2014 has been a whirlwind for Vidal Nuno so far. He was one of the last members to make the opening day 25-man squad, and quickly got into the rotation after Ivan Nova was lost for the season due to injury. His season hasn’t gone exactly how he has hoped so far, owning a 6.87 ERA through a couple relief appearances and three starts. After such a strong showing last year, what gives?
Last year we only had a small sample size of Nuno, but he had a 2.25 ERA in 20.0 innings of work. His game was strong all around. So far this year through 18.1 innings, his walk rate is sky high at almost 5 per 9 innings. His home run per 9 innings is almost double of what it was last season. On the plus side, his strikeout rate is also twice what it was last season.
Nuno’s fastball is anything but overpowering. It’s averaged just under 90 MPH this season, good thing he’s a lefty. The 5’11″, 26-year-old relies on command to succeed. Without it, he’s going to walk people and give up bombs. His 10 walks and 4 home runs in just 18.1 innings is clear proof of just that happening. In order to have a chance, he needs to be able to locate his pitches much better. That does not mean throw more strikes. Just throw the ball where it’s intended. Look at Masahiro Tanaka, he has the lowest rate of thrown strikes in the majors. Yet, he also has the highest rate of making batters swing at pitches out of the zone. You do not need to throw strikes 80% of the time to be successful. In fact, that will usually hurt you more than help.
From a mechanics point of view, Nuno leaves a lot to be desired. Of course, there is no one way to throw a baseball. Take 100 pitchers and you will see 100 different deliveries. However, there are a few automatic no-no’s that professional pitchers simply cannot do. As for my background, I pitched for one year at the college level before tearing my labrum and ending my career. I also was a pitching instructor after I could no longer play myself. While I am no expert, I do have more credentials than the typical couch coach.
Nuno can instantly increase his velocity by using his right arm more. Yes, his right arm. Other than pitching in college, I also have a degree in Physics. The pitching motion is a series of levers and torques that come together to produce a flying baseball that has the potential to seriously harm when thrown incorrectly. There are literally dozens of steps and movements that coming together for a pitcher in order to make his pitch fly out of his hand. One of the more basic steps is for a pitcher to use his non-pitching hand do drive his pitching arm up and over his shoulder when pitching. Think of a catapult. A pitcher leading their body weight with their non-pitching arm and driving it straight down at the right time will pull the rest of the body, including the pitching arm, through the rest of the pitch. Nuno’s non pitching arm is a complete non-factor. Not only does he not use it to propel the rest of his body, his immediate mental release of the arm leads to an overall loose motion. This won’t bring Nuno’s fastball from 89 to 95, but it will more than certainly get him into the low 90s.
At this point in Nuno’s career, his ability to stay in the rotation depends on his control. If he can increase his velocity into the 92-93 range, he will begin to have a little more leeway with where his control needs to be. Until then, he needs to study everything he can on Greg Maddux.