So much potential lies in the right arm of New York Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and unfortunately, we only get to see it in glimpses.
Tied with only Noah Syndergaard for the top average fastball velocity among starting pitchers (97.2 MPH) in 2015, there is no doubting the liveliness of Eovaldi’s arm. He also brings along with him a well above average splitter that he developed last year with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
When everything is clicking, anyone would think Eovaldi can be a number one or two starter in the MLB. However, it is rare that everything clicks and it is the consistency of a top starter that Eovaldi lacks.
When the splitter stays up, he gets crushed. When the splitter cannot be relied upon, the fastball serves as hard batting practice. When that combination is in full effect, he does not have close to the arsenal to get through an outing.
Part of this bad combo comes with fatigue late in games, a decline that can start as early as smack in the middle of his outings.
In his career, according to Baseball-Reference, opponents bat .238 off Eovaldi in pitches 26-50 of his outing, .265 in pitches 51-75, and .319 in pitches 76-100, showing a clear tail-off.
This can also be substantiated with a spike in his ERA to 5.11 in the 78 games of his career where he has lasted until the sixth inning. Opposing batters also slash .325/.385/.459 once they have seen Eovaldi for the third time in a game.
Once fatigue sets in, the splitter stays up, the fastball stays straight, and opposing batters rake.
Hitters’ counts are not kind to a pitcher of his makeup, as his batting average against is .343, .411, and .313 in 2-0, 2-1, and 3-1 counts respectively.
He is not the type of guy that can pitch backward, making a 99 MPH flat fastball in someone’s wheelhouse nothing special at all.
According to Fan Graphs, Eovaldi’s pull rate is 32.1% for his career and is up to 42.4% in his first three starts of this season. 8.3% is the rate at which opposing teams swing and miss at Eovaldi produced pitches, which seems to be far too low for a pitcher of his stature.
Opposing teams also make contact with 88.5% of his pitches that are tossed in the strike zone, and that number is up to 93% this year.
An easy way to decipher that: Eovaldi’s fastball, yet lighting up the radar gun, is not lighting up hitters. They are staying back, staying patient, and not missing their 97+ MPH fastball when it is delivered in the zone.
Whether it’s a fastball or a splitter up in the zone late in a game, they are getting the pitch they can hammer as well as the results.
In the Yankees’ 5-2 loss to the A’s we witnessed Eovaldi yield five hits in a bad fourth inning that saw Oakland plate three. Four of those five hits were hit on the nose, and it happened to be right around his 51-75 pitch mark.
That mark is when Nate loses his nastiness, and that is what differentiates him from a top starter. The last half of Eovaldi’s outing is always a toss up as you can never be sure as he gets deep into a game if he even gets you there.
The talent is certainly present, but it has yet to emerge from the right-hander. It is being harnessed inside of a pitcher who is a decent number three or four at best.