How much longer for Nova?

Scouting The Trade Market: Derek Lowe
2011 Draft: Scott McGough

One reason the Yankees have difficulty developing pitchers is that their win-now mentality is often at odds with the struggles young pitchers face. Rare is the instance that a pitcher, fresh from the minors, pitches to his potential from Day 1. There are certain pains each one goes through, and those pains often hurt his team’s current standing. The team accepts those wounds with an eye to the future. But the Yankees, with their championship-or-bust mantra and their toughest-in-baseball division, often have to cut short those experiments in order to keep the focus on the present. That’s why it came as a surprise when Joe Girardi announced that the Yankees would stay on rotation this weekend, even though they have a days off on Thursday and Monday.

The reason for the surprise, of course, is Ivan Nova. His turn comes Thursday, and with the way he’s pitched this season, and particularly of late, skipping him seems like a fairly easy and obvious move. That would line up Sabathia, Colon, and Garcia for the weekend, and then, after a day off, the Yankees could attack Boston with Burnett, Sabathia, and Colon. Instead they’ll head to Anaheim with Nova, Sabathia, and Colon scheduled. For the Boston series they’ll have options, but none of them include Burnett, Sabathia, and Colon all pitching. Instead, CC can go in the finale on Thursday, preceded by, in all likelihood, Garcia and Burnett. The chances of them going Garcia-Burnett-Nova, I think, are slim to nil.

More important than the discussion of rotation order, though, is the discussion of Nova’s place in it, period. Again, this harkens back to the idea that the Yankees need to keep an eye on the present as well as the future. Nova certainly has potential, but as it stands now he’s not doing much to help the team win. His ERA currently ranks 92nd among 113 qualified starters, and that’s just the start. His FIP ranks 87th, and his xFIP ranks 107th. As Mike noted, his swinging strike rate, just 3.9 percent, is dead last among those 113 pitchers, and his contact rate is the highest. He mitigates this somewhat with ground balls, but it’s not nearly enough. Combined with a crappy walk rate, it adds up to a 1.59 WHIP, which is fourth worst in the league.

If this were a matter of Nova experiencing typical rookie struggles while putting up decent results, it would be one thing. But as nearly all the numbers indicate, he ranks among the worst regular starters in the majors. Worse, there is no real reason to believe that he’ll suddenly improve. That is, maybe he will improve down the road — his minor league control numbers were better, for example — but in the here and now there is no indicator of impending improvement. The Yanks will probably get a decent start out of him here or there, but chances are he’s going to roll along in roughly the same manner he is now. That’s not going to work for the Yankees this season.

There are reinforcements, of course. Hector Noesi, once Girardi found his name on the bullpen card, has done a decent job in limited action. He was already going to be one of the first rotation reinforcements from the minors, so they have little to lose by giving him a shot. There is also Carlos Silva, who has done an OK, decent, even fine job during his stint in the minors. He has a mid-June opt-out, and so will warrant consideration soon enough. Nova shouldn’t have much time, in other words.

If the Yankees do stick with their announced plans to start Nova in Anaheim, it could be as a last chance scenario. But that could end up being a mistake. The Angels have some decent hitters, but they lack power. Nova might be able to cover up some of his shortcomings if there isn’t someone who can punish him for all the walks and base hits. If good results mean an extended stay in the rotation, that would render the Anaheim game a bad audition environment. It means he’ll get a start against the Red Sox (probably not) or the Indians, both of which have produced some of the best offensive numbers in baseball this season.

There are benefits to having a young starter in the rotation, and further benefits to letting him work through his troubles. But a team in the Yankees’ situation can’t afford an extended audition. Nova has shown little to this point that indicates he will help throughout the 2011 season. It was a worthy experiment, but it should be coming to an end. The Yankees have a few arms they can call upon to take the fifth spot in the next few weeks while Brian Cashman looks around for a more suitable replacement. In the long-term, Nova might help the team as a fourth or fifth starter who can deliver some league-average innings. In the short term he’s shown that he’s something less than that, and it’s something the Yankees can’t afford.

Scouting The Trade Market: Derek Lowe
2011 Draft: Scott McGough
  • Jericho Spade

    I would like to see Noesi get a shot to start and relegate Nova to the pen to be a swingman, where I think he was destined to end up anyway, in the AL East.

    • Mike Axisa

      Agreed. It’s not like Nova (or Noesi, or Adam Warren, or David Phelps, etc) is projected to be some high end starter either. There are alternatives, might as well try them out.

  • Mike Oxbeg

    Is having a below avg 5th starter that big of a deal? I mean if Hughes were healthy than yes Nova should be out. But all things considered I think they should ride it out.

    • Clay Bellinger

      “Is having a below avg 5th starter that big of a deal?”

      No, but it’s not ideal. If someone else can be an average to above average 5th wheel, then it’s worth looking into.

    • Steve H

      But if you have other options, why ride it out? Why not try to upgrade if Nova continues to be among the worst pitchers in baseball? Noesi has half the swinging strikes as Nova in 14% of the innings. Noesi has a much better minor league track record. Noesi isn’t too green to pitch in the majors. Why not try and improve the team?

    • hogsmog

      It would be a different situation if the rest of the order was solid. As it stands, I’m not ever sure what Burnett, Garcia, or Nova will do on a given day. Out of any pass through the rotation, one or two of them will probably meltdown. This just isn’t going to get the job done, especially if you think to the postseason where Colon might not be available, and the easiest fix is to try out another one of their minor league players who can’t do any worse than Nova.

  • Nick

    Oh no…. I’m heading to tuesdays game against boston. Please tell me I will see Burnett pitch and not Garcia…. I might sell the tix if it is garcia. haha

    • Clay Bellinger

      ERA – 3.26
      FIP – 4.46
      fWAR – 0.4

      ERA – 3.99
      FIP – 4.45
      fWAR – 0.6

      Eh, I don’t think it’s worth selling your tix over anyway.

      • Nick

        Well the last time Garcia faced them what happened? They aren’t fooled by his junk. AJ isn’t great, but he has a legit chance of shutting any team down (for 5-6 innings anyway). Garcia will be out by the 4th or 5th inning. Thankfully my seats are in the Mohegan Sun Bar, so I can just drink if it gets out of hand. haha

        • Clay Bellinger

          Haha…I know, I know…last time was ugly. Just hafta hope he hits his spots this time out though.

          Just get rowdy at the bar anyway, it’s fun up there.

        • CP

          Here are both of their last starts against Boston:

          AJ: 6IP, 4R, 2BB, 5K, 1HR (10/2/10)
          Freddy: 6.1IP, 5R, 2BB, 4K, 2HR (5/15/11)

          Not too different.

      • MannyGeee

        FWIW it truely is an ‘ELECTRIC!!1!!1!!!’ 4.45 FIP…

  • first time lawng time

    I think they should skip Nova to kinda give him a break and let him clear his head and sort things out. Or maybe they could give Noesi a start or two? Haha IDK

  • Kosmo

    The thing I like about Noesi is unlike Nova he´s more than just a 2 pitch pitcher.He can throw an assortment of pitches with excellent control .Doesn´t seem to rattle with runners on base.He also seems poised.

    • the Other Steve S.

      Thats what they said about Nova when he pumped one over Bautista’s head last year.

    • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

      Nova might be better in the pen than as a starter, he get his fastball up into the mid to high 90’s and that should increase with less workload and he has always been pretty solid seeing hitters for the first time. Switching Noesi and Nova might not be a bad idea…

  • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

    I don’t see why they need to panic…the Red Sox aren’t running away with the division and Nova is a young pitcher who needs to work through his struggles. He has already made strides and if I recall correctly he is pitching much better than Vasquez ever did for the Yanks and they rode that horse for 2 season and not 2 months.

    Noesi would be a fine answer since he is a young pitcher as well and the Yanks need to get these guys opportunitites on the big stage but going Carlos Silva route…when he has ever been good? The last thing I want to see is Nova lose his spot when he is still putting up better starts than Burnett and Vasquez did last year for a guy like Silva who couldn’t make it in the AL Central, AL West, and NL Central…how would that guy even last an inning in the Al East?

    • Steve H

      Vasquez was a pitcher coming off of a Cy Young caliber season. Nova is a young guy without the track record (including minor leagues) nor the stuff to suggest he’s going to have some vast improvement. He’s not that good. I don’t know if it’s because he’s homegrown, but there seems to be a lot of glossing over the fact that Nova isn’t all that impressive, nor has he ever been.

      • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

        I don’t know if Nova doesn’t have the stuff to suggest he is going to improve he definitely would benefit from time, but you’re right about not having a professional track record to pull from. I would think giving him til the All-Star break would be enough time to evaluate what you will get from Nova and if he is in need of more seasoning in AAA or would fit in the bullpen.

        I will also add this when going to a track recrod for a pitcher it is a bit more subjective since their arms can just flat go at any time. Vazquez may have been coming off a great year with Atlanta but his arm was and is completely shot. It is risky to go the veteran route with some many risks already pitching a lot of innings in their rotation right now.

    • jsbrendog

      and if I recall correctly he is pitching much better than Vasquez ever did for the Yanks and they rode that horse for 2 season and not 2 months

      there is no truth in this statement at all. both times he was in ny there were 2 month periods wher ehe was the ace and carried the team and they do not get anywhere without him. revisionist history as usual

      • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

        Vazquez had a 4.91 and 5.32 ERA in 2 seperate stints with the Yanks. At what point did he carry the rotation? I have no problem getting called out when I am wrong but how is my above bolded statement wrong?

        • V

          There was a period of 4-6 weeks in 2010 where he was -the- best starter in the rotation., game logs.

          May 12, 2010 to Jul 10, 2010
          12 games (11 started)
          72.0 IP
          2.75 ERA
          60 Ks
          Opponents hit .183/.254/.315 (.569 OPS)

          • MannyGeee

            also… LIGHTS OUT in the 1st 1/2 of 2004.

            118.2 IP, 3.56 ERA, 95/32 K:BB (2.97)… and easily the best pitcher on the team in the 1st half.

          • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

            During this magical stretch he faced 10 non playoff teams in his 11 starts including the Mets 2x, the Mariners 2x, and he picked up a relief win against the Red Sox for a 6 and 4 run. That is pretty dominating stuff. The one playoff team he faced the Twins he gave up 5 runs in less than 6 full innings. So it would be safe to say he wasn’t the best pitcher in that stretch.

        • first time lawng time

          Well last season, I remember very well that Vasquez was very good from May to about mid July. He was very good, but he didn’t get a lot of run support.

          And in 2004, IIRC he was good the first half, because he was an all-star.

          • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

            He was added to the roster by Torre despite his 3.90 ERA. Vasquez at no point last year was the best starter in the rotation, he had a strecth where he wasn’t the worst, but over the long haul he was terrible and the Yanks gave him over 50 starts to prove he is a terrible pitcher. Nova has had 17 starts. All I am ssyin is Vazquez was horrendous from the outset last year and the Yanks didn’t tinker with their rotation till after the All-Star break. There isn’t a huge reason to move Nova out of the rotation right now since the Yanks are in first and have won the majority of his starts, which wasn’t the case this time last w/Vazquez.

            Nova shouldn’t get a whole season to prove himself but at lesat till the All-Star break.

            • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

              Bzzzzz. Thanks for playing.

    • Ed

      He has already made strides and if I recall correctly he is pitching much better than Vasquez ever did for the Yanks and they rode that horse for 2 season and not 2 months.

      You don’t recall correctly. The first time Vazquez was with the Yankees, his first half was great and he made the All Star team. During his second stint he actually pitched better than than from mid-May until the end of July.

      His Yankee career basically had a season worth of great pitching and a season worth of terrible pitching.

      • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

        A season of great pitching? Take a look at his numbers and tell me where his great season of pitching is

        • Clay Bellinger

          Hasn’t this been explained above?

          • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

            Anytime someone says Vazquez was the best starter on the Yanks for a specific period during his time w/the Yanks then no it hasn’t been explained. Anytime a pitcher gets over 50 starts for the win now Yankees and pitches to an above 5 ERA and can’t log 200 innings in either year, then no it hasn’t been explained. Allowing Nova to start till the All-Star break won’t change the balance of power in the division and won’t kill the Yanks, they have afterall made the playoffs twice despite having Vazquez on the roster.

            That would be my only point in bringing up the Vazquez ERA on this site since it should never be mentioned again.

            • Clay Bellinger

              You’re missing the point, so this is really not worth continuing.

        • Ed

          Others have explained, but here’s some direct links:

          108 inning stretch of 3.42 ERA

          84 inning stretch of 3.11 ERA

          Total of 192 innings, about a seasons worth of innings.

          • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

            I could add such facts as last years 84 innings came against 1 playoff team which put up 5 runs on Javier but I much rather stick to the same sample sizes, Nova got 7 starts last year because Vazquez was the worst pitcher in baseball in about 15 yrs. Nova through 10 starts this year has 5 QS to his credit and through the same period last year Vazquez had 2. Give Nova more time and he will be fine since he still has never been as bad as Vazquez.

  • Cy Pettitte

    I was all for giving Nova a shot out of ST but he’s shown little to no signs that he’ll be much better than he is right now. Might as well send him down and try to work on an out pitch so he can get more swing and misses. They have half a dozen in house guys who could most likely give them what Nova is doing now but may have some upside to that right now, one of them should get a shot.

  • Will

    Noesi or call up someone on the 40 man for a spot start and go from there.

  • V

    I would skip him when they have the chance, but :shrug: I’m not in charge.

  • George

    Somebody put up a great stat on Twitter the other day that Noesi has the same number of swinging strikes as Nova with a lot fewer innings. I don’t think switching Noesi and Nova would be a terrible idea. And then if somebody in the rotation goes down you put Nova back in, and nobody loses any options.

  • Bob

    Isn’t the most desirable solution the return to health and form of Phil Hughes? If he is ready to start throwing soon, the Yanks may be willing to ride with Nova until then, at which time he might be able to take the Pendleton spot in the ‘pen. Then Nova and/or Noesi can earn their spot(s) in the rotation the old-fashioned way, gaining experience out of the bullpen and as spot starters.

    • George

      Hughes has barely started his rehab. We have no reason to bank on him to be effective once he returns.

      • Kosmo

        That´s true and while Hughes is rehabbing he´ll be making starts along the way at Tampa,Trenton and Scranton so even if he´s back to “normal“ we might not see him in any capacity, be that as a SP or RP until after the All-Star break.

  • Kane

    Although I have faith in Nova, I fully expect to see Carlos Silva pitching for the Yankees in these upcoming weeks. As much as I don’t want it, I’ll pray that he’s half of Colon or Garcia.

    And Silva is only 32 so he isn’t yet considered “washed-up” in my book, meaning that he has some decent stuff left in him.

    • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

      I really hope Silva doesn’t start. He might find some success as a bullpen guy but I can’t see him getting quality starts for the Yanks. At least Colon and Garcia were good to great pitchers in the past, Silva has never been good.

    • Kosmo

      That runs counter to the current scouting reports on Silva which is much like what´s been said about Millwood that he´s got nothing left.Silva has an opt out mid-June so if NY is considering Silva for a starting role they have 2 weeks to decide.

      • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

        I know they are considering him for the starting role but his stats have never been anything but avg/below avg. It isn’t the same as bringing in Garcia and Colon who had some great years.

        • Kosmo

          I was responding to Kanes post.I agree Silva sucks.

  • Paulie21

    Not sure you can condemn Nova’s performance based on his overall stats. We’re 4-2 in May for games that he’s started (he’s 3-1), and his season stats are certainly tainted by the one stinker against KC (8 runs, 10 hits, 3 innings). Plus I think there has been some incremental improvement in his ability to get out of jams. You can’t work on that skill in the minors. I think he’s doing an ok job as a 5th starter.

    • whozat

      Not on those stats, no. But on stats that correlate strongly with future success (like those that Joe cited), you can.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Not sure you can condemn Nova’s performance based on his overall stats. We’re 4-2 in May for games that he’s started (he’s 3-1)…

      Nova’s pitched a sum total of 32.1 innings in those 6 starts. That’s an average of 5.1 innings per start. In two of those six starts, he didn’t even see the fourth inning, meaning we had to use the bullpen for a full two-thirds of the game.

      A starting pitcher has two jobs: 1.) Limit runs enough that your team offense has a reasonable chance of winning the game, and 2.) pitch enough innings that the lesser pitchers in the bullpen aren’t forced to make an appearance and you can use only your best relievers for (hopefully) lower leverage situations at the end of the game.

      Nova’s doing one of the two (his ERA has been much lower in May than in April, which is a great development), but he’s still putting on way too many baserunners and thus shortening his appearances as he reaches his pitchcount or loses effectiveness too early. Unless he can manage to cut down his walks dramatically to shorten innings and lengthen his appearances, he’s a liability.

      4-2 record not withstanding.

  • Stevis

    Nova ….its Over
    no more than a AAAA guy

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      so you’re saying trade him to the Pirates?

  • Slu

    Nova doesn’t miss enough bats, and probably never will. Time to cut bait and try the alternatives.

    • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

      Just like that it is time to but bait with a guy? That is a tad premature. If he was an aging veteran than I would agree but not at this stage of his development. I would cut bait with Brackman before I cut bait with Nova since Brackman is older, costs more and has done little to nothing in the farm system. It would still add a roster spot as well.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      “Nova doesn’t miss enough bats, and probably never will. Time to cut bait demote him to the bullpen or to Scranton to see if he can keep refining his game and possibly contribute in a larger role again in the future as he matures and try the alternatives.”


  • CMP

    Problem with Nova is even with some experience and refinement, maybe he’ll walk fewer batters but unless he learns a new pitch or really gets down his change up, his ceiling is always gonna be low because of the high contact rate.

    I agree with Jericho and Mike, move him into the Ramiro Mendoza role and give Noesi a chance to start. Maybe Nova can learn the cutter from Mariano working out of the pen. Once upon a time, it sure resurrected the career of Esteban Loaiza.

    • OldstartersgetthumbsupfromMike

      I wouldn’t have any issues with that result. I think it is completley possible for a 24 yr old pitcher to learn a new pitch and/or refine a pitch to make him better, I am pretty sure that has happened before. Noesi and Nova should switch roles before any other moves such as trades/send downs occur.

  • Klemy

    I hope someone finds Nova tempting enough to take him in any trade package Cashman might find for a SP around the deadline. I’m not sold on his improving too much at this point. If he were missing more bats, I’d be more optimistic. BUt line has been said, if you have 2nd and third and nobody out, he’s probably going to allow 2 runs, because he has no way to avoid it. Would rather try Noesi for the time being and move Nova to the pen.

    • CMP

      Mike would probably know the answer to this but other than Chien Ming Wang who had a much higher GB% than Nova, what other starting pitcher had a high degree of success with a 4.5K/9 or below?

      I’m sure they’re MUCH more the exception than the rule.

      • Kosmo

        Mel Stottlemyre had a career 4.3K9.But he was a great sinkerball pitcher.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      who would find him tempting? didn’t mike just say there are somewhere between 0 and 20 pitchers worse than he is?

  • Yank The Frank

    Tinker with the rotation so that our 3 best pitchers are going against Boston. If that means skipping Nova, so be it, that’s what 5th starters are for.

    • He’brew Beer Rules My Ass

      Why? It’s only June. The games don’t count.

  • Nick

    haha will do!

  • JPB

    I say stick with him. Noesi might be better. He might be worse. Silva might be better, or he might get hurt and be worse. There is NO option that is guaranteed to be better, so why make changes and upset the routine? If you try to change things, and it doesn’t work out, then you may end up going back to Nova, after he’s been jerked around either in the bullpen or back at AAA. Two months as a starter isn’t enough time. Let him go and see if he can improve a little. I fully agree we’re not talking about someone who is going to be even an average-effectiveness major league starter, but it’s ok to stay with a player while still having only modest expectations. Let him put his young healthy body out there and eat up innings.

  • Ted Nelson

    Agree with those above who say there are options behind Nova… Pulling him from the rotation could be giving a chance to Noesi (or Silva) as much as it is giving up on Nova. I don’t really buy the line on not developing Ps becaue they’re the Yankees. There are only a few teams that would really stick with Nova in this situation where he’s not even that great a prospect and one of the worst starters in the league… and those teams wouldn’t have anyone behind him. The Yankees have some options to try behind Nova, and can always recall him from Scranton should he prove to be the best option in the end.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      there are 20 pitchers worse than he is…i’m figuring that means he’d be the #5 on at least 8-12 teams…

  • Jorge

    If it turned out that Nova was getting killed out there to the point that it’s hurting his development/confidence, then pull the plug. Frankly, this team needs guys like Nova to either show they can, or can’t, do it in the long term so that they rely less on lightning-in-a-botle kind of guys. As long as he shows he can rebound, and learn from, the poor starts, keep him in there.

  • Naved

    After Noesi who would be next in line for a spot in the rotation? (Screw Silva)

    • Kosmo

      Not including Silva my guess is it would be Phelps.

  • Ro

    I’m with Girardi on this one. I think they should stick it out with Nova. Noesi is an option, but at whatever expense Silva should not be starting. As others mentioned; Garcia and Colon were both successful pitchers with the right tempermant. Silva has never been either. I don’t think Nova is that bad and I say give the kid the shot until Hughes is strong and ready to come back right after the break. That should amount to about 5 or 6 more starts by Nova. Sabermetrics may tell a different story, but I don’t think he has been ‘that’ bad.

  • Dan

    Your assumption of course is that the Yankees have a genuine interest in playing their best players. If this were the case they should look to remove one of the worst leadoff hitters in the game as well as a player who is a mediocre hitter and an inadequate fielder at a key position. The fifth starter is the least of our worries unless and until he turns into Sir Sidney Ponson.

    • bexarama

      The issue with this is that they don’t really have a better alternative than Jeter. He shouldn’t be batting leadoff but everything you said here applies to Nunez too, and Tulo is not walking in through the door.

      They do have better alternatives than Nova, IMO.

  • Carl

    I’ll be surprised if Nova isn’t skipped for next Thursday in the Bronx, honestly. Even though CC is on 6 days rest going into Saturday at Anaheim, skipping Nova next Thursday keeps CC on normal rest. Plus, I don’t think Nova should be anywhere near Thursday in the Bronx. Doesn’t mean I don’t have confidence in Nova, just don’t think he should be making that start.

  • infernoscurse

    wish joba would still be in the rotation

    • The Big City of Dreams

      why???????? He would get more heat than Nova is getting right now. This is typical of the Yankees and the fan base when a young starter struggles panic. OMG he’s not an ace yank him from the rotation now. Watch the same thing will happen with Manny and Dellin

  • JonRon

    I’m ‘slightly’ perplexed – there are people out there that actually think that Carlos Silva is a better option than Ivan Nova? Giving Noesi a shot isn’t an unrealistic approach, but I think we’re pushing the envelope with the “Carlos Silva should get a chance” scenario.