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Brushing Up On Ivan Nova

Sad face.
Sad face.

So who is Ivan Nova?  No, seriously, who is Ivan Nova?  Um, well John Sickels says this:

He doesn't have amazing talent but has enough stuff to survive in the majors if his command is there. He could be a fifth starter or long reliever going forward.

And the Yankees VP of Baseball Operations, Mark Newman, says:

He's young and has the  stuff, pitched at 94-96 the other day. He's another guy working on his secondary stuff to go with the heater. The other issue is command. He has control, he throws strikes, but his command within the zone still needs work.

Newman says "at 94-96 the other day" because he knows that's a good day for Nova.  At least if pitch f/x is to be believed.  Though it is the case that Nova has a solid fastball.  He's usually 92-93 w/ strange movement.  Usually either the horizontal or vertical movement (or both) will be at least 7 inches.  But he gets fairly minimal rise and run.  I'm not sure why that is or what the specific problems that causes for batters are, but it seems to be producing groundballs in any case.

Against the Rangers on the 15th, it didn't matter much.  The guy wasn't just throwing bad strikes.  He was missing the plate badly.  Called for low and away would end up up and in.  Nova didn't make it out of the 5th and still managed 5 free passes.  More than anything the Rangers did, crap control knocked him out of the game.  But he still got 7 GB to 3 FB.

And when the Sox faced him* last August, this seems to be the guy they were expecting to see.  Even AJ managed a 6 pitch AB featuring 3 takes.  But, surprise, that day he had decent enough control.  So while the Sox were able to take him deep in the count, Nova didn't throw anything too hittable.  He actually punched out 7 Sox in just 5 2/3 IP, largely thanks to being Effectively Wild.

Such are the vagaries of effective pitching in the Show. 

Obviously, Nova is not a sophisticated craftsman.  He does however have major league stuff.  So he's actually pretty easy to deal with.  He's got a tight, hard curve that he actually commands okay from what I saw.  But differentiating curve from fastball isn't nearly as hard as slider from fastball.  So righties just need to sit on the heater. 

Early in the count, look for something in your favorite spot.  He'll try to stay away to set up the curve, but it's probably a matter of time before he misses over the plate.  Power-hitting RHB should be looking to turn on one.  Line drive types might have more success looking the other way.  He's gonna get groundballs even then, but if you start helping him out by going down early in the count, all of a sudden he's into the 7th, 5-3 after 5-3.  Take walks when he gives them.  Drive the ball when he puts it where you're looking.

Against lefties, he does have a change, but I think this pitch in particular is what Nova is "working on" per Newman. It  really seems to be a work-in-progress at this point.  I think you can get away with assuming it's a fastball and adjusting.  The Rangers mostly laid off, as Nova really struggled putting it over.  Strangely, he's gotten GBs even against lefties w/ his fastball.  I can't tell if this is an artifact of small sample size or what.  He's got a weird fastball.  Maybe it has weird powers.  But the approach should be mostly the same.  Try to work walks.  If it's in your spot, take a big hack.

And if you hit the ball into the ground after seeing a bunch of pitches?  It could be worse.  The Yankees have maybe the worst defensive infield in the game.  They've got 2 bad third basemen on the left side.  Cano is more of a mixed bag.  The fans like him.  UZR hates him.  But there's not one guy who you'd call definitely good.

It would be nice to see Sox bats get back on track.  And for a team that's got more than a few guys who can think themselves to death, it's nice to see a guy who really cuts down on the necessity of all that brain crap.  Nova is a Nuke Laloosh type.  So let's hope he's not breathing out of his eyelids and knock him around a bit, y'know?



*Yeah, so maybe I should have known who he is.