Aug
23

Ivan Nova’s Big Day

By

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

About 20 months ago, then 21-year-old Ivan Nova wasn’t much more than an afterthought in the Yankees’ farm system. His performance was solid yet unspectacular (6.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 52% grounders) in 22 starts (and two relief appearances) with High-A Tampa in 2008, not enough to earn him a 40-man roster spot after the season. The Padres, then in search of anyone young and able to throw remotely close to 90 mph, gobbled him up in the Rule 5 Draft but were so unimpressed in Spring Training that they sent him right back to the Yanks at the end of camp.

So Nova went about his way last year and had what was arguably his worst season as a professional. He struck out just 5.8 batters per nine innings and walked a career high 3.8 per nine, avoiding total destruction by generating 54% ground balls. It was his first taste of both the Double-A and Triple-A levels. Knowing that Nova not only had a much better chance of sticking with a big league team in 2010 if taken in the Rule 5 again, but also that they’d likely lose him to free agency if he didn’t stick (since it would have been his second time on outright waivers), the Yanks added him to the 40-man roster last December and penciled him in as a 7th or 8th starter type to stash away in Scranton.

Following a three inning relief cameo in mid-May, Nova returns to the big leagues tonight to make his first career start, an exciting moment in every player’s career. It’s all part of the team’s plan to keep their regular starters rested down the stretch and in September. He made this opportunity possible by having the best season of his career with Triple-A Scranton, striking out a career high 7.1 batters per nine, walking three per nine, and getting his usual helping of ground balls (54%). Even more encouraging is Nova’s continued trend of becoming less and less hittable; he allowed a whopping 11.0 hits per nine innings during his first full season back in 2007 (.337 BABIP), but has gradually whittled that down to 8.4 this season (.303 BABIP). Certainly not great, but pitchers that rely on the ground ball will always give up their fair share of base knocks.

In the 2008 Prospect Handbook, the first time Nova was considered one of the Yanks’ top 30 prospects according to Baseball America, he was said to have a fastball that “sits 90-94 mph” with “a solid-average curveball and changeup” as the team’s 18th best prospect. The scouting report improved a bit next year, when he was San Diego’s 30th best prospect. Those same pitches – fastball, curve, change – were now said to grade out as “above-average when they’re on.” As the Yanks’ 16th best prospect before this season, Nova had the same basic scouting report and was dubbed a number four starter in the big leagues if his command and secondary pitches improved, which is still his ultimate ceiling. Modest, but useful to a team set at the front of the rotation for the foreseeable future.

The biggest knock against Nova is his delivery, which I explained last winter in his prospect profile. It’s too smooth and effortless. There’s very little deception and hitters haven’t had too much trouble picking the ball up against him, hence the inflated hit totals earlier in this career. Here’s video of his big league debut and a minor league clip so you can see what I’m talking about. A nice and easy motion, for sure, but it doesn’t take much effort to find the ball before it comes out of his hand. If Nova could find a way to hide the ball a bit better, his stuff probably plays up a touch and improves not only the results, but his long-term outlook.

As for tonight, the Blue Jays actually present a nice matchup for the now 23-year-old. They’re an extremely impatient team, swinging at an American League worst 31.6% of the pitches they see outside of the strike zone. As you probably deduced given their homer happy ways, the Jays also hit a frickin’ ton of balls in the air, a MLB high 43.5% to be exact. Nova, a groundball fiend that is stingy with walks, plays right into Toronto’s weaknesses as long as he doesn’t catch too much of the plate. As long as he doesn’t get the jitters and elevate his pitches, he should be fine. The Jays will chase when he nibbles and the ground balls, which infrequently go for extra bases, will come. Tonight would actually be a good night to give Derek Jeter a break and let Ramiro Pena handle short on the turf, as well.

Nova’s not going to come up and give the Yanks a late-season kick in the rear by firing off dominant start after dominant start, he’s just not that kind of pitcher. What he should do is provide bulk innings and hopefully keep the game close enough that two of the Yanks’ biggest strengths – the offense and bullpen – can nail down the win. Then again, I welcome surprises.

Categories : Pitching
  • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

    Nova’s not going to come up and give the Yanks a late-season kick in the rear by firing off dominant start after dominant start, he’s just not that kind of pitcher.

    I BEG TO DIFFER!!!

    On a serious note, I wouldn’t expect it either, but it’s certainly possible that he pitches really well (even if it has to do with players never seeing him before or luck.)

    • A.D.

      Shame he can’t face the Yanks, then he’d be guaranteed to shut them down

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Maybe the ol’ “soft-tossing pitcher we’ve never seen before” magic will work against the Jays in our favor this time.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    There’s gonna be a lot of Russians getting excited to watch Ivanova’s first start, and they’re gonna be depressed when they see some dark-skinned Dominican kid on the hill.

    • http://www.twitter.com/brandonholley B-Rando

      I was just about to make a similar type comment.

      He does have one of the most badass names I’ve seen though.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I miss the old Spring Training #75, though. That was bad-ass. The #41 he wore earlier this year in the regular season is so… ordinary.

        • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

          Yeah. Players are really against wearing high numbers.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            He would have been the first Yankee #75 in team history.

            #41 is filled with also-rans and never-wases. (Gaudin, Veras, Cairo, Sterling Hitchcock, Rafael DePaula, Brian Boehringer, Denny Neagle, Ed Yarnall, Mike Buddie, Darren Holmes, etc. Randy Johnson rocked it for 2 years, that’s the only recent exception.)

            With Gaudin still on the team, though, he’ll have to pick a new number. I’m holding out hope for #75. Maybe Joba and Hughes can convince him to stick with the ST number for good luck like they did.

            • Andy In Sunny Daytona

              He should ask Jeter how much he wants for #2.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                We should give him #21.

                • Thomas

                  How about number 6?

                • rek4gehrig

                  or 51

                  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                    HEY HEY HEY STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM #51.

                    You can have #35, #55, or #18, but not #51. If you know what’s good for you and value your life, you’ll apologize.

                    Sincerely,
                    Feared

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Also, kudos to the Fox chyron operator for writing “Ian Nova” on his graphic in his big league debut.

      Thanks a pantsload, NewsCorp.

    • larryf

      Finally someone to join that great Russian Latin Vlad Guerrero…

    • rek4gehrig

      LOL

  • Ross in Jersey

    The only thing I don’t like about this match-up is that if he misses spots against the free-swinging Jays, the ball is going to go a long way. Against other teams he may be able to get by with subpar stuff, but this Toronto team will punish mistakes like nobody’s business.

    Still though, here’s hoping he has a good start. I’d settle for 6 innings and 4 runs, nothing crazy. The Yankee bats will need to get to Morrow, who looked pretty good when they faced him this year. At least we miss Romero…

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      We hammered him twice, though. Granted those two times were at the Stadium, and his home/road splits are pretty drastic.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    I hope Ivan goes up to Vernon Wells and says, “I must break you”.

    • http://deleted Greg G.

      I laughed.

  • Scout

    I refer to prospects like Nova as FPPs — future Pittsburgh Pirates — because their greatest value to the organization is usually what they can fetch in exchange from teams going nowhere and looking to dump salary.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      Nova for McCutchen!!

      • Reggie C.

        Nah dude. VOTE FOR PEDRO.

        The “FPP” tag made me laugh.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Maybe we can get Tabata back. We then would have outsourced his development like a good evil corporation does.

          • Chris

            Isn’t Tabata like 35 years old now?

            • Pete

              no, but his stepson is.

              • Pete

                *step son

          • Scout

            This would really live up to the “Evil Empire” label.

  • Jose the Satirist

    Nova has a 3.59 FIP(148 IP) this year. Innings 1-4 he has a 3.15 FIP(91 IP), innings 5+ he has a 4.28 FIP(57 IP). Granted the sample size is small. I’ll still be interested in how he does tonight once he goes through the order the second time.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Kevin Towers must have liked him to take him 2 years ago. Just needed a little more seasoning.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Just needed a little more seasoning.

      THAT’S RACIST!!!

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        racist…and cannibalist!

  • Jay T

    I am going to respectfully disagree with you on what happened in San Diego, Mike. The Padres were going to let Nova learn in the pen but towards the end of Spring Training, they had a couple of injuries within their pitching staff. At that point, they couldn’t “afford” for Nova to learn on the fly. The Yanks were more than happy to bring him back.

    Nova has good stuff. I saw him pitch last year and he looked good. He is even better this year as you stated. While I agree he isn’t #1 or #2 material, he can be both a solid mid-rotation guy and innings eater. I think he will do pretty good this year.

    • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

      This isn’t to be an ass or anything of that sort, but every single time someone from RAB “see’s” a pitcher in person, they say “he looked really good in person, I expect his ceiling to be a #3 starter (when the pitcher is considered a 4-5 guy).” Something like that, at least.

      Although I’d love to agree with you, I’d take the consensus opinion in this case.

      • Jay T

        I understand where you are coming from. Again, it was a year ago that I saw him. Everything points to Nova being better this year.

        And, if Nova had no talent, then why did SD take him in the first place? And, why did the Yanks put him on the 40 man?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          And, if Nova had no talent, then why did SD take him in the first place?

          Because the 2009 Padres sucked and needed all the help they could get, and he was better than many of the kids in their system.

          And, why did the Yanks put him on the 40 man?

          Because a year had passed and he was more ML ready and thus a greater likelihood of getting drafted again and sticking this time.

          • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

            Pretty much.

            • Jay T

              You’re right guys, how silly of me to think that Nova has a good chance to succeed. Obviously the folks at the Padres don’t know what they are doing and neither the Yankees.

              So, who would you have start instead?

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                Are you even reading what we’re writing?

  • Pasqua

    I suppose we can always hope for a “supernova” tonight, amirite?

    Guys?

    Anyboday?

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      Predicting those headlines tonight if he wins.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I wonder if the Post would have the creativity to go with a “¡NoVamos!” headline if he bombed.

        • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

          Nothing they do would surprise me.

        • nsalem

          IvanWho

      • nsalem

        Ivan Was Not Terrible

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Yeah, I’d say there’s like a 99% chance the headline will either be “Ivan the Great” or “Ivan the Terrible”.

          Shootin’ fish in a barrel.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

            How about 6 innings, 3 runs?

            Ivan the Mediocre?

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Ivan the Adequate

              • Andy In Sunny Daytona

                Ivan the Ehhh

      • Ben

        Ivan ho-ribble

      • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

        Well, it’s already started. Check out the headline on yankees.com:

        “Yankees looking for super Nova in Toronto”

  • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

    Predictions for Girardi’s nickname for him?

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Ivey

      • Pete

        Novey

    • Jose the Satirist

      Novy.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      “Novie”

      • Jose the Satirist

        I enjoy how predictable Girardi is with his nicknames.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I long for the day when we bring up some kid named “Puss”.

          • http://soxandpinstripes.net Angelo

            IETC

          • Johan Iz My Brohan

            http://www.baseball-reference......211;001pus

            We will need a hot tub time machine to go back and sign him though.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              His real name was probably Pushkin Lucovizt or something like that. I’m sure that’s an bastardization of his actual ethnic name.

              • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

                So, “Pushie”…?

          • rek4gehrig

            Stop it :-)

        • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

          Yet sometimes the player doesn’t get a nickname. Like Gaudin. He just calls him Chad.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            If he called him “Gaudy”, that would be awesome.

      • larryf

        Putski

        • Johan Iz My Brohan

          JJ Putzy

    • GG2010

      Ivana Humpalot

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Well played.

  • Andy In Sunny Daytona

    Can we nickname him “El Camicero”?

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      ..or El Gran Ivan.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        El Loco Ruso.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Baxter, you know I don’t speak Spanish.

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      Now that should be the nickname Girardi uses.

      • larryf

        I live in Northern Virginia now and the largest hospital around is Inova Fairfax Hospital. If he gets traded to the Nats he will be INova.

        /ARod’d

        • Jose the Satirist

          If I ever see a “First letter of first name, few letters of last name” nickname again it will be too soon.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            I’m still sad it never caught on for Felix Hernandez.

            • http://youcantpredictbaseball.wordpress.com/ bexarama

              It took me a bit to get this, hee.

          • Thomas

            So we shouldn’t call you JSat?

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            Oh, and I’m gonna start calling you “J-Sat”.

            • Jose the Satirist

              This is why we can’t have nice things.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                The RABbis:
                M-Ax, J-Paw, and B-Kab.

                • Jose the Satirist

                  Axisa = Maxipad

                  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                    Maxipad, PowCow, and Kabackitup.

                    • http://deleted Greg G.

                      OK, Tommie, I take back all the terrible things I’ve said about you behind your back. Cause that, right there, is funny.

                    • Carlosologist

                      You’re on a roll TSJC.

                    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                      I found that joke rather shallow and pedantic.

                      Sincerely,
                      PoopyPantsHumorCritic

  • http://twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

    damn i missed TSJC

    he is on FIYAH today folks

    call the FIYAH depahtment

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Dial emergency numbah MURDARAH

      • http://twitter.com/stophamm3rtime Dela G

        hahahahahaha

  • Ross in Jersey

    And tonight backing up Nova will be the vaunted 7-8-9 of:

    Nunez
    Pena
    Cervelli

    Yay!

    Hope Nova has his shutout shoes on tonight.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Peña’s actually 2 for 3 against Morrow (both singles).

      • Ross in Jersey

        If he repeats that tonight I will eat my shorts. Though at least he beings better defense than Cervelli :)

      • Pete

        Pena’s actually 2 for 3 against Morrow (both singles)

        Ramiro Pena went 2 for 3 against someone. His two hits were singles.

        (I was going to say something else and then point out something really obvious in parentheses, there was literally no better example than the original)

    • http://ballcraft.blogspot.com Zanath

      Wait, is that for realz?

      • Ross in Jersey

        Yeah. Unfortunately.

    • larryf

      speed kills at the bottom of the order…

  • LeftyLarry

    Boy those 7 guys he struck out ever 9 innings in Triple A must really suck!

  • Ivan Nova

    Please just let me pitch.

    • mustang

      second this.

  • BigGuy

    Mike, I’ve been watching Nova at SWB since he was promoted last year and you’re analysis is right on the money !

  • Lisa

    After seeing tonight’s line-up, he needs to be super! I really can’t figure Girardi out. Today would be a good day to put your best line-up on the field with a rookie. Give him a veteran presence behind the plate. Maybe give Jeter his day off yesterday. I don’t understand the way Joe thinks sometimes. So, today, we have Cervelli, Nunez, and Pena against a very potent Jays team that we have struggled against. We are also sitting Kearns who has been hitting really well lately.

  • mustang

    “Nova’s not going to come up and give the Yanks a late-season kick in the rear by firing off dominant start after dominant start, he’s just not that kind of pitcher.”

    And he wasn’t suppose to do what he did in AAA either lets see what the kid can do before we pigeonhole what he is.
    When a player gets to the majors his minor league profile is exactly that.

  • http://www.workwithpete.com Pete

    I’m trying my best to think of a clever dentist pun, but my brain’s mush today. Plus it’s 5pm – I’m out, suckers!