Is Ivan Nova Becoming Ray Searage’s Latest Success Story?

Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports /

Ivan Nova has made three starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired at the trade deadline. So far, he is looking like he might be Ray Searage‘s latest success story.

About an hour before the 4pm non-waiver trading deadline on August 1st, the Pittsburgh Pirates swung a trade with the New York Yankees. In this trade the Pirates acquired right-handed starting pitcher Ivan Nova in exchange for two players to be named later. Many people had some confusion of this deal.

Why the confusion? Well, it was twofold. First off, Ivan Nova will be a free agent at the end of the season and the Pirates appeared to be in the market for controllable starting pitching. Secondly, Ivan Nova had pitched poorly for the Yankees this season.

When the Pirates acquired Ivan Nova from the Yankees, Nova owned a 4.90 ERA, 5.10 FIP, and a 4.09 xFIP in 97 1/3 innings pitched. Those 97 1/3 innings pitched by Nova came in 21 games, with 15 of those 21 games being starts. Nova was also averaging 6.93 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, and an alarming 1.76 HR/9.

In fact, Ivan Nova had not had a good season since 2013. From the start of the 2014 season all the way up until being traded to the Pirates on August 1st of 2016, Nova had pitched 212 innings. In those 212 innings pitched, Nova had a 5.31 ERA, 5.17 FIP, and a 4.35 xFIP. Furthermore, Nova was averaging just 6.37 K/9 while allowing a very concerning 1.61 HR/9.

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With these results, it is easy to see why people had confusion when the Pirates acquired Ivan Nova. However, one thing I have learned in recent years is to never doubt Neal Huntington’s pitching acquisitions. And a big reason for this is Ray Searage.

This list of pitchers that Ray Searage has ‘fixed’ during his tenure in Pittsburgh is a long one. A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Mark Melancon, J.A. Happ, A.J. Schugel, and Ryan Vogelsong are just a few examples. So, is Ivan Nova becoming the latest Searage success story?

Through his first three Pirate starts, Ivan Nova is on the right track. In those three starts Nova has pitched 16 1/3 innings. In those 16 1/3 innings pitched, Nova has a 3.27 FIP and a 3.52 xFIP. Nova’s BAbip of .358 indicates he has been a bit snake bitten. So, he may still improve a tad more yet.

The most encouraging sign from Ivan Nova in these three starts is that he is keeping the ball in the park. After averaging 1.61 HR/9 the past two plus seasons, Nova has allowed just two long balls in his 16 1/3 innings pitched with the Pirates. Both of these home runs came off the bat of Brandon Phillips in Nova’s first start as a Pirate.

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Another very encouraging sign from Ivan Nova is that he has yet to walk a batter in his three starts as a Pirate. While Nova has never been a pitcher with control issues, it is still great to see zero walks over the course of 16 1/3 innings pitched. The lack of walks is a big reason Ivan Nova’s WHIP as a Pirate is just 1.29. And if a pitcher’s WHIP is low, odds are, they are not going to allow very man runs.

While it is still too early to determine if Ivan Nova is Ray Searage’s next success story or not, the early results are promising. Nova has proved to be a boost to the Pirates’ rotation since joining the team on August 1st. If Nova can continue to pitch the way he has through his first three Pirate starts, then he will prove to be Ray Searage’s latest success story.