I have learned rather quickly that criticizing a player will get you a lot more angry comments than praising a player someone thinks isn’t very good. So with trepidation, I unveil my first Overvalued in 2012 pitcher, Ivan Nova.
This one was rather easy. Let’s see what factors, regardless of everything else, will cause instant overvaluation: pitches for the Yankees, is a rookie and has a shiny 16-4 record. Many fans and fantasy owners will stop right there, dive no further, and claim that Nova is one of the best young pitchers in the game. We should know better of course.
First off, we could go straight to his xFIP and SIERA marks and compare that to his ERA, which stands at a solid 3.70, for a respectable 89 ERA-. Unfortunately, his xFIP and SIERA are much less impressive, finishing at 4.16 and 4.14, respectively, and resulting in an xFIP- of just 103. Interestingly, Nova’s skills were almost identical to last season, with the exception of a small improvement in BB%, yet his ERA dropped 0.80 runs, as he had small improvements in all three luck metrics.
Nova really is only good at doing one thing on the mound and that is inducing ground balls. But this is not the next Chien-Ming Wang. Wang was able to sustain pretty good success because he was an extreme ground ball pitcher at his peak, regularly posting a GB% in the upper 50% to lower 60% range, which was at or near the MLB lead. Although Nova’s GB% is pretty good around 52%, that is simply not good enough when you sport a weak K% and league average control.
Nova’s minor league track record does not give us much hope for much of an improvement in the K% and BB% and his SwStk% does not inspire much optimism. Though, his F-Strike% does suggest he may be able to bring that walk rate down a shade below 3.0.
It is unlikely Nova would go for very many auction dollars in mixed leagues as his lack of strikeouts are obvious and even the most novice of fantasy owners would notice this and factor it into his potential value accordingly. But in AL-Only leagues where many owners will be utilizing middle relievers, his pedestrian strikeout total does not hurt as badly. That means fantasy owners won’t automatically shy away and so all the factors I listed in my second paragraph above, plus the artificially low ERA, will likely lead to Nova disappointing owners in 2012 and earning a loss on their investment.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.