For Nova, a start most crucial


Over the past few years, the Yankees have not shown much patience when it comes to developing their young pitching arms. At various points since 2008, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy have been bounced around in various roles, moved from one level to the other with a short leash or flat-out traded away. If that, as we have seen, is how the Yanks treat their top prospects, imagine how the club, always in win-now mode and without the luxury of a large cushion in the American League East, might feel about its less heralded arms.

Ivan Nova, tonight’s starter, is one of those less heralded arms. Never ranked among the Yanks’ top prospects — Baseball America hasn’t included him in the top ten while our own Mike Axisa ranked him eighth — the Yanks like his fastball and poise, but his breaking pitches haven’t matured into Major League out-pitches yet. Furthermore, he has struggled getting through the lineup multiple times, and in fact, lately, he’s just flat-out struggled to get through the lineup period.

On the season, Nova is 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA. In 15.1 innings, he’s given up 19 hits and nine walks on nine strike outs, and while no one has left the yard against him yet, opponents are hitting a robust .306/.411/.452 against him. With a line drive rate of 15.1 percent, the walks along with some seeing-eye grounders have gotten him in trouble. His FIP is only 4.02 and his xFIP is 5.31. Essentially, he’s not pitching well, but because he’s keeping the ball in the park, he’s not pitching as badly as his numbers might indicate.

Yet, Nova could very well be pitching for his job tonight. The Yankees have Kevin Millwood waiting in the wings, and while the 36-year-old hasn’t been lighting up the gun in the minors, he has gotten 14 innings’ worth of outs in two starts. He also holds a May 1 opt-out, and after his AAA start this Thursday, the Yankees are more than likely going to activate him.

Tonight, thus, isn’t Nova’s last start. Because the Yanks don’t have any off-days and Millwood wouldn’t be able to take the mound until next Tuesday at the earliest, the 24-year-old will pitch this weekend as well. This evening’s outing though is an audition. Nova has to give the Yankees innings and get outs without pitching them into a big hole. He couldn’t have drawn an easier opponent.

As a team, the White Sox are hitting .241/.306/.370. They have the fourth fewest walks in the AL and love to swing at everything. They’ve managed to plate just one run in one of their last 28 innings, and against right-handers, they’re hitting an even-worse .235/.296/.373. This is the perfect team for a struggling pitcher to face, and if Nova can’t keep things close, he is not an ideal fifth starter right now for the Yankees.

Perhaps it’s not fair for the team and the fans to put so much pressure on Nova to perform. We try not to judge players based on how they do over the first few weeks of the season, and we know the Yanks are high enough on Nova to have entrusted him with a rotation spot. But we also know that Nova is under team control for half a decade longer while Kevin Millwood could leave in five days. We know that Nova has made it out of the 5th just once this year, and we know the Yanks need their innings and Ws. For a young starter in late April, Nova faces a key test tonight. How he does will determine what the Yanks do over the next few turns through the rotation.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Monteroisdinero says:

    White Sox are due for a big offensive display. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen till the weekend.

  2. YankeesJunkie says:

    Nova is due for some regression with a 4 FIP and a 5.3 xFIP with a 52% GB. Hopefully he can have a great start tonight.

    • First time lawng time says:

      Pretty sure no one is due for anything.
      At least that’s what the guy above says.

      • YankeesJunkie says:

        Well how Nova is pitching based on his first three starts (not much at all) it would seem more likely that he would have a normal start say 6 IP 3-4 ER rather than 4 IP 6 ER based on probability. Hopefully it is the former, but no guarantee though.

        However, yes no one is due for anything even though sometimes it really feels like it.

  3. First time lawng time says:

    Why is this start so important? It’s April…I thought the games didn’t count, there are small sample sizes, and the stats don’t mean much.

  4. Granderslam says:

    I hope Nova can turn it around, but I’ve always thought he was a better long-man option in the BP rather than a starter. But we had no other options of course.

  5. vinny-b says:

    all i know, Nova is not coming out of this roation.

    the Yankees simply don’t have the luxury.

    at least with Nova, you will get confidence/moxie. 2 very uncommon elements for a 1 or 2 year pitcher.

    • bexarama says:

      The confidence/moxie… to consistently fall apart in the 5th or 6th inning?

      • First time lawng time says:

        No. I think he means that even though he consistently falls apart in the 5thish inning, he still seems to have confidence the next time out on the mound.

      • vinny-b says:

        at this point, the Yankees will take 5 solid innings and like it.

        what do you suggest? Bringing up Phelps or someone from AAA or AA (not named Banuelos/Betances) and have them imitate a year 1 Ian Kennedy?

        because that is prolly what will happen.

        • Steve H says:

          at this point, the Yankees will take 5 solid innings and like it.

          They’d love it. he hasn’t done it yet.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Millwood is a legit option. He may not end up doing well either, but just last season he was a better starter than Nova has been so far. He did get the Orioles 6 innings of less than 3.5 run ball per game. The Yankees can test Millwood before they lose him (he can opt out soon), while getting Nova some work in AAA or the pen.

          And there are examples of pitchers called up in the history of baesball who were not names Ian Kennedy. What he did upon being called up is not necessarily what every other pitcher is going to do.

        • NjYankeefan72 says:

          Millwood as a 5th with Nova in the pen at least adds depth.

    • all i know, Nova is not coming out of this roation.
      the Yankees simply don’t have the luxury.

      The Yankees have five rotation slots, four of which are currently being manned capably (CC, AJ, Garcia, Colon) and one of which is currently in the hands of Nova, who’s not pitching well. They have a potential depth option in Millwood who will leave the team for nothing come May 1st if he’s not promoted. Nova, meanwhile, can pitch in the bullpen or be optioned to Scranton to give Millwood a few rotation turns and see if he can outpitch Nova’s 7ish ERA.

      You’ve got it backwards. The Yankees don’t have the luxury to NOT remove Nova from the rotation and give Millwood a look-see.

      Not promoting Millwood loses depth; demoting Nova and promoting Millwood retains it. And Nova hasn’t pitched well enough yet to justify throwing away our Millwood lottery ticket.

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        I think Millwood would have to put in a very poor effort on Thursday to not be given a shot. It is April/May and now is the time.

        • Tank the Frank says:

          Yeah that’s another point. Millwood would have to absolutely get shelled not to make the team. Essentially, he would have had to force the Yankees NOT to activate him.

      • Tank the Frank says:

        Boom. That (Clarissa) explains it all right there. Millwood pitching for this team is pretty much a certainty at this point. It makes little sense to let him walk without giving him his day in court with the big club.

    • Poopy Pants says:

      The confidence lie/rumor completely stems from last year’s game against Toronto.
      He threw at Bautista and everyone on this site thought it was amazing, because it’s soooo courageous to throw at someone who will never have a chance to retaliate.
      It would have been cooler if he didn’t give up a HR to Bautista.

  6. pat says:

    If a certain lazy, listless, Dominican, star 2B turns a crucial DP vs Texas those numbers aren’t so bad.

  7. Monteroisdinero says:

    I like Nova but one thing Millwood does/would have over him would be composure. The guy has seen it all and been through the highs and lows of a long professional career. He is very composed. I am more concerned with his stuff which seems very hittable at this point.

  8. Frank says:

    I find it funny when reading some of these responses how some of you are willing to write off Millwood before even seeing him pitch. Just 2 weeks ago, essentially the same was being said about Garcia and last I checked, he’s done pretty well.

    • Monteroisdinero says:

      I saw him pitch. He is a bulldog-type guy who battles and doesn’t get rattled even when pitching to a poor defender named Jesus Montero. He made sure every pitch was catchable. Very considerate.

      Seriously, I think he could be a good fit for the NY pressure cooker but he is a guy-like Nova-who doesn’t miss many bats and needs good defense and possibly a SS with great range.

      Oh well.

    • Steve H says:

      Go back to the offseason and you’ll see it about Colon too.

      As my esteemed colleague TSJC stated above: More options >>> less options.

      No point in losing Millwood to make sure we keep Nova and his 7 something ERA in the rotation.

    • First time lawng time says:

      Just because Garcia has done well doesn’t mean Millwood will.

      • Steve H says:

        False. Garcia doing well is 100% proof that Millwood will.

        • First time lawng time says:

          I know that it’s an example of how Millwood will not automatically pitch poorly, but I don’t think it’s any indicator.

          • Frank wasn’t claiming Garcia pitching effectively is an indicator that Millwood will pitch effectively.

            You’re arguing against a strawman.

            • First time lawng time says:

              I didn’t say in that post that he said it was an indicator. I said that I do not think it’s an indicator. You should read the first part of my sentence.

          • Steve H says:

            You completely missed his point. People are writing Millwood off before giving him a chance, which people also did with Garcia. He’s not saying nor implying that Millwood will succeed like Garcia. He’s simply saying writing him completely off before giving him a chance is not smart, and luckily all of the people who wanted to write off Garcia are not the ones in power. What we do know is that Nova has totally sucked, and if he doesn’t right the ship very soon, it makes sense to give Millwood a look. Millwood last year provided 190 innings of 5.10 ERA ball in the AL East which included having to face the Yankees. Swap out the Yankees for the Orioles (to face) and his job gets easier. I would take 190 innings of 5 ERA from either Millwood or Nova. We know Millwood is capable of it, we don’t know with Nova. Makes more sense to keep them both around.

            • CS Yankee says:

              Another good point about Millwood is that the O’s gave poor run support in 2010; mixed the bat difference with your tradeout of pitching (O’s vs. Yankees) and we might have a sub-5 guy worthy of 170+ innings to help make October happen.

              Get well Hughes, we’ll need you come Fall unless the AARP’s and farmers play through.

      • And Frank didn’t say nor imply that Garcia doing well means Millwood will do well.

        What Frank did say and imply is that it’s a little silly to write off Millwood as a possible potential upgrade over the struggling and flawed Ivan Nova before seeing him actually pitch to major leaguers, and he backed up that simple and straightforward assertion with an easy to understand analogy about another aging veteran pitcher who many had written off a bit prematurely.

  9. Tom Zig says:

    You keep throwing s*** at the wall until something sticks. Hopefully Nova turns it around tonight, if not, then off to Scranton he goes.

    Nova out, Millwood in. If Millwood can’t hack it, then either Silva gets the call or Nova gets another shot.

  10. CS Yankee says:

    What if we send Nova back to AAA, let Millwood walk, pitch Garcia every three days and promote a power bat.

    A) Nova kinda impressed me last year while most bagged on his 5th/6th meltdowns, but he doesn’t look good in this SSS. Should work on this in SWB.
    B) Millwood was real bad in 2010 (almost AJ-like) but he will be on a team that gives runs to offset.
    C) If your heater is 80-something and you throw 68 breaking pitches can’t you be the next Wakefield?
    D) ‘Sada can only groove piped low-90′s fastballs and although he has been great, he is likely a has-been.


  11. Merijn says:

    If we let Millwood go, I can assure everyone that Colon gets hurt in his first or second May start and we all wished we had Millwood on the roster.

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