Indeed, Eleven, just whom the fuck is that guy? Once a week I’ll be breaking down a player who is surprising the league – for better or for worse. This will range from stars we’ve grown to expect greatness from all the way to obscure players who have appeared out of nowhere. In each case it will beg the question: Whom the fuck is that guy?!
Ivan Nova – SP, Chicago White Sox
Ivan ‘Super’ Nova is what many New York fans dubbed the Dominican Born righty when he made his debut with the Yankees nearly a decade ago in 2010. Nova was a high-ceiling prospect when he got the call to the show with New York – and for good reason. His first full season in pinstripes earned him a 16-4 record and a respectable 3.70 ERA. There was optimism that he would blossom into a dependable mid-rotation starter in New York. However, as good as he was in 2011, there were certainly bumps in the road the following year.
Sandwiched in between 2011 and 2013, 2012 seemed to be doomsday for Nova. The star had faded, and many began to question if the former ‘Super’ Nova was approaching a black hole. His strikeouts took a huge leap, but he gave up more hits and more than doubled the amount of home runs he allowed. The reason I share this is due to his enigmatic nature. Aside from his ERA, most of his other stats have been all over the place. The question then becomes not how many runs he will give up, but rather how he will give them up. So, instead of ‘Super’ Nova, I would suggest we call him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Fast forward to this year – Nova is traded with one year left on his current deal to pitch for the White Sox. A safe deal for both parties; the Sox are rebuilding and needed a veteran arm and Nova was coming off a good-not-great year in Pittsburgh. The wheels fell off right away as Nova was fully embodying Mr. Hyde. He was the worst pitcher among those who qualified for the first half of the season:
Since the All-Star break however, it seems Nova remembered his antidote and Dr. Jekyll has been cruising. Not only has he cut his ERA in more than half, he has also significantly cut down on serving up the home run ball. For even more of a “Tale of Two Nova’s” his break down by month is even more startling:
It’s somewhat astounding that this is the same pitcher, in August, who has surrendered a single earned run since the calendar turned over from July as the guy who got blasted for twenty-four runs in almost the same amount of innings back in April. The encouraging thing to notice here is that Nova has been getting better each month, however the drastic shift in his numbers in August certainly seem to come from nowhere, which further adds to his enigmatic narrative.
Recent performance aside, there are some underlying stats that work against him. In his run of success, his FIP is 4.70 so detractors will certainly use this as fuel to doubt Nova is for real. But again, because no one can seem to figure out who the real Ivan Nova is, it’s easy to point to his groundball rate of over fifty percent and somehow shutting out the Astros in his most recent start. Nova has recently expressed interest in re-signing with the White Sox after the season and due to his own recent string of success as well as some additional factors, this is looking like a strong possibility. Lucas Giolito is among the only starter who Chicago can pencil in the rotation for next year. Ideally, the Sox would love to be able to utilize the rotation with Giolito, Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, and Reynaldo Lopez, but it’s not that simple. Kopech and Rodon will be returning from Tommy John surgery and Cease, and Lopez have not yet found sustained success at the major leagues. Granted, Giolito was a late bloomer, but it’s easy to see why a team that is poised to be better next year would want a veteran presence. The only issue with Nova – who the fuck is the guy they’d be resigning?
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