PHOENIX — While pitchers around Major League Baseball have changed, Ivan Nova has remained the same. Nova, the leader of the Pirates' pitching staff, is still relying on a two-seam fastball.
When executed properly, the sinking fastball can generate quick outs, as Nova powerfully illustrated Sunday at Wrigley Field. The 31-year-old produced eight ground-ball outs to one fly out while throwing 29 two-seam fastballs. The pitch induced a double play to help him escape a jam in the fifth and kept him efficient, despite only 11 first-pitch strikes.
Nova, though, represents an outlier around baseball. Pitchers have stopped using the two-seamer as a featured pitch or shelved it altogether. However, it remains a pillar of the Pirates' pitching philosophy. While two-seam/sinker usage has dropped steadily since 2010, the Pirates have thrown the fourth-most in the National League this season.
"It’s kind of funny because you’ll hear a lot of theories that the two-seamer has gone away," Clint Hurdle said. "I think the guys that didn’t throw good ones have stopped throwing them and have started throwing more four-seamers. That’s what I think. Some guys who were actually throwing four-seamers are throwing two-seamers and saying, ‘Wait, that thing moves pretty good.”