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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.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

Parsing GM speak, living with Gregory Polanco and more

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On the latest episode of Locked on Pirates, host Jason Rollison explains how to parse GM Speak, how to live with Gregory Polanco and wonders out loud if the Washington Nationals just opened the floodgates.

All that and more on the latest episode of Locked on Pirates, live for your listening pleasure:

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

Off Day Mailbag with 93.7 The Fan’s Josh Taylor

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On this episode of Locked on Pirates, host Jason Rollison brings in Josh Taylor of 93.7 The Fan to help answer your burning Pittsburgh Pirates questions and more.

The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is available for your listening pleasure. Each off day, we open up our mailbag to your various gripes, salient points and even more gripes (understandable) to help us get through the off day.

Josh is always a great guest, and together we talk Jung Ho Kang, Gregory Polanco and so much more. It’s an engaging bout of Pirates talk without the BS. We hope you enjoy, and if you do please consider subscribing at the links below!

NOTE: Had some audio issues a the beginning which level out at around the 1:00 minute mark. 

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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The Locked on Interview – Adam McInturff from 2080 Baseball

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In the return of Locked on Pirates and the Locked on Pirates interview, Alex Stumpf talks the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates draft with 2080 Baseball’s Adam McInturff. Together the duo go through the 2018 Pirates draft and talk about some of the lesser-known prospects for the West Virginia Power.

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

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

Beginning with Opening Day, 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 buttons below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

 

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