Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Quick Hit on Nova's Struggles

With Nova's grasp on the fifth spot in the rotation appearing tenuous, it seemed prudent to delve into his struggles a bit. While a third of the season isn't quite enough to garner a great sense of a player's abilities - particularly a rookie - it does provide us an idea of a player's strengths and weaknesses ... especially when we have other sentiment to base that upon.

There are two pieces of data that jumped off the page for me - Nova's velocity and hittability (which may or may not be closely intertwined).

In 2010, Nova's fastball averaged 93.1 MPH. Given that he does not hide the ball particularly well, that velocity is fairly important - especially when tied to the fact that about two-thirds of his offerings are fastballs. In 2011, his fastball is sitting around 92.0 MPH, a noteworthy difference for a pitcher so dependent upon the heater. His curveball velocity is roughly the same, but it's not breaking as much as it did in 2010. Those two have combined for nearly 93% of Nova's pitches in 2011.

The second bit of data lay in the fact that hitters are making contact with 90.5% of pitches that they offer at - the highest rate in the Majors, and a near 7% jump from 2010. That is simply horrific, and Nova's high walk rate (about 4 BB/9) and low strikeout rate (4.5 K/9) compound the damage done by the ball being put into play so frequently.

What does this all mean? While it's still early in the season, much of this does relate back to Nova's minor league days. He struggled with control, his strikeout numbers never really matched his stuff, and scouts openly doubted his ability to hide the ball. It's worth noting that Nova hasn't been terrible on the whole (as a fifth starter, comparatively speaking at the very least), and he is still young enough to improve with a bit of work and/or luck.

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