Ivan Nova’s Fastball Command Problem

2012 Season Preview: After the Starters
Keeping Cesar Cabral
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Yankees and Red Sox will renew their rivalry with a completely meaningless Spring Training game tonight, but meaningless only in terms of results. Boston will only play four regularsJacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Aviles, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia — and it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. The game is more than meaningless for Ivan Nova though, who is making his third start of the spring.

“We are getting closer to [evaluation time],” said Joe Girardi yesterday. “You want to see some progress going into the third start. You take a hard look at the fourth and fifth starts … He struggled with [fastball command] the first couple [of starts] and that’s important to me,”

Nova, who just turned 25 in January, has allowed seven runs on seven hits and a walk in 4.2 IP during his first two exhibition starts, so the command problem isn’t showing up in the walk total. Nova’s been missing his spots and falling behind in the count, and hitters are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do when the pitchers make those mistakes. At this point it doesn’t really matter how command issue manifests itself, just that it exists and both the team and player are working to correct the problem.

“I am perfect in the bullpen, but I get [in a game] and try to do too much,” said Nova. “The fastball is a problem right now, but I know I will get it back … Hopefully, it will be there [tonight]. Whatever happens, happens.”

If you’re the worrying type, there is the matter of Nova’s strained flexor, the elbow injury that forced him out of Game Five of the ALDS last October. Elbow problems usually result in poor command while lack of velocity indicates shoulder issues. Nova is healthy, having rested his arm during the offseason and passing his pre-Spring Training physical. There are no reports of pain or soreness, and his velocity has been fine so the shoulder is apparently sound. He’s just fighting through a poor command phase at the moment, which is something that comes and goes for every pitcher during the course of the year.

Tonight’s game will be broadcast all over the place (YES, MLBN, MLB.tv, and even MLB.com), so we’ll get a chance to see Nova and his command in action. The results don’t matter on March 13th, the only thing that matters tonight is that he’s consistently hitting the target with his fastball and keeping his offspeed stuff down. If he starts to do that against the Sox tonight and continues to get better the next few times out before Opening Day, all will be well with the team’s projected third starter. If not, then Nova will just have to keep working on it and hope things click before the games start to count.

2012 Season Preview: After the Starters
Keeping Cesar Cabral
  • Preston

    Michael Pineda’s velocity, Ivan Nova’s control, DISASTER!!!

    • Cris Pengiucci

      The season will be a BUST!!! They’ll miss the playoffs!! Lose 123 games!!! Panic!!!!

      • First name only male (Retire 21)

        You need to be more optimistic. We are well on our way to securing the #1 pick in the 2013 MLB amateur draft! Rebuilding the farm one pick at a time.

    • GardnergoesYardner

      How could you call it velocity? Everybody knows all the cool kids call it V-lo now!

      #Wally Matthews

      • Preston

        Well if Wally says it, it must be cool!

      • Andrew Marchand

        Wally is always stealing my lines trying to be cool like me.

  • CJ

    Sophomore slump anxiety.

    • nedro


  • Monterowasdinero

    Nova will be fine-it is all the crazy worriers around him that need to relax. A few innings in a couple of starts in early march? If he couldn’t throw his fb 94/95, that would worry me. The command will come. His offspeed stuff is excellent.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    You never saw real pitchers like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay struggle when they were younger. Never.

  • sevrox

    age 25 Cliff Lee: 14 wins 8 losses 5+ ERA 1.5 WHIP
    age 25 Roy Halladay: 19 wins 7 losses 2.93 ERA 1.2 WHIP


    • Slugger27

      whats your point?

    • Havok9120

      Um? Yes?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        He’s probably trying to respond to my sarcastic comments by providing stats that miss the point entirely.

        I assume the next talking point would be, “well, these were the numbers they were putting up by that age. I don’t see Nova putting up those numbers in his age 25 season,” to which my response would be, “Age is irrelevant as pitchers take different paths to the majors. The point is that pitchers can have their, sometimes even severe, ups and downs without it being the end of the world.” Then, since I’m an asshole, I’d proceed to make fun of him in some way.

        • nedro

          Assholes unite!!!

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t know why the numbers are relevant exactly, but what really confuses me is that Nova already put up numbers like that in his 24 year old season: 16-4 3.70 ERA 1.3 WHIP.

          And a 5+ ERA and 1.5 WHIP would seem to prove your point with Lee, not hurt it… so I’m also confused there.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            …and that’s obviously not good enough numbers for Sevrox.

  • chcmh

    Is it possible the key to his season this year is gonna be in the head not the arm?

  • Havok9120


    Well, no. BUT WE COULD BE!

  • A.D.

    This is why we have Garcia insurance

  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    He’ll be fine.

  • Crime Dog

    Chances Nova actually doesnt get one of the 5 spots to start the season? Is there even a remote possibility

    • fin

      I would say about as likely as Banuelos making the team out of ST. Almost 0.

  • William

    Sophomore slump