Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
1:10 PM EST. Just like with James Shields and the South Side yesterday, there will absolutely be a time to fade Jordan Zimmermann and the Tigers but this is not that time. We warned you long before anyone else about Zimmermann’s weak skills when he was winning games regularly and while Zimmermann’s skills have not returned, we’ll now warn you about Ivan Nova.
The Pirates are road chalk here because why? Andrew McCutchen is gone, Gerrit Cole is gone, and guys like Corey Dickerson, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove are looking to step into the lineup and rotation to replace them. All of a sudden it feels like 2009 all over again when Garrett Jones led the team to a last-place finish in their division. Felipe Rivero is a safe bet for the team’s All-Star representative. The offense is just not all that good and that’s probably going to limit the kind of surface stats that get starting pitchers invited to the game. Ivan Nova won’t be one of them and that Nova is the Pirates opening day starter tells us just how much trouble the Pirates are in. Seriously, when Pittsburgh/Nova is road chalk, it’s almost an automatic fade.
A second half 2016 surge and move to pitcher-friendly Pittsburgh made Ivan Nova an appealing option heading into 2017. However, when the dust settled, his final 2017 line looked a lot like 2016. The drop in Nova’s groundball % coincided with a decision to throw fewer sinkers (sinker usage 2016/1H-2017/2H-2017: 51%/46%/31%). Nova, rather inexplicably, opted to instead throw more four-seam fastballs even though it has historically been his worst pitch with a lifetime .325 BAA, .918 OPS and the results weren’t good, as the pitch was torched to the tune of a .305 BAA and .908 OPS (four-seam usage 2016/1H-2017/2H-2017: 13%/25%/33%).
PNC Park has aided Nova in keeping the ball in the yard, as expected, but he has struggled mightily on the road (22 of his 29 HR allowed came away from PNC Park). Though he wound up matching 2016’s hr/f (lifetime 14% hr/f), much of the 1H/2H discrepancies in ERA/xERA were due to hr/f fluctuations. Only nine starters in MLB allowed more hard contact in 2017 than Ivan Nova (35% hard-hit balls). Left-handed batters have feasted on Nova in recent years, crushing a total of 34 HR in 868 plate appearances from 2015-17, including 16 HR in 364 PA in 2017. It’s a mystery as to why Nova decided to alter his pitch mix so drastically, particularly considering the ineffectiveness of his four-seam fastball. For what it’s worth, Nova was awful in the spring with a mere seven K’s in 13 innings while giving up 17 hits and nine earned runs. A mid-season bout with knee inflammation never landed him on the DL last year but that’s one more nugget to apply to the rest of his woes. Perhaps there is a correlation with his nagging injuries and the change in pitch-mix but whatever the case, this road team with this pitcher starting cannot be favored on the road.
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DETROIT +113 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.26)