Thought to ponder: Ivan Nova in the bullpen

Nova's third trip through the order
Yanks' 2011 slate wraps in September

While writing Nova’s breakdown this morning I started to think that maybe he’d be best suited for a role in the bullpen for the playoffs. There is some evidence that he’d help out greatly, even if he’s nothing more than an insurance policy.

1) In his first two innings Nova is especially effective. His line in the first two innings this season: 10 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 1 HR. That amounts to a .194/.275/.306 line. Maybe that’s not ideal for high leverage situations, but that brings us to the second point.

2) The Yankees have only four effective relievers before Rivera: Robertson, Wood, Chamberlain, and Logan. With the four starters that’s just nine men on the pitching staff. Vazquez will be there as the long man, so 10. At that point both Mitre and Gaudin are rendered redundant, so taking Nova, with the aim to use him in short bursts, makes sense as the 11th pitcher.

3) There is no real third point, but three is a good number so here are some more early-appearance numbers for Nova. On pitches 1 through 25 he holds opponents to a .231/.286/.333 line (though he’s actually better on pitches 26-50). When an opponent faces him for the first time in a game he hits .245/.298/.302. WIth men on opponents are hitting .238/.327/.429 off him, which is actually better than his bases empty line — though, again, he won’t be used in high leverage situations.

If the decision comes down to Gaudin or Nova, at this point I think Nova has to get the nod.

Nova's third trip through the order
Yanks' 2011 slate wraps in September
  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    2) The Yankees have only four effective relievers before Rivera: Robertson, Wood, Chamberlain, and Logan. With the four starters that’s just nine men on the pitching staff. Vazquez will be there as the long man, so 10. At that point both Mitre and Gaudin are rendered redundant, so taking Nova, with the aim to use him in short bursts, makes sense as the 11th pitcher.

    It’s probably him or Albaladejo for the last bullpen spot. Although Royce Ring would make sense, but we haven’t shown an inclination to add him yet.

    • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

      Any clue why there’s been no real consideration for Ring on the team? Maybe it’s because his name is too awesome

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Not sure. We don’t have a 40-man spot for him. Mike and I agree that Corona or Garrison should be jettisoned for Ring, but maybe the team likes those guys better than him for some reason.

  • Steve H

    If you were to put him in the pen, would you pull him from the rotation now to conserve his innings?

  • pat

    Point three can be that Ivan is a bonafide gangster and can keep his shit together in pressure situations.

  • Adam

    I think he actually could be a fairly effective arm in the bullpen. His fastball and curve are effective, and as a reliever he wouldn’t have to dip into any of his lesser pitches. From the ‘pen he could also maybe let it fly a little more (he seems to top off at 96 or so, but usually closer to 93).

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      And his raw stuff seems to be able to carry him through a lineup once, he just struggles when trying to turn over a lineup a second/third time when predictability sets in.

      If he’s only facing a few batters a night, he can just go attack and not worry about setting up a hitter for a future plate appearance.

      • whozat

        So, do you pull Mosely from the rotation when Pettitte is back, or do you pull Nova, to give him pen experience?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Shit, I don’t even know anymore.

          CC and Andy start every 5th day. AJ probably does too at this point.

          All the other starters we have (Hughes, Vazquez, Nova, Moseley) are constant candidates to get skipped, pushed back, or handcuffed to another starter as a tag-team longman backup. We may even see games like spring training where we have 2 or three “scheduled” starters, with Nova/Vazquez/Mitre all getting three innings and shit.

          It’s so up in the air.

          • seimiya

            I wouldn’t mind having these multipled-schedule-starter games. When Moseley and Vazquez were both struggling, we saw both of them essentially “starting” games together, 4 IP each, and so forth. The only problem with that is if one of your actual starters (AJ!) has an early meltdown, they’re both unable to step in. This could be fixed by just bulking up the bullpen more, but even so, I wouldn’t exactly be super-comfortable seeing Royce Ring in game 4 or 5.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              But if one of our actual starters has a meltdown, we also have Mitre and Gaudin.

              When Andy gets back, we’ll have a full 9 guys who have started big league games in the past two years (not counting Joba). That amount of flexibility could let us be creative.


              • seimiya

                Gaudin, yes, I am straight-up not comfortable seeing Sergio Mitre in a high-pressure situation. To be honest, I’m not really comfortable seeing him at ALL. I would not mind if he was not on the playoff roster. Everyone else in our bullpen seems to be in various shades of awesome, regardless of walk-off home runs, walk-off HBPs, etc etc. These things hurt more because they’re walk-offs.

                I’m pretty let down I’m going to miss most of the game today for work, because I am really hoping Hughes can get his stuff back in order. Having confidence in him would REALLY help things out for everyone – him as a reliever AND a starter.

                On the top of Hughes – how long do you think he stays in? Given his usual penchant for six pitch ABs, I wonder if we’ll see Moseley or Gaudin for an extended longman day today.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                  In this case, though, Mitre or Gaudin wouldn’t be in a “high pressure situation”, they’d be soaking up innings in relief of an imploded AJ start.

                  • seimiya

                    Even so, I go ‘Eh, Mitre.’

                    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                      Sergio Mitre has the quietest and most unheralded 49.1 IP of 3.65 ERA and 1.155 WHIP in baseball, I swear. He’s actually been quite effective this year.

                      Sure, that homer the other night sucked, but in between his move back to the bullpen for Moseley on July 28th and that extra inning homer, he made 9 appearances out of the bullpen, pitching 20 innings and allowing only a .239/.299/.394, with a 2.70 ERA.

                      He’s not great, no, but he’s not a traveshamockery like Chop or anything. He’s pitched fairly well. Giving him the sloppy remains of an imploded start isn’t a bad idea.

              • king of fruitless hypotheticals


                Are you saying:



                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


                • NATRAY


                  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                    Please stop shouting so that I can attack your post on its weak merits instead of just its poor delivery.

  • Yank the Frank

    Nova throws strikes. I would rather see him come out of the pen than Mitre or Vasquez. It would be a good idea the last few weeks of the season to see how he reacts to pitching out of the pen.

    • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

      Not only does he throw strikes, but he gets ground balls, which is very important if he’s pitching in close games.

  • Dave

    If it’s Starters = (CC, Andy, AJ, Phil), and Short Relievers = (Mo, Wood, D-Rob, Joba), I would definitely think the last 3 are Nova, Gaudin and either Mosely or Alby. Gaudin seems to have righted himself lately when not overworked and earned Girardi’s trust, while Mitre has been buried and Vazquez is “break glass in case of emergency”.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      You left out Logan.

  • the other Steve S.

    After last night, I would rather see Golson in the ‘pen than Mitre or Gaudin

    • whozat

      If they ever need to bean someone, bring in Golson.

    • Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty


      • Bob

        Probably get back to orig. rotation from now on: CC, AJ, Andy, Phil, Javi (w/1 of them as long man in Oct); then Boone, Dave R., Joba, Kerry, Mo as the ‘pen; that leaves 1 of 5 guys likely added for postseason — that can change from 1 round to another (suppose they can get by ALDS w/3 starters, for instance) — choose 1 from Nova, Gaudin, Albaladejo, Moseley, Mitre…Nova might be able to throw hard for a few batters, plus be versatile enough to provide length in an emergency, or extra innings, or a blowout. As 11th man last year, I think Chad had 1 appearance with a big lead; otherwise, he was insurance.

        • mattb

          I’d assume Phil will be skipped one more time, e.g, he’ll make three more starts including tonight. Two off days are left, but the other consideration is to begin thinking about lining up your post-season rotation, if I’m reading it right, Games 1-2 of the ALDS are October 6 and 7, which means you want CC and Andy starting October 1 and 2 respectively. So I’d expect to see Javy and Moselely each be slotted in randomly at least once or twice both to allow for limiting Hughes and lining up CC and Andy.

          I’m a little baffled, because I know the post-season was somewhat condensed which was allegedly going to prevent the Yanks from using a three man rotation again – but unless has the dates listed wrong and if – a big if – Andy is able to start on short rest a few times, when I map it out, they can still use three starters, though that involves CC going on three days multiple times and the third starter (AJ/Phil) going on three days a couple times.

          Before laying it out, I’ll say there are lots of things I don’t love about this, and I don’t think it’s how the Yanks will roll, as I don’t think they’re going to push Andy to go on three days so many times. That said, the schedule below assumes all series go the full length – if they don’t, the whole thing gets a ton easier. Also don’t love that the below schedule results in guys in certain instances going 7-8 days between starts. In any event, if is accurate, the following is doable:

          Game 1, 10/6 – CC
          Game 2, 10/7 – Andy
          Game 3, 10/9- Phil/A.J.
          Game 4, 10/10 – CC (3 days)
          Game 5, 10/12 – Andy (normal rest)

          Game 1, 10/15 – CC (Normal rest)
          Game 2, 10/16 – Andy (3 days)
          Game 3, 10/18 – Phil/AJ
          Game 4, 10/19 – CC (3 days)
          Game 5, 10/20 – Andy (3 days)
          Game 6, 10/22 – Phil/AJ (3 days)
          Game 7, 10/23 – CC (3 days)

          Game 1, 10/27 – CC (3 days)
          Game 2, 10/28 – Andy (extra rest)
          Game 3, 10/30 – Phil/AJ (extra rest)
          Game 4, 10/31 – CC (3 days)
          Game 5, 11/1 – Andy (3 days)
          Game 6, 11/3 – Phil/AJ (3 days)
          Game 7, 11/4 – CC (3 days)

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            Damn, that just looks too hard.

            It reeks of burnout and pulled groins.

            They really need to make the DS go seven games to stop the 3 pitcher rotation (test teams a little more than who has an ace and a bloop/blast situation).

            That has the WS with 5 3 day rest occurances. That can’t be good, and I hope it isnt the plan.

            • mattb

              Yeah I think I tend to agree, though I have no qualms – and would fully expect – CC to make those short rest starts. But I agree, unless they’re fortunate enough to win both the ALDS and ALCS in 3-4 and 4-5 games respectively, I think it’s pushing Andy too much to justify him going repeatedly on three days. That said, he’s also had a good long while off, so I’ll reserve judgment until I see him. But my strongest guess is that this won’t be the ex ante plan and that both A.J. and Phil will start post-season games. For me, the only think I really like about the three man – and I’m assuming A.J. gets the starts in such a scenario, which obviously terrifies me, but if it must be so, throwing Hughes into that pen ought to allow them to shorten games to 5 innings if need be.

    • seimiya

      Hey, if Swish can get a strikeout, I bet Golson can too.

  • jonathan

    I just can’t help but think about how amazing our bullpen would be if aceves and Marte were healthy. Nova could go his good 4 innings and then we could just dominate with aceves/marte/drob/joba/wood/logan/mo in the playoffs. They all can get the K and don’t seem flappable. It’s a shame. I know literally almost every team could say this, but imagine a lineup of Jeter/Granderson/Tex/Arod/Cano/Swisher/Posada/Berkman/Gardner all healthy and playing up to reasonable expectations, and a healthy and also performing up to reasonable expecations rotation of CC/AJ/Andy/Hughes/Javy plus that bullpen….I would argue that if each individual played close to his norms that might be the best team or most talented team of all time. Too bad life isn’t a video game so we could see haha. Just goes to show how talented our team is that AJ/Javy/Jeter/Granderson/Arod are way under their career norms and Andy has been MIA, Hughes has run out of gas, and 2 great bullpen pieces are lost. Truly amazing that we have the best record in baseball. Of course it goes both ways that we have Swish/Gardner/Cano playing above what we expected, but i don’t believe any of their seasons have even a hint of luck in them. Does anyone think Nova has a shot for the rotation next year or how will it look? my personal guess is: CC/Lee/Hughes/Andy/AJ. I’m also interested to hear what people think about possibly flipping gardner in a package for a front line SP and signing Werth/Crawford which might be cheaper than going after Cliff Lee, especially at his age.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Well said.

      (Adding a few paragraph breaks would be a friendly helpout, though. Thanks in advance.)

      • jonathan

        ya i’m completely used to blogs where they don’t allow you to break up your giant paragraph. I’ll do that in advance.

        What are your thoughts on my idea of trading Gardner plus prospects for a semi young top flight SP and going after one of Crawford/Werth? I really haven’t come to a decision on where i stand. Probably because of all the variables in it (how good the SP would be. how much would he make. how cheap could we get Crawford/Werth and who would be available that fits the mold). Greinke? I’m not sure I’d trust him in NY. Thoughts?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I’d still rather keep all our young and cheap and productive OFs and just sign Lee.

    • theyankeewarrior

      And don’t forget Nick Johnson and Marcus Thames as a nasty PH platoon off the bench.

      • larryf

        I’d like to forget Nick Johnson.

        • NATRAY


          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            (shakes head)

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          Nick who?

    • mattb

      Agreed, except for that first 30 game stretch this club has never been whole and/or firing on all cylinders. Whether we ever see that happen remains to be seen but in my view, the two guys with the biggest potential to turn a WS ring into a first round exit and vice versa are easily Andy and A.J. I noted above that, unless the schedules are wrong, in theory, the Yanks could still use a three man rotation in the playoffs, but I doubt they will. With Andy, I’m not worried about the stuff, just Mo forbid that groin tweaks. And then there’s A.J (one reason why the three man, if workable is beneficial is that it allows Hughes to be backing up A.J. and for a very quick hook, assuming that A.J. gets the nod over Phil, which I think he will). Look, I’m past the point of expecting to see truly “good” A.J. this year. 7 shut-out innings would truly shock me. But give me that Tx start and extend it another two innings and that’s more than adequate. If A.J. can pitch closer to his 4.60 FIP than his 5.14 ERA, he ought to keep the club in games. Granted, if you do go the three man route, I’m going over Phil’s last three starts with a magnifying glass, because if it really is fatigue and the extra rest helps, I think Joe G. needs to give him the ball.

      Assuming you use four starters, and getting back on point, my pen is Mo/Wood/D-Rob/Joba/Logan/Nova/Javy. I see Nova being used to get 6-7 outs anywhere between innings 4 (maybe as early as 3) and 6. Javy, who I do believe is superior to both Mitre and Gaudin, is out there for true long relief, e.g. A.J. implodes in the first. I’d have every expectation of Nova’s stuff playing nicely in relief, particularly the (admittedly) SSS first time through numbers but also his ability to keep the ball in the park, something Chad Gaudin hasn’t done this year.

      I agree, though, no excuse not to make a 40 man to give Ring a look, though frankly, I think our big three righty set-up men can effectively get lefties out and while I like Ring’s AAA numbers, he’s not even a Logan type guy, he sits 87-88, has allowed an absurb number of baserunners in most of his major league stints and I can’t see a high leverage spot where you’d ever use Royce over Joba/Wood/K-Rod, assuming you’ve used or are saving Boone.

      Offensively, the health of Swisher and Grit are key, of course – assuming they’re ready to go, IMHO, all about Jorge. I hate it, but I’ll survive if Cervelli has to catch AJ, though honestly, if the opposing starter is lefthanded, Jorge needs to catch, Thames needs to DH and AJ needs to either deal or just give Hughes the ball. Jorge behind the plate sets the lineup perfectly (Mo willing Captain Jetes continues the recent trend of productive at bats). A lineup with Jorge and the Thames/Berkman platoon, esp. given the way those guys are going, is awfully tough.

  • theyankeewarrior

    I’d love to see Nova get accustomed to the pen for October. Here’s my 25-man postseason prediction:

    CC Sabathia
    Andy Pettitte
    AJ Burnett
    Phil Hughes

    Mariano Rivera
    Kerry Wood
    David Robertson
    Joba Chamberlain
    Boone Logan
    Javier Vazquez
    Ivan Nova

    Derek Jeter
    Nick Swisher
    Mark Teixeria
    Alex Rodriguez
    Robinson Cano
    Jorge Posada
    Lance Berkman
    Curtis Granderson
    Brett Gardner

    Marcus Thames
    Austin Kerans
    Francisco Cervelli
    Ramiro Pena
    Greg Golson

    • Tatum

      Despite the fact I’ve never seen Nunez throw a semi-decent throw to first base, I still prefer him over Pena

      • theyankeewarrior

        Me too. But this is my *guess* not what I would actually like to see. Although that would probably be the only change I would make.

        One could also argue that Pena’s spot would only be used for defense in a pinch (say if A-Rod or Jeter was banged up late in a game with the lead). Pena is clearly the better defender here, and they both run about the same.

        • Mister Delaware

          I have to imagine Kearns isn’t a lock for a spot at this point. He’s behind Thames as a righty PH off the bench and I can’t imagine him seeing a playoff start in LF or at DH. Depending how Jorgie is feeling, we might see another 3 catcher postseason roster at Austin’s expense. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with your list. Would love to get Alba on there but I’m not sure who I’d bump. Would really love to find out Marte will make it back but my breath is not held.

          • Mister Delaware

            PH off the bench. Lets hear it for redundancy!

      • Jerome S

        Am I the only one who’s noticed that Pena is hitting better lately – .300 in his last ten games- which is damn good for Ramiro Pena?

    • mike c

      i’d use nova/javy as caddies to AJ and hughes, should they be inneffective in their starts and have to be taken on early in games

  • Ian

    Sample size is kinda small to be using some of those numbers.