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Nathan Eovaldi Not Very Successful In Early Miami Marlins Starts

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 24:   Nathan Eovaldi #24 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 24, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 24: Nathan Eovaldi #24 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 24, 2012 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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On Wednesday night, we saw Miami Marlins starting pitcher and top prospect Jacob Turner go through a rough outing with a big silver lining that highlighted the ups and downs he will face early on at the big league level. Turner was making just his second start of the season, but early returns looked decent; in 11 innings with the Fish, he has 11 strikeouts, no walks, and three homers allowed, good for a 4.65 FIP that, while ugly, looks much better when you regress his home run numbers. In other words, there were some negatives, but the positives are highly intriguing.

Less can be said of the other top pitching prospect the Marlins acquired their trades at the trade deadline. Nathan Eovaldi made his debut against the San Diego Padres and looked really promising after one start. After that, however, Eovaldi has struggled terribly. Since that impressive first start, he has a 6.23 ERA in 21 2/3 innings pitched, and his peripherals do not look great either. He has five more walks than strikeouts and he has given up three homers in 116 batters faced.

With Eovaldi starting tonight against the New York Mets, it is worth looking at Eovaldi's work so far to see if we can find any trends.

Pitch Selection

Eovaldi, Pitch Usage% Velocity
Fastball 57.7 93.4
Slider 22.7 84.6
Curveball 8.9 73.4
Cutter 5.8 90.4
Changeup 4.8 83.0

That usage naturally changes with the handedness of the batter.

Eovaldi, Usage vs. LHH% vs. RHH
Fastball 55.3 60.9
Slider 14.6 33.2
Curveball 14.9 1.3
Cutter 6.6 4.7
Changeup 8.6 0.0

This is about what we expected from Eovaldi when he was acquired. The book on him was that he had an electric fastball in terms of velocity, but that it was very flat and moved more or less on a plane, with little darting once in trajectory. His other plus pitch is his slider, and much like we saw with Steve Cishek, he is forced to split his slider usage in half or more when facing lefties. The remainder of his offerings are more reserved for lefties, and he does not throw any one of them often, likely due to a lack of development of all three pitches.


The effectiveness of these pitches is just as important as the choice of use, and Eovaldi's pitches just have not been effective in his starts thus far as a Marlin. In looking at some of the same Pitch F/X data we used in the examination of Steve Cishek linked above, we can already see the evidence of some of Eovaldi's expected issues.

First, his repertoire versus right handers.

Eovaldi, Pitch Zone% B/CS* Swing% Whiff%
Fastball 60.9 1.4 49.0 14.3
Slider 46.2 5.3 52.6 22.0

*B/CS represents balls to called strike ratio

The other pitches represented just 14 out of the 235 pitches he has thrown as a Marlins against righties, so the numbers broken down in this fashion would look too skewed to be useful.

And now, to compare, here is Eovaldi's work versus lefties.

Eovaldi, Pitch Zone% B/CS* Swing% Whiff%
Fastball 55.3 2.0 44.3 10.8
Slider 61.4 4.5 50.0 18.2
Curveball 62.2 1.5 40.0 16.7
Changeup 38.5 5.3 38.5 30.0
Cutter 55.0 3.5 55.0 9.1

Right away in the comparison, you can see how poorly Eovaldi has fared versus lefties than versus righties. Against right-handers, he is able to place his fastball better and rely on his slider as an out pitch. The slider, naturally, is a more effective out pitch versus righties, as Eovaldi can avoid hanging them in the zone (46.2 percent zone percentage versus 61.4 percent against lefties) and get them to swing and miss more often.

In addition, the troubles regarding Eovaldi's extra pitches versus lefties come to the forefront, as 30.1 percent of his pitches against lefties have been non-fastballs, non-sliders. Of the three offerings, the curveball looks like it may the most effective, as he is able to put it in the zone and get almost as many swings and misses as his slider. The changeup was only thrown 20 times, but he simply had no control over it, as evidenced by the zone percentage and balls to called strike ratio. The cutter that we mentioned before has not shown much of any effectiveness, and this is not surprising, as it is a new pitch to Eovaldi.

From these numbers, we can see two major problems scouts mentioned in Eovaldi's game: he seems to be unable to put out lefties because of his underwhelming tertiary options, and he has a hard time getting whiffs overall, even with his slider against righties. Ironically, the concerns about control seem relatively benign, as he seems to be around the zone at least against righties. His tertiary offerings are what appear to be hurting him against lefties in terms of location.

When In Play

How has Eovaldi faired with balls in play? So far with the Marlins, he has allowed a .347 BABIP, and for his career his BABIP is at .312. But how hard have those balls been hit by lefties and righties?

Eovaldi, Contact BIP GB% FB% LD% PU% BABIP SLGCON
vs. RHH 45 40.0 31.1 20.0 8.9 .326 .533
vs. LHH 59 42.4 22.0 28.8 6.8 .379 .593

As suspected, the general lack of effectiveness and likely command that Eovaldi displayed versus left-handers bled into their performance on contacted balls. Lefties had a better rate of hits on balls in play, particularly because they apparently stung the ball better, to the tune of a 29 percent line drive rate. Eovaldi allowed harder hit balls in terms of extra bases as well against lefties, as evidenced by their slugging percentage on contacted balls. However, against righties, Eovaldi did allow two homers versus only one against lefties.

Early Conclusions

Just in these numbers, we can see what many of the scouts were most concerned about regarding Eovaldi. He has yet to find a way to deal with opposite-handed hitters because of a lack of development of both his changeup and curveball. From the numbers, it seems his curve has managed to do a little better, but that may only be due to sample size; we are talking about only 45 curves thrown to lefties versus 26 changeups. Nevertheless, that inability to strike out lefties is leading to too much good contact. His affairs versus righties are significantly better, but his slider still is not dominating or taking out righties as it should, given the relatively weak whiff rate for an out pitch.

So Eovaldi is missing a truly strong out pitch to both sides and secondary offerings to lefty batters. Sounds like the scouting report the team got before it acquired Eovaldi, and it sounds like just the sort of homework assignment on which he needs to work for the rest of the 2012 season.