Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Continuing Evolution of Ivan Nova
Despite an unimpressive ERA of 5.02 and a still less than stellar FIP of 4.83, I think Ivan Nova has shown some genuine development this year, building on his strong pitching from May 28 (the day he really started throwing his slider to good effect) last season. It’s more apparent when you look at his peripheral stats than his RA/ERA though.
FIP: Fielding-independent pitching
xFIP: Expected fielding independent-pitching
FB%: Percentage of batted balls that were fly balls
GB%: Percentage of batted balls that were ground balls
LD%: Percentage of batted balls that were line drives
BB/BF: Walks per batters faced
K/BF: Strikeouts per batters faced
HR/FB: HRs divided by fly balls
BABIP: Batting average on balls in play against
The key numbers here are the improved walk rate and strikeout rate, and that’s even more apparent if you look at just 2012.
Nova’s RA and ERA this year are skewed by a much higher than normal HR/FB rate and a well above league average BABIP against. Now it’s worth noting that he may have improved his walk rate and strikeout rate by attacking the strike zone more and is missing in the middle of the plate more often because of that, so he may still have some work to do to get those two numbers back down to respectability. From his interviews I get the sense that Nova’s an intelligent pitcher who is still honing his craft and has a pretty good chance to continue making the adjustments he has to make to become a better pitcher than he already is. I suppose I should mention that his overall fly ball rate has increased which is probably a bad thing in terms of his HR and XBH rate, but it should also lead to a lower BABIP against, particularly when he gets Brett Gardner back behind him in LF.
In a lot of ways, it’s more fun to watch a prospect who wasn’t really highly touted surpass expectations than a top prospect who comes into the league with guns ablazing, not that us Yankee fans would have any idea of the latter. We saw the development of Robinson Cano from guy the Yankees tried to trade about 20 times to an All-Star until he fell off the cliff after his age 28 season, and we may be seeing the same thing with Nova.
I’m not saying he’s going to be an ace, because it’s pretty freaking hard to become one. But he sure looks like a guy on his way to surpassing his 4th/5th starter “ceiling”.
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