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Ivan Nova’s Struggles Continue For The Pittsburgh Pirates

David Slusser

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When Ivan Nova came over from the New York Yankees, he tossed up a 3.06 ERA and 2.62 FIP for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Over the last two seasons, however, it has been a mixed bag of results for the Pirates right-hander.

Entering Sunday, Ivan Nova had a 4.84 ERA and 4.20 FIP, indicating he’s been worse than he should be.  His 5.44 RA9 (runs allowed per nine) was above the starter league average 4.54, though his Deserved Run Average – a Baseball Prospectus measurement that is a RA9 estimator – also indicated Nova was pitching better than the results indicated, having a DRA of 4.12, eight percent above average (4.12 DRA-).

But on Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, Nova continued his struggles.  After two starts in which he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) in 6.2 innings, Nova allowed four runs in 5.2 innings, while only striking out two batters.  His ERA is up to 5.01, his FIP to 4.26, and his strikeout rate down to 17.8 percent.

A quick look at his xFIP – another ERA measurement – still shows that he’s performing worse than he should, getting some bad defense behind him, with Nova’s xFIP sitting at a comfortable 3.85.  The problem, however, is that xFIP only accounts for one change to FIP, instead of using home runs the formula uses the league average home run per flyball rate.

That assumes each pitcher regresses to that rate and aren’t more prone to allowing home runs, or are better at keeping the ball in the park.  Pitchers have some ability to influence batted ball results, and so xFIP assumes something about the pitcher that might not be true.

Here are both Nova’s and the MLB HR/FB rates since 2015:

Year Nova MLB
2015 13.4% 11.4%
2016 16.4% 12.8%
2017 15.8% 13.7%
2018 15.7% 12.6%

The already flawed metrics expects Nova to regress to having a league average fly ball rate, but Nova doesn’t appear to have the ability to suppress home runs, especially given the last two seasons away from Yankee Stadium.

Josh Carney on our sister site wrote about how Nova’s struggles could to derail the season, and at the time he wrote,

“Prior to the Detroit start April 26 in Pittsburgh, Nova sat right around 12 percent swinging strike rate, per FanGraphs. However, following that start, Nova’s swinging strike rate has fallen to 10 percent, and now sits just under 9 percent.”

Entering Sunday, the swinging strike rate was 9.4 percent according to Fangraphs. During the start against the Giants, Nova picked up seven swinging strikes on 81 pitches (8.6 percent).  But there’s more to the struggles than just missing bats, it’s the consistent loud contact against him.

On Sunday, the median exit velocity against Nova was 97.65 mph, here are the 2015, 2016, 2017, and entering the day median exit velocities against Nova:

Year Exit Velocity
2015 90.85
2016 91.45
2017 90.60
2018 92.45

This is part of the reason for why xFIP doesn’t work, especially in the case for Nova.  The quality of contact that is allowed is hard, so when elevated the ball goes over the fence.  It’s tough for a simple regression to the mean home run to flyball rate to occur given that contact, and why better run estimators (DRA) exist.

Another way of looking at the Nova problem is by looking forward and what the projections say.  PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, has Nova’s projected rest of season RA9 (projected 72 runs in 132 innings) is 4.84 and his projected ERA is 4.43, an improvement over what he’s performed to date, but nothing too special.  His 2019 PECOTA projection is a 4.49 ERA, making him a projected backend starter the rest of 2018 and next year as well.

For a team that relied on Nova as the veteran and the anchor in a young staff in 2017, the Pirates need more from Nova than what he has produced.  The ERA is high, though the FIP is much lower, the quality of contact he has allowed is concerning, and combined with the lack of swinging strikes, the struggles have continued for the right hander.

Currently a student at Kent State University studying economics and computer information systems. Incorporating the game with video while using numbers in a traditional and analytical mix.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Interview: Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Joe Block

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Today I had the pleasure of talking to Joe Block for the latest Locked on Pirates podcast.

The Pittsburgh Pirates found a good one when they brought in Joe Block to their announce team prior to the 2016 season. He graciously granted me some time for the Locked on Pirates podcast today while the club is in San Francisco. It was a lively talk that was very eye-opening in many ways. Here ya go:

 

 

Hear Joe’s thoughts on:

  • The role of analytics and advanced stats in his broadcast.
  • The maturation of Gregory Polanco
  • The “creaminess” of the current Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen,
  • And much more!

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

LOP’s Jason Rollison on ESPN Radio’s Adam Crowley show

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Locked on Pirates host Jason Rollison joined Adam Crowley of ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh to talk all things trade deadline. Listen in as they both try to process how the hell the Pittsburgh Pirates got Chris Archer

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

The Corey Dickerson Dilemma

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The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is LIVE. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ nine-game winning streak has re-fueled a few hot topics going around in Pirates circles.

The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is here:

 

 

Today we talk:

  • The Corey Dickerson Dilemma
  • GM Speak and why it is sometimes necessary
  • Left-handed relievers that could be available

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

Continue Reading

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