Who is this Nathan Eovaldi and what did you do with the old Nathan Eovaldi?

burstnbloom

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Nate's strong start to the season had me looking at his fangraphs player page today and it has me wondering what we should be expecting out of this guy going forward? Injury is obviously a major concern but lets assume health for the remainder of his contract (lol i know). I struggle to see him as anything but the mid to back end of the rotation guy with injury concerns but there is some reason to think he's something more than that these days.

Eovaldi went through his second Tommy John surgery in 2016 and most people just assumed he was done, I think. A cautionary tale that talent doesn't always meet performance. When I look at the numbers though, I see a pretty big improvement since he came back from injury. Take a look.

K%
Career best pre 2016 18.5%
2019 - 23.2
2020 - 26.1
2021 - 25.5

BB%
Career best pre 2016 - 5.0% but every other year was over 7.5% before and after 2014
2019 - 4.4%
2020 - 3.5%
2021 - 4.3%

xFIP
Career best - 3.78 (other years 4.80, 4.56, 4.15, 3.81, 4.22)
2019 - 3.67
2020 - 3.32
2021 - 2.64

I'm just not sure WHY he's performing at such a higher level than he was pre-injury. He introduced the cutter in 2016 but only threw it 7.3% of the time. He's throwing that pitch roughly 20% of the time post surgery. He's also ticked up his CB% significantly to 18% from 9% pre surgery. He's also scrapped his change up for a splitter in 2016 which hes throwing about 13% of the time. You would think the change in pitch mix would explain the difference in performance but none of them is really getting him great performance above average (except his curve ball which is a real strength post surgery). It could be a situation where the different pitch mix is creating a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" scenario but it's unclear.

It's a mystery to me. Batters are swinging and missing at his stuff way more, mostly pitches outside the zone which indicates the splitter and curve ball are pretty effective. Most of the rest of his contact numbers seem pretty similar though.

So I guess my question to the board is "who is this guy?" There is obvious evidence as a Red Sox that Nathan Eovaldi's performance is significantly better than his pre injury self. Usually there is some indication as to a change in style that led to the change in performance but I just may not be smart enough to see it. Either way, its an interesting discussion. What do people think?
 

joe dokes

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I'm not sure of the way to address it, but aren't batters also just swinging and missing way more in general? That's not to suggest that he isn't pitching better. But without some context, it's difficult to tell whether *any* pitcher's individual increase in K% these days is anything more than just reflective of a baseline increase.
 

A Bad Man

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Thanks for the post. Looking at the BrooksBaseball data, I think the explanation is an improvement in mechanics (more efficient), which led to a more consistent release point, which led to better tunneling. Not sure if there is any research about correlation between better tunneling and TJ, but it seems pretty clear in E's case. 4041440415
Edit: it may have been Red Sox coaching combined with better strength/conditioning from TJ, come to think of it.
 

A Bad Man

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And, as you said, increased curveball efficacy and usage, likely facilitated by the mechanics changes.

This is SwStr%:

40416

And this is usage:

40417
 

azsoxpatsfan

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I'm not sure of the way to address it, but aren't batters also just swinging and missing way more in general? That's not to suggest that he isn't pitching better. But without some context, it's difficult to tell whether *any* pitcher's individual increase in K% these days is anything more than just reflective of a baseline increase.
This is partially true. League-wide, contact% dropped by ~3% from 2016 through present. This is also true of O-Contact% (contact% on pitches out of the zone) and Z-Contact% (contact% on pitches in the strikezone). So part of Eovaldi's success can be attributed to that. That said, his contact% has dropped by slightly more than that (~5% difference from 2016-2020, I'm not using his 2021 stats due to the obviously tiny sample size).

That said, league-wide, batters have remained pretty consistent since 2016 with regards to how often they swing, both at pitches in and out of the zone. There's literally no difference in O-Swing% or Swing% overall from 2016-2020. What's potentially causing Eovaldi's success is that, while his Contact% has dropped pretty in line with the league, his O-Contact% has dropped by a full 10%. Additionally, his O-Swing% has risen by about 5%, even whie O-Swing% for the league stayed constant. Like burstnbloom, I have to assume that has something to do with his pitch mix. The addition of his curveball and cutter in place of his slider and change must be allowing him to get batters to swing at more pitches out of the zone

Edit: A Bad Man posted while I was writing, and his graph seems to demonstrate that it is in fact that he's getting lots of swings and misses with the curve and cutter
 

burstnbloom

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Really great stuff @A Bad Man

The release point is interesting. You can see all of his secondary stuff is really coming out of the same basic spot which must be really challenging hitters given the velocity he generates. It's encouraging to me to see tangible evidence of a chance in behavior leading to his performance. If he can be this guy when healthy, it really bodes well for this team's performance.
 

Sausage in Section 17

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I saw the thread title and thought, "Isn't Eovaldi still who he's always been?" which in my mind is someone who can dominate against RH hitters (see 2018 ALDS).

So I did some digging, and it turns out that in the last 2 years, he is sharply exceeding his performance vs. LHH. If you're looking for things to be encouraged by, then let's hope that the drop in LHH average over the last 2 years is not a blip. So far in 2021, he actually has a reverse split, and is getting more lefties than righties out, % wise.

LHH in 2021 are hitting .217 vs. .280 for his career. I'd be shocked if that stays the same. Thus far his performance in 2021 vs. RHH is exactly in line with his career norms, so unless the LHH thing is for real, I'm going to stick with....he is who we thought he was.
 
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joe dokes

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This is partially true. League-wide, contact% dropped by ~3% from 2016 through present. This is also true of O-Contact% (contact% on pitches out of the zone) and Z-Contact% (contact% on pitches in the strikezone). So part of Eovaldi's success can be attributed to that. That said, his contact% has dropped by slightly more than that (~5% difference from 2016-2020, I'm not using his 2021 stats due to the obviously tiny sample size).

That said, league-wide, batters have remained pretty consistent since 2016 with regards to how often they swing, both at pitches in and out of the zone. There's literally no difference in O-Swing% or Swing% overall from 2016-2020. What's potentially causing Eovaldi's success is that, while his Contact% has dropped pretty in line with the league, his O-Contact% has dropped by a full 10%. Additionally, his O-Swing% has risen by about 5%, even whie O-Swing% for the league stayed constant. Like burstnbloom, I have to assume that has something to do with his pitch mix. The addition of his curveball and cutter in place of his slider and change must be allowing him to get batters to swing at more pitches out of the zone

Edit: A Bad Man posted while I was writing, and his graph seems to demonstrate that it is in fact that he's getting lots of swings and misses with the curve and cutter
Thanks for the details. Those are numbers and pictures I wouldn't have found or understood on my own.
 

ZMart100

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This is partially true. League-wide, contact% dropped by ~3% from 2016 through present. This is also true of O-Contact% (contact% on pitches out of the zone) and Z-Contact% (contact% on pitches in the strikezone). So part of Eovaldi's success can be attributed to that. That said, his contact% has dropped by slightly more than that (~5% difference from 2016-2020, I'm not using his 2021 stats due to the obviously tiny sample size).

That said, league-wide, batters have remained pretty consistent since 2016 with regards to how often they swing, both at pitches in and out of the zone. There's literally no difference in O-Swing% or Swing% overall from 2016-2020. What's potentially causing Eovaldi's success is that, while his Contact% has dropped pretty in line with the league, his O-Contact% has dropped by a full 10%. Additionally, his O-Swing% has risen by about 5%, even whie O-Swing% for the league stayed constant. Like burstnbloom, I have to assume that has something to do with his pitch mix. The addition of his curveball and cutter in place of his slider and change must be allowing him to get batters to swing at more pitches out of the zone

Edit: A Bad Man posted while I was writing, and his graph seems to demonstrate that it is in fact that he's getting lots of swings and misses with the curve and cutter
Brooksbaseball isn't picking up the numbers from the 2021 season for whatever reason, but his cutter usage is down by half vs 2019 and 2020. One thing that is different is according to Baseball Info- he is throwing a slider a lot more. It seems like his cutter is more effective too, but it is small sample size.
 

chawson

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Maybe we can change the thread title to Nathan Eovaldi…Cy Young candidate.

After his great outing today, Eovaldi will likely be roughly tied with Gerrit Cole for most fWAR in the AL, at 4.3 or 4.4, on pace for a nearly 6-win season. Pretty good for a guy some people thought might be dumped for Rougned Odor.

Is it smart to explore an extension with him this winter? Maybe tack on another 2/$34M or 3/$51M to his contract (covering his age 33-35 seasons)? He’s had a pretty wild arc that’s swung him from overnight hero to albatross to underappreciated ace. He’s solved his third-time-through-the-lineup woes, and in a post-sticky stuff landscape his stuff and velocity makes him even more valuable. He also seems to enjoy playing here. Maybe he thinks he can get a mega-deal at 33, but with his injury history it may be better for everyone to keep him here at the going rate.
 

JimD

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Is it smart to explore an extension with him this winter? Maybe tack on another 2/$34M or 3/$51M to his contract (covering his age 33-35 seasons)? He’s had a pretty wild arc that’s swung him from overnight hero to albatross to underappreciated ace. He’s solved his third-time-through-the-lineup woes, and in a post-sticky stuff landscape his stuff and velocity makes him even more valuable. He also seems to enjoy playing here. Maybe he thinks he can get a mega-deal at 33, but with his injury history it may be better for everyone to keep him here at the going rate.
No, I don't believe that it is smart to give contract extensions to pitchers in their 30's who have a significant history of injuries, and especially to one who followed up his last new contract with a woeful year where he only made 12 starts and just generally stunk. We've been fortunate that Eovaldi has redeemed himself somewhat and is helping to earn his contract, and I'll always be thankful for his performance in the 2018 World Series, but Chaim is smart to give out one-year contracts to veterans he wants to take a flier on.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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He’s under contract for his age 32 season at $17M. Not sure what the upside is to signing him to an extension for years 33-35, or beyond. I’d let him play out next year and see what happens; if the ‘22 Sox struggle he could be a good trade candidate but I have a hard time picturing him playing beyond ‘22 Boston unless he’s willing to take a reduction in salary, which seems unlikely. If he has a good ‘22, perhaps an arbitration offer.

Will certainly be interesting to see how Bloom approaches the free agent marketplace with some $$$ to spend (as it regards to the rotation, too).
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Erod is really the big rotation question for ‘22.
Sale, Eo, Whitlock, Houck, Seabold and Richards are all rotation potential
 

normstalls

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I can't imagine Boston would pick up Richards option, at this point i certainly hope they don't.
 

Rovin Romine

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Maybe we can change the thread title to Nathan Eovaldi…Cy Young candidate.

After his great outing today, Eovaldi will likely be roughly tied with Gerrit Cole for most fWAR in the AL, at 4.3 or 4.4, on pace for a nearly 6-win season. Pretty good for a guy some people thought might be dumped for Rougned Odor.

Is it smart to explore an extension with him this winter? Maybe tack on another 2/$34M or 3/$51M to his contract (covering his age 33-35 seasons)? He’s had a pretty wild arc that’s swung him from overnight hero to albatross to underappreciated ace. He’s solved his third-time-through-the-lineup woes, and in a post-sticky stuff landscape his stuff and velocity makes him even more valuable. He also seems to enjoy playing here. Maybe he thinks he can get a mega-deal at 33, but with his injury history it may be better for everyone to keep him here at the going rate.
Eovaldi's in the top 10 in many traditional categories, but he's not in the top 5 for many of them. For example, he leads in BB/9 and HR/9, but is 5th in wins, 6 in WAR, 9th in WHIP, 10th in ERA, 10th in Ks.

It's a truly excellent season so far, one we should all be happy with. . .but not Cy Young dominant.
 

chawson

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No, I don't believe that it is smart to give contract extensions to pitchers in their 30's who have a significant history of injuries, and especially to one who followed up his last new contract with a woeful year where he only made 12 starts and just generally stunk. We've been fortunate that Eovaldi has redeemed himself somewhat and is helping to earn his contract, and I'll always be thankful for his performance in the 2018 World Series, but Chaim is smart to give out one-year contracts to veterans he wants to take a flier on.
When was the last time a one-year contract for a starter worked out for us?

I don’t think starters looking to rehabilitate their careers are impelled to come to offensive hotbeds like Fenway or the AL East. We do have some interesting arms in the upper minors, but I think Boston should keep ace-caliber starters in town when they can. Eovaldi’s 2021 isn’t a fluke, and his fastball velo’s still the second highest in the AL. There’s a decent chance he’ll age like Charlie Morton or Lance Lynn.

Eovaldi's in the top 10 in many traditional categories, but he's not in the top 5 for many of them. For example, he leads in BB/9 and HR/9, but is 5th in wins, 6 in WAR, 9th in WHIP, 10th in ERA, 10th in Ks.

It's a truly excellent season so far, one we should all be happy with. . .but not Cy Young dominant.
Fair. I don’t care a lot about the actual CYA or guessing whether he’ll win. My case is that he’s terribly underappreciated. He’s the most valuable pitcher in the AL (and 3rd in MLB), and he’s not especially old. It may be that it’s too early to care about it, but if people are resigned to letting him walk after ‘22, that’s odd to me.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Eovaldi has a 3.72 era but a 2.82 fip. His HR rate (0.7) is quite a bit lower than his AL career #s (1.1). Ottavino is somewhat similar, with much lower fip than era, and zero homers allowed. HR rate can vary quite a bit year to year. Happy to see what Nate can do next year but don’t see the urgency in extending him now…
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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When was the last time a one-year contract for a starter worked out for us?

I don’t think starters looking to rehabilitate their careers are impelled to come to offensive hotbeds like Fenway or the AL East. We do have some interesting arms in the upper minors, but I think Boston should keep ace-caliber starters in town when they can. Eovaldi’s 2021 isn’t a fluke, and his fastball velo’s still the second highest in the AL. There’s a decent chance he’ll age like Charlie Morton or Lance Lynn.



Fair. I don’t care a lot about the actual CYA or guessing whether he’ll win. My case is that he’s terribly underappreciated. He’s the most valuable pitcher in the AL (and 3rd in MLB), and he’s not especially old. It may be that it’s too early to care about it, but if people are resigned to letting him walk after ‘22, that’s odd to me.
I'm curious why you're saying this.... Eo has already had 2 TJ surgeries, I don't think either Morton or Lynn has had one and they are very different pitchers.....
 

amRadio

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Even since coming back from that second TJ surgery - after which he has certainly been an improved pitcher - he's only averaging 17 starts per 162 games. In almost 400 innings since he only has an ERA+ of 110. "Ace caliber" is a stretch, but he's having a nice season. I don't think it would be a great move to extend him at his current salary based on this years performance.
 

chawson

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I'm curious why you're saying this.... Eo has already had 2 TJ surgeries, I don't think either Morton or Lynn has had one and they are very different pitchers.....
There are no great comps for Nathan Eovaldi. I don’t know any pitchers with two Tommy Johns coming back to this level of success, or retaining his velocity. I was thinking of modern over-30 pitchers who at one point appeared cooked and took shorter deals before reinventing themselves as top arms in their thirties, and Lynn and Morton came to mind. (Morton had a Tommy John at age 28, and came back a much better pitcher.)

Chris Bassitt maybe? He’s 32, a year older than Eovaldi, and also having an ace-like season, and hits FA the same winter. Kevin Gausman, a year younger, is going to get a ton of money this winter, but he, like Eovaldi, was a bad pitcher as recently as 2019. (Since then, Gausman has posted a 2.90 FIP to Eovaldi’s 3.08.) But those comps still feel off, because the only starter who throws harder than Eovaldi is Gerrit Cole.

No one seems particularly psyched about keeping him around so I’ll shelve it. It seems to me like we go through hell every winter hoping a guy like Morton, Kluber, Odorizzi, or Rich Hill sign with us, and I think we already got a high-risk, high-reward guy like that.
 

grimshaw

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He’s under contract for his age 32 season at $17M. Not sure what the upside is to signing him to an extension for years 33-35, or beyond. I’d let him play out next year and see what happens; if the ‘22 Sox struggle he could be a good trade candidate but I have a hard time picturing him playing beyond ‘22 Boston unless he’s willing to take a reduction in salary, which seems unlikely. If he has a good ‘22, perhaps an arbitration offer.

Will certainly be interesting to see how Bloom approaches the free agent marketplace with some $$$ to spend (as it regards to the rotation, too).
If he wanted to sign at the same rate for the next few years as @chawson is IMO unrealistically proposing, I'd give him that extension for sure. 17 mill is basically paying for a 2 to 3 win guy. If he averaged a drop by a win for those 33-35 seasons then the contract would be a bargain and then some. But as you are suggesting, he wouldn't be taking a reduction so it's not really worth even speculating.

The past few seasons, the effectiveness of his curveball has been really key

Per fangraphs and in more layman's turns from the better analysis upthread:
Fastball runs above average has gone from -3.5, to -.9, to 1.5.
Curveball runs above average has gone from -.3, to 2.4, to 3.6. The usage has jumped from 3% to 17%. It's a huge deal when you can add a plus pitch that is used way more often because it improves your bread and butter. These improvements are also sustaining through sticky tack gate.

Performance wise he has been the MVP of the team. Against the Yanks, Jays and Rays, in 8 of his 10 starts he has allowed 2 runs or fewer. He has had zero season starts under 4 innings. That is beastly and the biggest direct reason they are where they are. If his team could field the damn ball on an even average basis he'd be even better.

Home run luck is going to fluctuate, so maybe he's just an above average or even average guy when that comes back to earth. Health is health. Who knows? But that seems worth the risk for a 17 mill contract for a team that spends so much money.
 
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scottyno

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He has a good chance of ending up positive value for the Sox for his current contract despite being worth negative money the whole first year, that's pretty impressive.

If he would take an extra 2 years at reasonable money ($20m or less) this offseason I think that's a pretty easy extension, but I don't see why he would after this season. It's possible he's getting a bit lucky with home runs this year, but he put up similar numbers last year with twice the home run rate, so I don't think it's too difficult to see him as a solid #2 pitcher going forward for the next several years at least.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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The big concern is obviously health; this is the most innings he’s thrown since 2015. He’s about to cross the 150 inning barrier for only the third time in his career. I think if he’s still humming along and durable at the ASB next year, it’s worth having the conversation. Probably costs you more if so but think the additional time may be worth it to make sure he’s a guy you want to invest heavily in again.
 

grimshaw

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He has a good chance of ending up positive value for the Sox for his current contract despite being worth negative money the whole first year, that's pretty impressive.
He also had no chance to earn all his money in 2020 with the 60 game schedule.
 

scottyno

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He also had no chance to earn all his money in 2020 with the 60 game schedule.
That gets factored in because both his contract and games got reduced by the same amount, his 4 year $68m contract effectively became a 3.4 year $57m contract. So far he has produced about $40m in value per fangraphs value calculator.
 

Sandman5756

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Eovaldi has a 3.72 era but a 2.82 fip. His HR rate (0.7) is quite a bit lower than his AL career #s (1.1). Ottavino is somewhat similar, with much lower fip than era, and zero homers allowed. HR rate can vary quite a bit year to year. Happy to see what Nate can do next year but don’t see the urgency in extending him now…
The numbers suggest that he will regress, but he certainly has been an ace this year. He routinely gives the Sox more innings than the other pitchers, and he has had very few "bad" outings. KC in the heat in June, Tampa Bay at the Trop, and maybe one other, but he has had a number of good outings in which the Sox have blown his lead or never got enough runs in the first place. He could easily have a 14-6 record, at this point, with some good fortune. In fact, I just looked it up. He has benefitted from the Sox offense a few times, but he has left with the lead and seen the Sox relievers cough it up at least six times. Thrice to the Yanks, once to Texas, once to the Angels, and once to Tampa Bay. Sawamura, Ottavino, Taylor and Barnes have been the culprits.

He has had more dreadful outings than I had remembered, a good performance in Toronto in which he imploded in the fifth inning, Tampa Bay six days later, KC on June 20, Minnesota and Detroit early in the season.
 
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Daniel_Son

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Free agent after 2022. Do you try to sign him to an extension this offseason? And if so, for how long?
I'd wait to see how he does next year, then offer him 2-3 years at $17-18 mil. I get the sense that he enjoys pitching in Boston, and I think that's a fair price for a 2nd-3rd starter.
 

chawson

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Free agent after 2022. Do you try to sign him to an extension this offseason? And if so, for how long?
Yes. The $17m per year framework seems fair to both parties, given the upside and injury risk. Give me two or three more of those.
 

DisgruntledSoxFan77

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I'd wait to see how he does next year, then offer him 2-3 years at $17-18 mil. I get the sense that he enjoys pitching in Boston, and I think that's a fair price for a 2nd-3rd starter.
This is the way to go. People here kill the previous regime for the Sale contract and now it’s being suggested to give a fairly lucrative contract to a pitcher with a far worse injury history. No dice, let the current deal end, then talk extension at a more appropriate time