Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Is There Any Reason To Believe In Ivan Nova?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

While Ivan Nova continued to show elite control (1.73 BB/9), the overall numbers were lackluster at best.  Is anyone going to get excited about a 4.14 ERA or 1.28 WHIP?  Of course not, especially when it’s tied to a mere 131 K over 187.0 IP.  The question is, do we have any hope for a viable fantasy option?

It’s impossible to expect the strikeout rate to rise, even pitching in the NL, as the underlying metrics simply don’t support it:

  • SwStr% – 8.3%
  • O-Swing% – 33.2%

Considering his 6.66 K/9 over his Major League career, it’s impossible to expect him to morph into a true source of strikeouts.  That alone is going to cause concern, but then you see a groundball rate that dropped significantly (53.6% to 45.7%) and the concern grows even more.

What’s intriguing is that he began throwing his sinker significantly less, trading them for fourseam fastballs:

  • Fourseam – 13.38% to 28.66%
  • Sinker – 51.48% to 39.46%

It was an interesting decision, considering opponents hit .406 against his fourseam fastball in 2016 and it wasn’t much better in 2017 (.305 with 9 HR).  Of course his sinker hasn’t necessarily been an impressive pitch itself, allowing 22 HR against it over the past two seasons.  That seems counterproductive for a pitch that’s supposed to induce groundballs, doesn’t it?

So we have a pitcher who has what we have to consider an ineffective fastball, and that further helps to explain the lack of strikeouts.  We also have to look at his groundball rate, as even if it improves we aren’t ready to expect it to be a useful pitch considering the numbers the past two season.

Now you have to wonder if Nova is even guaranteed a spot in a rotation all season long?  You would think he would be, given the contract, but the numbers could tell a different story (he did lose his rotation spot in ’16).

Control is great, but you need another skill to pair with it in order to truly be successful.  He doesn’t bring strikeouts, and the groundballs appear to be relatively ineffective.  In other words there simply isn’t enough here to move the needle.  At best he’s a streaming option, but he’s definitely a player to leave on the wire.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections:

Player
Date Published
Cano, Robinson10/09/17
Castillo, Luis10/03/17
10/30/17
Wil Myers10/24/17
Quintana, Jose11/13/17
Stroman, Marcus10/16/17
Walker, Taijuan 11/06/17

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