the 6 swinging Ks on 3 sinkers and 3 curveballs. That's the type of stuff we're used to seeing from Nova when he's on his game.
Compare yesterday's results to the 202 sinkers Nova threw over his first 6 starts:
The overall location distribution looks very similar, and it is. But the big difference is that group of pitches located in the right half of the strike zone. You'll notice that there isn't a single pitch that crossed anywhere in or near the right side of the zone and beyond yesterday. Nova was locating his sinker to one side of the plate all day yesterday, like he wanted to, and he was able to use the pitch more effectively as a result. He could throw the pitch inside early in a count to move a batter's feet and better set up the 2-strike sinker out of the zone or the curveball down and away. Because he kept pounding that side of the plate, the hitters had to honor it and change their approach in response.
Again, it was just one outing, so no way to draw any major conclusions from this. But it was a good thing to see after the arm fatigue scare earlier in the week. Life is much easier as a pitcher when you can locate where you want to and execute your game plan. Nova was able to do that yesterday and his results speak to how effective his execution was. If he can keep this up and keep pounding his sinker down and in to righties/down and away to lefties, Nova could become a big help to the rotation.
(Images and stats via Texas Leaguers)