Ivan Nova will look to return to form for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final months of the 2017 season after recent struggles.

During his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ivan Nova has been more than impressive. He proved to be a bargain when the Pirates acquired him at the trade deadline last season and, despite some recent struggles, he has had a relatively good year in Pittsburgh.

With the Pirates remaining somewhat quiet on the trade front during this year’s trade deadline, they will attempt to make a push to win the National League Central with the players already in their arsenal.

The bullpen will remain the same with Nova right in the thick of things as a veteran right hander the team will rely on during the final two months of the season.

However, it brings up the question as to whether or not the Pirates should be concerned with Nova given his recent struggles on the mound.

Up and Down season for Nova

In the opening month of the 2017 season, no member of the Pirates starting rotation was as consistent as Nova. He put up beyond stellar numbers and proved to be worthy of his three-year, $26 million deal he signed with the Pirates in the offseason.

In the month of April, Nova went 3-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 0.75 WHIP along with 22 strikeouts and one walk in five starts. Despite the team getting out to a slow start, Nova took the ball every fifth day and simply did his job.

During the month of May, Nova came back down to earth a little bit. He posted a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in six starts. In that span, opposing hitters were hitting over .300 against the righty; however, the less than stellar month jumped didn’t push his ERA up too much as it grew to 2.92 by the end of the month.

Nova went 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA in June, pushing his season number to 3.08.

July wasn’t a good month for Nova. In fact, it might have been his worst month as a Pirate as he finished with his season ERA sitting at 3.75.

In five starts during the month, the 30-year old posted a 6.28 ERA along with a 1.43 WHIP. Opposing hitters were hitting .316 against him and he allowed seven or more hits in four of his five starts.

What is wrong with Nova?

We all know that Nova isn’t the type of pitcher that is going to dominate hitters. He won’t strike out 10 plus batters a game, but he does have good control. Nova has walked just 17 batters in 21 starts this season, meaning he doesn’t just give away base runners.

One of the best things about Nova is he makes the opposition beat him. Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Pirates righty, they have done just that, getting on base by getting hits off of Nova and capitalizing with runners in scoring position.

During his two worst months this season – May and July – the number of hits Nova has allowed have been larger than his innings pitched for those particular months. In July, Nova allowed 20 runs on 37 hits in 28.2 innings while only walking four in the month.

Another issue with Nova throughout the last two months of the season has been the long ball. In the first two months of the year, Nova allowed just five home runs. In the last two months, Nova has allowed 14, including a season-high eight this past month. Nova has allowed two or more home runs in three of his last five starts.

Home Sweet Home?

While many may think it doesn’t matter where you play, home has proven to be a safe haven for Nova. When looking at his season splits, it’s clear that Nova pitches a whole lot better when throwing at PNC Park.

That was clear in his rough July when four of his five starts were on the road. In 12 starts to visiting ballparks this season, Nova has posted a 3-6 record along with a 4.42 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 79.1 innings pitched. Nova has also allowed 15 home runs on the road.

His home numbers are a lot more appealing. With a 7-2 record and a 2.83 ERA in nine starts, Nova has a 1.12 WHIP and has allowed just four home runs in 57.1 innings.

Can Nova bounce back?

With the calendar turning to August, Nova has an opportunity to put his recent slump behind him. Is this possible? Absolutely. Can we expect it to happen? Well, let’s just say, the chances are very high.

While it looks as if Nova is heading back to his old ways from when he was a member of the New York Yankees, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Nova is expected to make his next scheduled start this weekend at home against the San Diego Padres, a struggling ball club that Nova had issues with recently in San Diego. However, as I pointed out before, Nova is a different pitcher when pitching in his home ballpark.

With a young rotation that includes the likes of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to count on Nova to be a consistent, veteran presence in the middle of the rotation. Nova has done that for a majority of his tenure with the Bucs.

Is it time to push the panic button on Nova? Well, the answer is in his name: No. The veteran righty has rejuvenated his career with the Bucs and while he has had some recent struggles, the organization and fans should have confidence that he will figure things out soon and return to form in the final two months of the season.

Photo credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U's campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.