Grounders return with Nova’s adjustment

Nova super as Yanks take series from Rays
2012 Draft: Reviewing Day Three
Hell yes. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Ivan Nova pitched poorly in Anaheim last week. So poorly that I said the Yankees needed to consider sending him to the minors if he didn’t start to show improvement and soon. Nova showed improvement last night and then some, holding the Rays to one garbage time run across eight innings of work. After allowing five runs in 6.2 innings to the Halos last time out, it was a very welcome sight.

“After the game in Anaheim I had a nice conversation with Robbie Cano,” said Nova after last night’s game. “He was telling me I had to start pitching good. I had to be ready. I had to prepare myself more if I need it. (Andy Pettitte), even when he came out of the game [on Tuesday], he told me, ‘Your turn tomorrow.’ He was waiting for me to pitch today, even though he pitched. He came out and the first thing he said was, ‘Your turn tomorrow.’ That motivates you when guys like that want you to do good.

More than anything else, what stood out last night was Nova’s ability to induce the ground ball. He came into the start with a 44.8% ground ball rate — down from 52.7% last year — but generated a season-high 13 ground ball outs for the second straight outing. Nine of those 13 ground balls came off the fastball, which is vintage Nova. After getting a grounder on 53.42% of all balls-in-play off his fastball last year, that rate was down to just 43.75% prior to last night. Getting the heat down had been the problem all season, until Nova appears to have made an adjustment to get back to being the guy he’s supposed to be.

“He has an understanding of what he needs to get done. He wasn’t kidding himself,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild last night. “Sometimes, with young pitchers, they will delude themselves into thinking other things, but he knew. He knew he wasn’t throwing the ball the way he can and making the pitches that he should. That’s the start of making some adjustments. If you don’t feel like you need to do that, you’re not going to do it. But he knew after the game he needed to make some adjustments both mentally and physically and he did it tonight.”

The Yankees have won ten of their last 13 games and two of those losses were imminently winnable walk-off defeats. This recent success has started on the mound with the starting pitchers, who pitched poorly as a group for the first six weeks of the season before turning things around of late. During this 13-game stretch, the rotation has pitched to a 3.22 ERA in 99.1 IP with a stellar 3.47 K/BB ratio. Compare that to a 4.93 ERA and a 2.78 K/BB ratio earlier in the season. It’s just a massive difference. Getting quality starting pitching every time out makes life so much easier.

Andy Pettitte’s return has helped solidify things, ditto Phil Hughes‘ recent turn around — he’s allowed two earned runs or less in four of his last five starts. Hiroki Kuroda has been tagged with the “inconsistent” label but has surrendered no more than three earned runs in seven of his last starts. That’s exactly what was expected of him coming into the season. CC Sabathia provides quality bulk innings like few others; I don’t need to tell you that. One start does not mean Nova is out of the woods of course, but he looked better last night than he has at any other point this season. If he’s made the necessary adjustment to keep the fastball down, the Yankees will be running a quality arm out there game after game and the wins will follow.

Nova super as Yanks take series from Rays
2012 Draft: Reviewing Day Three
  • 28 this year

    Its amazing. If Nova can up his ground ball rate without greatly affecting his K numbers, obviously it will go down some, he could enter borderline Webb/Felix type territory, at least in terms of potential, high GB rate and high K’s. His potential has skyrocketed of late and he seems to be harnassing parts of it to the point where if he could put it together, he’s an ace in the making. From Rule V pick to big time starter in NY, I’ll take it.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Last night is exactly why I disagreed completely with Nova needing to be sent down when Mike suggested it last week.

    He can make those adjustments at the big league level, he’s one of our 4 best starters and if anyone is going to be sent down it should be Hughes.

    • CS Yankee

      Sending either down seems silly as no one in AAA is setting the world on fire.

      Hughes likes to live too much with the high heater and its maddening when he doesn’t throw the hook or change or use the outside of the plate.

      Nova looked more focused last night than I’ve seen since last year. He threw a 2-0 slider that was wicked but just missed the plate and he was pissed with the selection, went heater and got the called strike, followed by the popup to Teix.

      These kids need attitude…and location…and selection…and some luck. Overall we have a decent to good starting rotation and once the 3-4-5 hitters mash we’ll be fighting Texas for the best record (and the easier first round).

      • bobby two knives

        Yankees are already battling texas for best record – right now 2 wins less in win column

      • RI$P FTW

        WOW! Lots of trolls here!

        • Jim Is Bored


  • Dan

    It seemed like Nova actually turned things around during the Angels game. His GB/FB rate in that game wasn’t bad. After the 4th inning where he got knocked around he started to get a lot more groundballs, I think about 5 of the last 7 outs that were put in play were made on groundouts.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Sinking fb.


    • CS Yankee


      but when Jeet is hitting like $h!t, I think of your handle and go “DJ3.5K” and when he is grooving I think “DJ3.75K”. When he is raking I think “he just might be able to play another 8 years”; as he has more talent than some of the others that made it to 45.

      On topic…he (Nova) had moxie last night. He needs that “MFIKY-tude”.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    People seem to think the minors stint last year was what made the difference. It wasn’t. The kid had made the adjustment before he was sent down:

    It looks like he’ll be nothing more than a league average pitcher. But that’s plenty valuable and more than they’ve ever gotten from Hughes. There should be a lesson in that for the Yankees and Phelps, Banuelos, even Warren and Mitchell.

    • Elmgrovegnome

      So, Petittes presence has a positive affect in other ways. I recall how Clemens was a good influence in the past. Now Petitte seems to be that guy, ALa Halladay to Burnette?

      I wondered if this may happen. ow I am happy to think it is so.

    • TheOneWhoKnocks

      I’d disagree with that. He has legitimate upside.
      The 4 best things you want from a pitcher are:
      -Legit stuff (Nova has it)
      -Ability to induce K’s (Nova has it)
      -Ability to induce GBs (Nova has it)
      -Don’t walk anybody (His walk rates aren’t impressive but 3 out of 4 ain’t bad, this is something that can be improved)

    • DM

      “People seem to think the minors stint last year was what made the difference. It wasn’t. The kid had made the adjustment before he was sent down:”

      You’re right. He wasn’t stumbling when he was sent down. It was more about a clearing a spot for Hughes to return. A roster crunch more than a development step. “Work on the slider” was what he did down there, but that wasn’t the reason for the brief demotion.

      • vicki

        everyone knows why he was sent down; that doesnt mean it didnt make a difference. he came back up with swing and miss stuff and his before and after k/9 bears this out.

  • Darren

    Really? YNova really needed Andy Pettitte to motivate him? I guess he’s unfamiliar with the idea that he has to perform.

    It seems like he got complacent and felt a little too good just being in the majors and the long winning streak (which really had little to do with him).

    Hopefuly this will stoke his fires and kep them burning. He needs a little bit more of the Roger Clemens aggressivness (without the rage, mania, and excuses).

    • MannyGeee

      Sorry, A-Rod was busy fixing Booney. Petitte had to come in and help out Nova.

      • MannyGeee

        also, Voldemort will be taking Hughes out for a pizza… stay tuned for good things to come.

  • Typical MIT Nerd

    Why are you trying so hard to put a shine on Kuroda? He has been inconsistent:

    In half of his last six starts he also hasn’t made it through 6 innings.

    • Mike Axisa

      The arbitrary endpoint game is fun because in five of his last eight starts, he has.

      • LK

        Completing 6 IP in 5 of 8 starts isn’t really anything to write home about. There’s no denying that Kuroda has been inconsistent this year, more so than most of us were hoping. That said, the results have mostly been there so far; what worries me is that his peripherals have been pretty mediocre. I still have faith that he’ll be a solid starter for us as he continues to adjust to the AL/YSIII. It seems to me that he gets into trouble when he nibbles too much, but I might be way off base on that.

    • Mike Axisa

      Also, “trying so hard” apparently equals one sentence with the most basic of stats in the post.

  • Johnny O

    Did Nova actually make a physical or mechanical adjustment that resulted in the return of the grounders? was it pitch selection? Or is the adjustment simply mental?

    Either way, last night was fantastic and of course he won’t do that every time out but the overall trend of getting his GB % back to last year is what we need.

    • DM

      Like with Hughes, those outings happen when you command your pitches. The stuff has been there all year for both guys. (That’s been the pleasant surprise for me regarding Hughes.) As long as the stuff is there, you keep pitching them. If you had someone banging on the door to take a spot, that would be different — but they don’t.

      • Robinson Tilapia


    • Havok9120

      He and Rothschild did say after the game that they worked on keeping his “shoulder closed longer to keep his pitches down.”

  • VCR1111

    Nice to see Nova get back on track. I’m a fan of his…love his stuff. My question is a pretty obvious one and has been asked, I’m sure, countless times: Was the result of yesterday’s performance based on Nova “finding it” or because the Rays are just a terrible hitting team?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A good start is a good start. We need to let this “bad offense” thing go. These are all MLB teams out there. We set such a bar on here sometimes with what counts as a legit good start that we discard about half the games the team plays. He was inducing the kind of balls in play he needs to in order to be successful.

      I’m a big fan as well. Rarely gets rattled. Pitches deep in games. Ground ball guy. Still young. Exceeded every expectation so far. Exactly the type of pitcher I love.

    • Kosmo

      maybe it´s a little bit of both.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    The Effect of Andy on the mound and in the clubhouse is evident.

    • vicki

      don’t forget the absence of freddy on the mound.

  • Barry

    I think what was my favorite part of Nova’s start last night, was that when he came off the mound in the 9th you could see that he wasn’t happy with himself even as he tipped his cap to the fans. It shows he expected more out of himself and to me that’s one of the most important things you want to see out of a young pitcher even after a great start.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      Tells me that he has class, maturity and humility.

    • vicki

      last summer when he was going deeper and deeper into games i remember one postgame when he said he wanted to go 9 every start. trememdous attitude, that kid.

  • Cuso, the Other

    Will everyone stop with “the kid” or “this kid” BS? You’re not coaches and probably not all that athletic.

    It’s like hearing people use the word “supposably” or “prolly.”

    • Havok9120

      There are plenty of people on here who are significantly older than here is. He is rather young, after all.

      And that doesn’t even count that its just something people say. Where’s the beef, exactly?

      • vicki


    • Voice of Reason

      Do only coaches or athletes use the word “kid?” I guess I missed that one.

  • Elmgrovegnome

    What? Who cares about the lingo on here. Refer to Nova as your boy if you want. Just people talking baseball. What does athleticism have to do with talking like a coach?

  • JoeyA

    Does nayone have a link to the story with these Cliff Lee quotes re: why he chose Philly over NYY due to NYY aging stars

    • Kosmo

      I don´t but you might try to google “Why Cliff Lee chose Philly over NY“ or call his wife.

      • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

        Wins and losses don’t count as much as the REAL stats but I like Nova’s W-L record compared to Lee’s the last few years.

        Dollar for dollar as well…

        • Kosmo

          Nova has the luxury of great run support. From the beginning of 2011 until now he´s received 6 runs per start. Lee in 2010-11 received about 4 runs per start. This season 3 runs per start.

          • Kosmo

            I should say on average.

            • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

              I’ll still take the youth, the health, the contract and the wins and losses.

          • MannyGeee

            Kuroda just died a little bit inside.

  • Mike Nitabach

    Yeah, the grounders were my favorite part of the game. The only real noisy fly balls he allowed that I recall were the ones to Matsui. His pitchers were all either down or up-and-in. Nothing up and over the plate. Really beautiful performance.

    • newguy

      Does he remind anyone else of Wang? He’s a little raw and not as consistent but when he’s on he really has the same effect on the game.

      • Havok9120

        I always think of late-vintage Andy/Moose more (at least last year). Solid, he’ll go out every 5 days, very badly wants to pitch, he’ll give you a chance to win the game type of guy. Even tends to makes things exciting like they do/did.

        • newguy

          I was talking stuff wise

  • deadrody

    Right now its looking like a pretty damn stellar starting rotation.