The Ivan Nova Story

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Ivan Nova‘s journey from amateur to prospect to big leaguer is a unique one, partly because he wasn’t a high-profile player who signed for a lot of money as a teenager. ESPN’s Jorge Arangure chronicled Nova’s journey, explaining how he transitioned from position player to pitcher with some help from his father, who woke him up for 5am workouts every day. He spent two weeks working out for the Red Sox at age 16, but says “I really didn’t want to sign with Boston … My father and I were both Yankee fans.”

Interestingly enough, the article explains that Nova is working on a new changeup grip with pitching coach Larry Rothschild because he shelved the pitch for much of last season and lost feel for it. He uses the new pitch sparingly (6.9% according to PitchFX) and both Nova and Rothschild say it’s a root cause of his homerun problem — PitchFX confirms that five of the ten homers he’s allowed this season have come off that new changeup. Arangure’s article is a great read and gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation. Make sure you check it out.

Thunder walk-off with a win
Mailbag: A-Rod, Hamilton, Halladay, AL vs. NL
  • Tim

    The sad part is that for some reason he’s not the same pitcher that he was last season, and the Yankees have given him a long rope based on last season. How many 8-10 hit and 6-7 run games does he have to pitch before they start thinking of sending down to work on keeping his pitches down like they were last season? He and Kuroda are not giving this team what it needs as starting pitchers right now. Would love to see the Yankees send Nova down if he continues this current trend and give Phelps a chance to see what he can do.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He’s still young. He’s going to have his bumps. He’s tried to become too much of a strikeout pitcher. He’s going to find his way. I believe in SuperNova.

      • jjyank

        Agreed. Nova’s K rates have boosted, and his ground ball rates have suffered, but that doesn’t mean he sucks. He just needs to figure out the balance, and his BABIP will come down.

        Like Mr. Tilapia, I have faith in SuperNova.

        • Jesse

          I’m in the same boat as you guys. I still believe.

    • Mike E

      He’s doubled his K/9 rates and maintained his BB/9 rates. Half of his homeruns came off the changeup, which is an easy problem to fix; he doesn’t have to throw it.

      What explains most of it, is his BABIP is .100 points higher than last year. While you can’t just go screaming that he’s been unlucky, I’ve seen too many bloops and groundballs through the infield to indicate otherwise.

      This doesn’t explain much of the extra base hits, but give him a start Friday night and I bet the Athletics make him look like Justin Verlander.

      • The Guns of Navarone

        Can it be substantiated that half of his HR came against his changeup or is this just hearsay posted on Twitter? Can we look up the pitchFX evidence?

    • Ted Nelson

      There’s been one 6 run game and no 7 run games for Nova this season…

      He’s earned some rope. Clearly they won’t let it go on forever if they have a clearly better alternative… I’m not sure Phelps is clearly better right now, though. His ERA is shiny, but his peripherals are not better than Nova’s.

  • Wayne

    If you give phelPs a shot better do it soon this season don’t screw up that dudes arm !

  • pistol pete

    Nova has struggled this season but I love him. He has an inert ability to get out of jams, stay in games, and win. He’s young, big, has a live arm and has guts. I hope the Yanks don’t give up on him because he wasn’t a bonus baby like Joba or Hughes who have been given tons and tons of rope. Now that Pettitte has stablilized the rotation Nova might be able to relax and slip in near the middle or bottom of the rotation and hopefully will find last years groove again and imorove from there. Here’s hoping.

    • Ted Nelson

      What rope was Joba given? I’m not even one of the Joba diehards, but he wasn’t given any rope.

      • the Other Steve S.

        More like the shaft.

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

          “stiff rope”

  • SPC Barry

    Great read and really awesome story. Thanks for passing this on I definitely would of missed it otherwise. Crazy statistics on how small the number is of people who even get to step on the grass of a major league field.

    • Deep Thoughts

      Turns out, of the 45,000+ draft picks who failed to ever reach the big leagues, Damon Oppenheimer was responsible for about 85% of them.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Such a homer.

  • Steve

    great article, very encouraging as well.

  • Strat

    Just in case anybody needed another reason to like Ivan Nova, right? Great article. Thanks for the link Mike.

    It also occurs to me that while we often speculate about the development of kids in the system, we probably forget the importance of the obvious intangible in the whole equation sometimes… the heart and dedication of the kid himself.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, people love to credit/blame the organization with little regard for the actual player. Certainly the organization plays a role, but there are dozens of failures exposed to the same coaching as the successes, and a few successes exposed to the same coaching as the failures.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    First, Arangure article was great. As per Nova, I enjoy watching him pitch. Yes, I do get upset with his HR lapses which have occurred more frequently than last year but at last I know the reason with Hrs coming off of the change up. What is number one in my liking of him is his attitude to win and do well. I like a pitcher who shows some emotion out there when he makes a bad pitch or a teammate makes a good play behind him. Its about the team and the win.

    I wish you well Mr. Nova.

    • Billion$Bullpen

      Count me in on all this. People on here seem to laugh at times when you are actually a fan of a guy and not just based on the numbers. I like Nova. I do not think he is the best pitcher ever, but he is one of my favorite starting pitchers ever. Maybe its corny but I really do like the whole not wanting to sign with the Sox and wanting to sign with the Yankees no matter what.

  • Monterowasnotdinero

    Big body, fluid mechanics, great demeanor, competitive fire, well-liked teammate, great personality (met him a few times), young, cheap, good control, wide arsenal of pitches-can throw several of them for strikes in hitter’s counts…

    Yes-I think he’s a keeper.

  • Kosmo

    Certainly a feel good story but what would be an even better feel good story is Nova starts to pitch better baseball.

    It´s amazing, since 1965 out of the 60,428 players signed only 8,493 have appeared in at least 1 major league game. 51,935 go home without ever playing in a MLB game. WOW.

    • jsbrendog

      they play a role and get to say they played minor league baseball and that they played against “insert great player here”

      without the filler guys, the 51,935, who would the 8,493 play against before they’re ready for the big leagues? i don’t feel bad for them. they still got to follow a dream.

  • Toki

    “I really didn’t want to sign with Boston,” Nova said. “My father and I were both Yankee fans.”

    Right, if the Red Sox would have offered 1 dollar more I’m sure he’d be a Red Sox. You don’t have allegiances when your broke trying to get out.

    • Bunt Gardner

      He had no idea if the Yankees would make an offer or for how much when he didn’t sign with the Sox, so apparently you can.

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      Not everyone does something for money! Being a Yankee or being signed by the Yankees meant more to him than just about anything especially money.

      • Ted Nelson

        Doubt it. It’s a nice narrative now, but $80,000 is a good chunk of change. He didn’t volunteer to become a Yankee. All he says in the article is that he was told he might get more money elsewhere… but that might mean $5-10,000. So he might have left some money on the table, but we don’t even know if he did let alone how much.

        He went to the Red Sox academy, so clearly he had some interest in that team. Perhaps not signing with them had as much to do with them only offering him, say, $10-20,000 as it did with wanting to be a Yankee.

  • OldYanksFan

    Nova has a lot of the pieces to be an above average SP. I put a lot of weight on experioence and smarts, and I think as Nova matures, he will get better.

  • Dan

    That was an excellent read. Nova is the man and I have faith in him. Out all of the pitchers the Yankees have brought up in recent years, Nova seems to be the one that has the true makeup of being a rotation pitcher. I’m confident he’s going to bounce back. His xFIP is 3.49, so I’ve gotta believe he’ll return to his normal self.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    Young pitchers have certain hills and valleys in their path. 99% of them do. Outside of the great of the great, they are going to have fluctuations in their numbers from year to year as the league learns them and they develop new pitches and patterns.

    Nova is going through some rough times. The criticism of him is that he didn’t strike people out. Now he is, but part of the downside of strikeouts is flyballs. Now Nova has to continue to balance out his strikeouts with his groundballs. The change-up is needed, but working on it in-game is risky, as half his HR’s are off the change-up.

    I’m enjoying his development and hope that fans realize that this is how it works when you want THE KIDS to pitch.