Dunlap: What's Wrong With Ivan Nova?

Maybe it's time to miss a start for the RHP

Colin Dunlap
May 24, 2018 - 2:55 pm

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What happened to the dominant Ivan Nova? Heck, where is the average Ivan Nova? Thought this guy was supposed to be someone battling for a job at the very tippy top of the Pirates' rotation. 

Now I'm wondering where the 31-year-old Nova --- who the Pirates have signed through next season at $8.5M/per --- fits in the rotation at all. 

It's all been so baffling how things have unraveled over the past five starts for Nova, who had another subpar showing in a Thursday matinee in Cincinnati as the Pirates needed oh-so much for him to pitch well. He made a crucial error, gave up a grand slam to Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker --- who doesn't possess a ton of power --- took Nova's two-seam fastball into the bushes. It all combined to leave Nova with a line of 5.1 innings pitched, seven hits, four earned runs and two walks in a game in which, again, the Pirates could have used him to pitch well and pitch deep, as the bullpen was taxed.

In an alarming trend, Nova's ERA was 7.85 in four starts in May prior to Thursday's game at Great American Bandbox. He had given up 20 earned runs and 31 hits in just 18.1 innings. And while wins are an archaic stat, they still amount for something; Nova hasn't notched a win now since April 15. 

Is it time for Nova to skip a start? Maybe recalibrate some and try to get back to what made him good in the past? I don't know, it seems like an option though. But it is tremendously obvious how much more he is laboring now and the struggles he is going through. He doesn't look the same, he doesn't work with the same sharpness or efficiency. Nova used to throw it so free and easy and now pitching looks like an abundance of work for him. 

The Pirates have Taillon, Williams, Kuhl and Musgrove in the rotation as cemented, firmly-planted gentlemen who will get a spin each turn-through. There is also Kingham who would seem at the ready to bounce up and grab another Major League start, as he has acquitted himself adequately when given the opportunity with the big club. Maybe it is time to hand Kingham the ball for a start or two and find one of those phantom "discomfort" type of ailments for Nova, so that he can tinker with what is wrong and hopefully get it all figured out. Tell Nova his arm hurts or his shoulder hurts or his knee hurts and have him say, "yes." Then, from there, work with Ray Searage for a little while to get back to form without the worry of having to pitch in games. Believe me, it isn't anywhere close to a time in which you give up on Ivan Nova. That isn't even an idea right now. But there is a definite cause for concern as he is a guy who needs to perform well if this team is going to stay in the race at all. 

So what it feels like it is time for is some heavy thinking about Nova right now. He hasn't been good this season and, more to the point, his past five consecutive starts. To me, the guy needs a recharge, he needs a breather. It's up the general manager, manager and pitching coach to put their heads together and figure out how to make that happen.    

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