Have the Pirates fixed Nova Long-Term?
The Pittsburgh Pirates have aced their experiment of fixing Ivan Nova.
Ivan Nova threw a complete game, leading the Pirates to a 4-1 win over the Reds on Thursday night. A complete turnaround from his struggles with the Yankees, Nova is now 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in seven starts with the Pirates.
Nova’s performance Thursday night saw him allow no walks for the fifth time in seven starts.
“It’s just more of what we’ve been seeing from him,” manager Clint Hurdle who earned his 500th career win said of Nova. It was a really nice mix of pitches and pitching. No walks again. It’s the manual there of how you want to get it done in a quick and efficient way.
The game last just 2 hours and 28 minutes.
Over the past two off-seasons, the Pirates let their reclamation projects of those particular seasons, Edinson Volquez in 2014 and J.A. Happ in 2015 walk via free agency that came back to haunt them, though, Volquez has taken a major step back this season.
Will they avoid the same mistake with Nova?
There’s been some very encouraging signs from Nova in a Pirates uniform that some of what we’re seeing is sustainable past this season.
The Pirates have done an excellent job of getting Nova to pitch inside effectively. He’s throwing nearly 50% of his pitches inside over his last four starts with the Pirates. The results are a 1.20 ERA during that span, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Another encouraging number is Nova has a 49.7% chase rate on two-pitch strikes, among the best in the majors.
Nova’s turnaround with the Pirates is putting him in the market to command at least a two year, $20 million contract.
It’s still likely that GM Neal Huntington and his staff will have cold feet to dish out such a contract as they went nowhere close to match Volquez’s offer from the Royals in 14 or Happ’s last winter.
Francisco Liriano imploding just one year after receiving the richest free agent contract in Pirates history will also surely be in the back of the Pirates mind in the coming months.
Jung Ho Kang (.257-17HR-48RBI) fully healthy for the first time this season, is looking like the player from last season. Kang was key again in the Pirates victory, hitting a two-run double in a Pirates three-run first inning.
Since coming off the DL, Kang is 7-for-13 with seven RBI’s.
“He’s in a good place,” Hurdle said. He’s seeing the ball well.
Josh Harrison (.280-4HR-56RBI) continues to be red-hot, extending his hitting streak to eight games with two doubles in the Pirates win. Harrison has multiple hit games in six of his last 10.
The race for 86-87 wins to claim a wildcard spot continues to show how low the Pirates chances are of earning a wildcard spot.
At 69-69, the Pirates will have to go 17-7 just to get to 86 wins and even with the Pirates gaining two games on the Cardinals in two days, the emergence of the Mets into the wildcard picture when the Pirates went on an eight game losing streak has now made it a daunting picture for the Pirates from a numbers standpoint.
Entering today, Baseball Prospectus has the Pirates odds at 3.5%, Five Thirty Eight has the Pirates at 7%.