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Miami Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi's continuing platoon split problem

The Miami Marlins have loads of potential in Nathan Eovaldi, but they need to fix one problem with him before he can reach his potential: his ugly platoon split.

Greg Fiume

If it seems like we here at Fish Stripes have been talking about Nathan Eovaldi a lot, it is because we are excited. Since Baseball Info Solutions pitch data became available in 2003, no Marlins pitcher with at least 70 innings pitched has a fastball velocity better than Eovaldi's current mark. This is the kind of starting pitcher velocity we just have not seen from any Marlins starter in recent history. Not A.J. Burnett, who owns the second- and third-fastest fastballs in any one season. Not Josh Beckett, who had a reputation for being a flamethrower. Not Josh Johnson, whose best years came because of an increase in velocity. Not even current phenom Jose Fernandez has a pitch this fast (though he is not far away from it).

So you can understand why i am particularly interested in the development of Nathan Eovaldi. But no matter how his fastball develops, his issue has never been in that department. What continues to plague Eovaldi, even coming off another impressive start in a losing effort against the Washington Nationals, is his horrific platoon split.

Eovaldi PA K% BB% FIP xFIP
2013, vs. LHH 143 14.0 12.6 3.89 4.98
2013, vs. RHH 181 19.3 6.6 3.43 3.56
Career, vs. LHH 513 13.8 10.9 4.27 4.92
Career, vs. RHH 483 17.6 8.5 3.74 4.03

Eovaldi has significantly improved against righties this season, likely thanks in large part to the improved fastball. But his performance against lefties still leaves a lot to be desired. While his numbers against righties this year have him pitching more like Tim Hudson or Hiroki Kuroda this season, his lefty numbers, when adjusted for homers, have him looking like Lucas Harrell or Jeremy Guthrie.

Why can't Eovaldi figure out lefty hitters? The answer goes back to his complete lack of a third pitch to complement his fastball and slider. While the slider has been an effective pitch this season, the curveball and changeup have continued to falter.

It is worth looking at Eovaldi's curveball and changeup against lefties this season as compared to last year.

Eovaldi, vs. LHH Usage% B/CS Swing% Whiff% BABIP SLGCON
2013 Curveball 10.7 3.0 45.1 4.4 .400 .400
2012 Curveball 11.5 1.5 51.9 14.6 .261 .536
2013 Changeup 4.4 2.0 28.6 0 .500 .750
2012 Changeup 9.9 5.5 43.2 22.2 .400 .606

Eovaldi did what I advised last season and dropped one of his tertiary offerings this year in favor of working ont he other one. His changeup usage has been cut in half and has been almost entirely replaced by more fastballs, but he simply is not using the pitch anymore. He hasgood reason not to, as it was an awful offering last year.

Unfortunately, the curveball has not been great for him either. Unlike last season, he has failed to spot it in the right location this year, and it has gotten even worse at inducing swings and misses. Combine that with his even production on his fastball this year and you can see why Eovaldi's swinging strike rate has actually dropped from last season to this year.

His fastball's performance versus lefties may be better, and that is one thing we can point to successfully. He has gotten more swings and more whiffs on the fastball this season (18.1 percent) versus last year (17.0 percent). But the numbers have changed ever so slightly, and Eovaldi lost a few called strikes from last year to this year as well. It is possible that the overall performance of the fastball versus lefties is stagnant.

All of this points to a lack of improvement despite obvious changes made by Eovaldi. While the changes are theoretically positives, the execution thus far in 2013 has not been good. Eovaldi's success against left-handers will ultimately determine whether he will become a successful Major League starter, an average-at-best one, or a back-end reliever. The potential is still there, but this platoon split hurdle remains present despite a year's worth of work. Eovaldi needs to figure it out soon, lest his fate lie in the bullpen rather than in a starting role.

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