Taking a look at Super Nova


(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I know it has been a little while since he pitched, but I wanted to take a look at Ivan Nova‘s last outing.  It was one of his most impressive performances of the season despite it being his first start back from injury.  In total, Nova went six innings, giving up just two runs on four hits (only two of which went for extra bases) and two walks, with eight strikeouts.

Honestly, my expectations were pretty low for Nova in this start.  He has been hit hard all year, giving up a ridiculous quantity of extra-base hits en route to a 4.81 ERA (including his most recent outing).  While his strikeout rate is at a career high and his walk rate has been pretty low, one would expect him to be having a career year.  Instead, Nova has been one of the weak points in the Yankee rotation, and I figured that missing time with a shoulder injury would likely cost him his rotation spot.  However, Nova proved the doubters wrong with a strong outing.  I was curious to see what was working for him.

Looking at Nova’s outing on Brooks Baseball, the first thing that comes to mind is his fastball.  His average velocity on the pitch jumped a good 0.6 MPH, going from 93.46 to 94.07.  Just to put that number in context, an average fastball of 94.07 MPH would place Nova 7th among qualified starters in average fastball velocity (behind usual suspects Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander).  With the increased velocity also came better movement, as both the vertical (by about two inches) and horizontal movement by about 2/3 of an inch) on the heater were increased.  The extra life on the pitch corresponded to a four-fold increase in whiff rate, 16% in his last outing compared to just over 4% for the rest of the season.  This is a massive difference, even though the change in velocity and movement seems to be relatively small.  For what it’s worth, Texas Leaguers shows more dramatic differences in velocity and movement.

While the improved fastball is the main thing that jumps out at me, there are some noticeable differences in Nova’s curveball as well.  The velocity of the pitched jumped about 2-3 MPH over his season average, though the vertical and horizontal break actually decreased.  This could mean that he was throwing a tighter, sharper pitch, and consequently, opposing hitters whiffed at it about twice as often as they did earlier in the season.

The fastball and curve were Nova’s bread and butter in his most recent outing, as they have been throughout the season.  He threw them about 83-percent of the time earlier in the season, and threw them nearly 90-percent of the time his last time out.  I have no idea if Nova made a mechanical change during is time on the DL — it appears he did — or if the extra rest has simply given his raw stuff a little boost.  Regardless, the extra hop on Nova’s fastball and tighter curveball seemed to be very effective in the small sample size of one outing.  At this point in the season, Nova is auditioning just to earn a spot on the postseason roster.  Unless he is absolutely lights out and another Yankee starter suffers an injury or setback, it is hard to picture Nova earning a spot in the playoff rotation.  Regardless, if he continues to show his improved fastball velocity and more effective curveball, the Yankees could have a tough decision on their hands.

Categories : PITCHf/x
  • JonS

    Even if he doesn’t make the postseason rotation, wouldn’t he be great out of the pen with Phelps?

    You’d have Nova, Phelps, Chamberlain, Logan, Robertson, Soriano and then your choice of matchup relievers. That’d make a pretty good pen right?

    • jjyank

      In theory. I wonder if they would prefer Hughes in the bullpen jsut because he is familiar with the preperation aspect of it.

      Wouldn’t be my choice, but I could see the Yankees valuing Hughes’ bullpen experience over Nova’s inexperience if Nova is pitching well.

      • MannyGeee

        They will be a tandem. Nova starts, if the panic button is hit early or somerthing health wise goes awry, In comes Hughes (or Vice Versa: Hughes goes in and gives up one too many long balls, Nova comes in as a fireman…)

        truth is, this is what they call one of them “good problems”…

      • Robinson Tilapia

        My first instinct is to think that Hughes has pitched himself into a locked rotation spot for the playoffs. However, if what he’s pitched himself into is the #4 slot (which is what’s likely), then what is more important, your #4 playoff starter, or someone who you can flex out of the pen?

        • jjyank

          It’s a legitimate question. Ultimately I think which ever one is hottest will get the start. As of right now, I lean towards Hughes.

        • Jim Is Bored

          I tend to think that pen guy, until you’re down 2-1 in the ALDS.

    • Nice Scheister

      I dunno if I trust him out of the pen with his penchant for the extra base hit, it sounds like a disaster. If anything out of the pen, long relief would be best IMO. If that’s the case would Garcia be a better choice over Nova?

  • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

    Great write up Mike, but until I see the spike in velocity on both pitches over 3 or so consecutive outings I’m going to chalk it up to adrenaline/extra rest from coming off the DL. I liked Nova a lot coming into this season as a 4th starter w/ an ERA between 4.3 and 4.5 but I’m very bearish on him these days.

    • jjyank

      True. It’s the curveball and the apparent mechanical shift that interest me more than the fastball velocity right now. Even if the fastball velocity is a fluke, averaging over 93 mph is perfectly fine if the curve is for real.

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

        There’s nothing wrong with 93 and decent location…as Nova has proven this season though: there is plenty wrong with 93 and bad location.

        • jjyank

          Well yeah. There is plenty wrong with 94 and bad location too. I just mean that his velocity isn’t really as much of an issue for me.

    • Kosmo

      great write up Eric !

      • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

        Grrr…sorry about that Eric. I just assumed it was Mike, because it was that well written.

        • MannyGeee


          • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

            Not at all, Eric’s only written a handful of articles so far, I honestly haven’t developed an opinion about his articles yet.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Imagine how Joe must feel.

              • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

                Joe never comments anymore, so who cares what he thinks =P

                sorry Joe, please don’t ban me.

                • Joe

                  I’m the new Joe!

                  • Robinson Tilapia

                    Who’s the new Ben, then?

        • jesse

          Yikes, I thought it was Mike who wrote this, too, until I saw Kosmo’s comment.

          • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

            See!!! I wasn’t alone!!!!!!

  • Better off Eddard

    I’d put Nova in the pen for the playoffs. Surely he can be better than Eppley. Phil has been better all year, sub 4 ERA. Phil pitches very well at home and if everything holds serve, the #4 starter will start all three playoff starts at home. And you can always bring back the #4 starter out of the pen for Game 6 or 7. Nova’s had one great start after months of bad ones so let’s not over react.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    I have said it before and I will repeat it again. Nova has the best stuff on the starting staff. No matter what Girardi’s decision is in the final days of the season, I am convinced that Ivan will be one of the top pitchers on the staff for years to come. I hate it when some of you rant that he should be traded. I believe that his shoulder may have been aching all season and he said nothing in order not to lose his spot in the rotation. Where could we find another young arm like his if he is traded. It’s absolutely crazy to think about it. An inflammation of the rotator cuff is one pitch away from a tear. That is what happened to Pineda. Let’s not forget that.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Agree with this and Phelps has great stuff too. Both guys have excellent changeups and on days when they can throw it in hitter’s counts can be dominant.

    • gc

      I would NOT agree that Nova has the best stuff on the starting staff because we simply haven’t seen it come through with any kind of consistency to this point. They used to say AJ Burnett had lights out stuff too. And he did, when he was on, but we never knew when that was going to be. Sadly, as time went on, those occurrences were fewer and farther between.

      I like Nova, and I like his stuff, but until he demonstrates some consistent performance (and the ability to stay healthy), I would leer away from talking about how he has the best stuff on the starting staff. If that were true, we’d see it A LOT, and he would be far more consistently effective than he has shown thus far. I would say there is definitely decent potential with him, and that the jury is still out as to what his future role on this team will be. He has shown glimpses of excellence and of awfulness. Let’s give him another year and see if he stays healthy and then maybe we’ll be in a better position to evaluate what he REALLY is.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      You’re telling me, come the first day of the off season Arizona calls and offers you Justin Upton for Ivan Nova, or the Padres offer Headley for Nova that you wouldn’t say yes in a heartbeat?! If so you’re crazy. You know who else had incredible stuff his entire career but never put it together? AJ Burnett. He still has more run on his 2 seamer than any pitcher I think I’ve ever seen w/ the Yankees. You know who else had great stuff, and was actually successful for a handful of years before the tires came off? Barry Zito. The nastiest 12-6 curve ball I’ve seen in my life time (granted I’m only 23 so I never saw the likes of Burt Blyleven.) Same can be said for Tim Lincecum, successful for a few year, nasty pitches, but the location just isn’t there this season. All I’m saying is just because a pitcher has great stuff doesn’t automatically make him a great (or even good) pitcher. Final example: Oliver Perez.

      • Jose M. Vazquez

        I agree that not every pitcher will reach his potential, but I have never seen a pitcher that never has bad games.

        • Jose M. Vazquez

          Trading young pitchers for bats has never been a Yankee forte. E.g.,Rijo and others for R. Henderson, Leiter for Barfield. Henderson played well for a short time before he became disenchanted and wanted out. Barfield never played out.

          • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

            Just because those trades where done by the Yankees doesn’t mean they were made by the same team. The only person still involved with the Yankees now who was involved with them at the time of those trades is Stick, and idk if he is even part of the FO anymore. If the front office sees a chance to upgrade the team significantly (get younger, and better at the same time) and the cost is Ivan Nova they’d be foolhardy to not do it.

          • jjyank

            Hardly recent examples. If the opportunity to upgrade the team arises and it involves dealing Nova, the Yankees sure as hell better not be gun shy because of Jesse Barfield.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Meh. Those aren’t the trades that keep me up at night. Surprised that’s what you bring up and not, say Drabek, if we’re talking that era.

            Anyways, that era has literally nothing to do with what’s going on now.

            I like Nova. A lot. I’d drive him myself to either Arizona or San Diego in the deals Plouffman suggested.

            • Jose M. Vazquez

              Yo know what they say about history and the past. If you don’t learn from it…..

  • Matt

    Nova made a mechanical adjustment in his pitching delivery prior to his last start. See if you can spot it.



    It was incredibly obvious when you could see his whole windup, but it might be more difficult to spot in the clip there. It wasn’t a fluke to see him so much better at hitting his spots in his last start. He simplified his delivery and now hides the ball a bit better by staying closed.

  • jesse

    Preferably, I would want Nova to be the number 4 starter in the playoffs (assuming he deserves it, of course) and Hughes pitch out of the ‘pen. I really like Hughes, and that has been well documented around these parts, but he can be absolutely lights-out in the ‘pen. Having Hughes-Robertson-Soriano as a 7-8-9 inning combo would be deadly.

    However, since Hughes has been very solid since May 6 (153.3 IP, 3.46 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.5 HR/9 –certainly not a good HR rate by any means, but tolerable if he can limit most of the damage to solo shots.) he might have the number 4 spot just about locked up. Not to mention, he has a team-leading 15 wins. I know the win stat is awful, but it plays in the eyes of Girardi.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle

      Hughes has been really good in the rotation since May, as you mentioned, and Nova/Garcia/Phelps have done nothing to prove to me that they deserve a playoff start ahead of Hughes. I’m completely comfortable with a late inning bullpen of Joba/Logan matching up in the 7th, Robertson in the 8th, and Soriano in the 9th.

  • Robert

    Last year it was Brackman,Mitchell Betances,Baneulos,Campos,Warren and Phelps as the cream of the Yankee Pitching prospects. I guess we should thank our lucky stars for David Phelps!!!Does anyone think the April starting 5 at Scranton will be Warren,Turley,Nuno,Marshell and O’Brien?

    • Kosmo

      Me thinks Warren will be traded this offseason. Turley and Obrien start the season at Trenton. Marshall and possibly Nuno start the season at Scranton.

  • dkidd

    friendly reminder: the yankees haven’t made the postseason yet

  • Bo Knows

    they did a similar article a few days ago over at Yankeeanalysts

    • Eric Schultz

      Yeah, I linked to it in this post. I wrote this a few days ago, but Mike E. definitely covers some similar points (plus he has the awesome mechanics gifs).

  • Mike HC

    I love those slight adjustments coming off a shoulder injury that actually makes you throw faster. Great coaching!

    • RkyMtnYank

      I really like that it helps maintain balance throughout the delivery and keeps focus on the target. Here’s hoping that this helps Nova get over the consistency hump since he certainly has the stuff to be a front end starter.

  • Marcy

    Eric, this is great — a lot of research; so can you tell us what’s going on with David Robertson from all this?

    Think how different being a pitching coach must be today than years ago.

    Every time I hear Schilling laugh at how Andy was tipping his pitches in 2001 – well, let’s say I don’t like him much.

    • Eric Schultz

      Thanks! I think Mike Eder of Yankee Analysts may have looked at Robertson recently, so I would suggest checking that out. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll try to take a look and see what I can find.

      • Marcy

        Thanks, I looked and here’s what I found:

        “Then David Robertson happened. He immediately allowed an Adam Jones homerun on a cutter down the middle. Then he allowed Matt Wieters to single, which was followed by yet another Mark Reynolds homerun. That’s 3 2-homerun games from Reynolds over the last 4 games against the Yankees. I hate this guy.”

        – when I clicked on hyper-link it took me to

        Going back further there was an article entitled, “David Robertson Looking Like Mariano Rivera” and Robertson’s cutter (which I personally wish he’d put in his back pocket and use that great curve/fastball combo but I’m just a fan…)

    • Bo Knows

      He’s not throwing the curveball, and sticking with fastballs and cutters.

      is it just me or does it seem that whenever someone learns the cut fastball, they tend to get addicted to it?

      Is the cutter like the crack of baseball pitches?

  • Luisergi

    You guys there is a funny video where Cervelli acts as a News Anchor, is at the highlights of
    Chechk it out, cool stuff.

    • Luisergi

      Jump to the 5 minute mark of it.

  • Fin

    There is no way on earth the Yankees arent starting Hughes in the playoffs. He may have been better than CC since May. Only Kuroda has been clearly better than Hughes all season. I think whether or not Hughes is the third or fourth starter will depend on which team they are playing and which stadium they want him to pitch in. How good Petite looks will also contribute to this of course.

    Unless Hughes or more likely Petite are struggling, I cant see Nova pitching anywhere other than out of the pen in the playoffs. With as worn down as the pen has been I can see Nova being a big part of the pen in the playoffs not a long man. With Phelps and Nova both in the pen they should be covered if a long man situation arises. I’m hoping not to see Garcia in the playoffs.