It may already be old news, yet it bears repeating that Nathan Eovaldi has played an integral role in the Yankees about-face over the last several weeks. He has pitched to the following line in his last four starts, all of which resulted in wins - 25.0 IP, 17 H, 5 BB, 19 K, 2.16 ERA, 3.31 FIP. Eovaldi has thrown a quality start (using the somewhat archaic definition of 6-plus IP and three or fewer ER) in five of his last seven starts, as well - which is important for a team that is built to slam the door shut in innings 7 through 9.
This is not the first time that Eovaldi has impressed for a stretch, of course. He reeled off a strong fourteen start stretch from June 20 through September 5 (the end of his season, unfortunately), posting a 3.43 ERA/2.86 FIP in 84.0 IP. That largely coincided with his discovery of a devastating splitter, and the expectation was that it would carry over to this season. And, after a few bumps in the road, it seems that he is once again figuring things out.
While it would be nice to simply end it on that note, I was curious to see if there was anything in the data that suggested that he had figured something out. And, as luck would have it, there does appear to be more to this than random fluctuation.
As the season has progressed, Eovaldi has seen the vertical movement of his pitches stabilize. It is interesting to note that his splitter picked up more drop in each of his first five starts before finding its groove in his last four. Moreover, that has coincided with his slider stabilizing, which may be indicative of him simply working out his feel for the two offerings.
And here we see that Eovaldi has also found a comfort zone with his release points, which were all over the place in his first several starts. With each passing outing, however, the lines have been more consistent (and closer to each other), which adds a wrinkle of deception. Eovaldi's delivery has flown open in the past, allowing hitters to distinguish between his offerings - that hasn't been happening since he began to turn things around.
There are two possible ways to look at this (discarding the obvious caveats of sample size). The first is that Eovaldi has figured out something regarding his mechanics. Having a consistent release point is incredibly important, both in terms of its impact on stuff and in keeping hitters off-balance. And the other is rather simple - Eovaldi is fully stretched-out and healthy now. He missed a month-plus at the end of the 2015 season with elbow inflammation, and dealt with a groin injury in late February. He began Spring Training at a bit of a disadvantage, having to work off an extra layer of rust.
And, as we pointed out on last night's podcast, Eovaldi is still only 26-years-old. He never pitched in Triple-A, and was in the Majors for good at 21. He still has youth and upside in his favor, and this is the first time that he has been in a stable (or stable-ish) organization. In short, there is reason for optimism here. And I am excited to see what Eovaldi can do.