Dealing with Ivan Nova

Nova pounded yet again, Yanks fall to ChiSox
Andy Pettitte and 2013
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

We’re deep into August and it’s pretty fair to say that Ivan Nova has been the Yankees’ worst starting pitcher this season. I don’t think it’s all that close, honestly. He owns a 4.92 ERA (4.54 FIP) through 25 starts and 157.1 innings while leading baseball in extra-base hits allowed. Nova just doesn’t get hit, he gets absolutely tattooed. Last night’s loss was the latest example, the fifth time he’s allowed at least six runs in a start since the calendar flipped over to July. There is no sugarcoating it, he’s been miserable pretty much since Opening Day.

Thankfully, the Yankees will be able to soften the blow over the next week or two. Thursday’s scheduled off-day combined with CC Sabathia‘s imminent return to the rotation — his latest side session went well yesterday — gives the Yankees a chance to skip Nova’s next turn so he could work on some things on the side. That would leave both David Phelps and Freddy Garcia in the rotation for the time being, which is fine considering their performances relative to Nova’s.

Since the Yankees are off next Thursday as well, they could skip Nova’s next two starts if they really wanted. Assuming the master plan is to return Phelps to the bullpen at some point so he can solve some of the middle relief problems, the club could roll with this rotation these next few days…

  • Today @ White Sox: Phil Hughes (Phelps available in bullpen?)
  • Thursday 8/23: OFF
  • Friday 8/24 @ Indians: Sabathia
  • Saturday 8/25 @ Indians: Hiroki Kuroda
  • Sunday 8/26 @ Indians: Garcia or Phelps
  • Monday 8/27 vs. Blue Jays: Garcia or Phelps
  • Tuesday 8/28 vs. Blue Jays: Hughes
  • Wednesday 8/29 vs. Blue Jays: Sabathia (Phelps available in bullpen?)
  • Thursday 8/30: OFF

The Yankees could then run Kuroda, Garcia, Hughes, and Sabathia out there in the four games following the 8/30 off-day before reinserting Nova back into the rotation against the Rays on September 5th. No one would be on short rest through any of this and Ivan would get a solid ten days or so to work on some stuff with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Since that early-September series against Tampa (on the road) could prove to be very important, they’d also have the option of starting him a few days earlier against the Orioles just to keep him away from the Rays.

Either way, something has to give here. Nova has struggled most of the season and these days his starts rarely afford the Yankees the opportunity to win. This isn’t some little recent slump either — he’s had a 5.00+ ERA in every month of the season other than June. At the very least, the Yankees should use tomorrow’s off-day to skip his next turn just to give him a chance to clear his head and work on some things in a non-competitive environment. The Bombers have a nice four-game lead in the division with a month to play, but that lead has been shrinking due in part to Nova’s complete ineffectiveness. Something has to be done about it, they’ve waited long enough as it is.

Nova pounded yet again, Yanks fall to ChiSox
Andy Pettitte and 2013
  • Jill Poock

    Totally agree. Something has to be done with Nova. He needs to get straightened out. On another note I think when CC is activated, Joba needs to be sent to the minors to work things out. It is not working having him on the big league roster at this point in time. He just isn’t ready.

  • Richard Leo

    nice job, mike

  • kenthadley

    Some guys don’t respond to soft…they need a kick in the butt, such as a skip in the rotation or trip to the minors would provide. Last year Nova came back from Scranton with a bit of a chip on his shoulder that served him well. Maybe it’s time for another wake up call.

  • Drew

    It seems that ever since Nova made the “I’m the best pitcher in baseball” comments that he has just tanked. Also there is when he had an awful start back a few weeks ago, where he acted like he pitched a CG shutout. This could be more than a command problem, it could be a mental problem too.

  • joshfortunatus

    O’Neill and Kay love saying how much Nova “knows how to win” but really, it’s just how every other guy loses.

    • Laz

      last year he thrived on a huge amount of run support. It’s not that he knows how to win, he just got lucky every time through. 3.70 era he had doesn’t usually make you win 80% of your decisions.

      • DMac

        That is so true, last year my brother and i noticed how whenever Nova started the run support was out of this world. Dumb luck last year, no dice this year.

  • Eddard

    Nova needs a wakeup call. Send him down to the minors upon CC’s return. Last year it did wonders for him. He has no command, no confidence. And Nova thinks all that’s happening is that he’s getting unlucky. He needs a wakeup call.

    • Luisergi

      I agree actually, i don’t care what they do with him for this season (minors, bullpen) i don’t think he is gonna help in october or something(if the team makes it that far… kidding), he is actually hurting the team right now IMO. Nevertheless; he has to be out of the rotation by friday. Then Freddy out when/if Andy comes back, and finally Phelps or Hughes to the bullpen for the playoffs.

    • Bill

      At this point the Yankees will probably save the option year in case they need it in the future. September is only about a week away. The team will probably option someone like Eppley instead and throw Nova in the bullpen.

      With the season quickly approaching the final stretch and with Tampa breathing down our necks the Yankees can no longer afford to hope that Nova will return to form and grab that #4 spot in the playoff rotation. I think you have to assume it will be Hughes or Garcia and move Nova to bullpen to see if he can possibly help there.

    • Strat

      It’s August 22. Send him down to do what? And then expect… what?

      • DUgan

        Put Nova on the DL.He has been horrible this sseason!! Nice Job Cashman in signing a staring pitcher!! The Yanks are falling fast ansd could miss the playoffs! Girardi,do you know whatt day it is????

  • jjyank

    Seems clear to me that Nova needs to be the one to go when CC comes back at this point. I’d much rather see what Phelps can do, Nova has gotten painful to watch.

    • Luisergi

      +1, this, that, word…

    • Rich in NJ

      As of today, Phelps should not be considered for the pen until the postseason. Until then, he needs to remain stretched out because it is conceivable that he may be one of their four best starting pitching options for the playoff rotation.

  • JohnnyC

    I think he’s been hiding an injury all year or at least minimizing one. He’s had back problems but never missed a start. Wouldn’t surprise me if his command problems are due to physical limitations, not finishing his delivery or a wandering release point. Honesty is always the best policy for players when dealing with injuries.

  • Jose M. Vazquez

    In the old days and even recently, pitchers when they were going bad, were transferred to the bullpen until they worked things out. I said this this morning in another comment. Place him in the bullpen and bring him in in low leverage situations only until he gets his command straightened out.

  • Hoss

    Why not send Nova and Joba down to work on some stuff at the AAA level and get some BP help up here – at least to spare some arms – for mop-up duty in the meantime? Granted that one will need to go when CC is activated Friday, but these guys are not helping at all. I’d rather see Ortiz, Delcarmen, Whitley, Montgomery or Wade. Logan, Eppley and Rapada are all working with fumes at this point…
    Better yet, let’s secure a versatile arm like Millwood to help down the stretch.

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      I’d rather see none of those guys, but one may be a necessity at this point, and it’s probably the guy already on the 40-man (Wade.)

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      I’ve also heard worse ideas than Millwood. If they’d take a fringe guy for him, I’d be in.

      • Hoss

        Any idea whether he’s been put on trade waivers?

        • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

          He doesn’t need to. We can always sneak him through the Jack Z emergency tunnel.

          • Hoss

            Knowing Jack Z.’s girth, that must be a pretty wide tunnel.

            • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

              It expands, like a python eating a bear.

  • Hardy

    I disagree. From 2011 to 2012 his K% went up (13.9% to 20.2%) and his BB% went down (8.1% to 7.3%). However, both his BABIP (.283 to .331) and HR/FB (8.4% to 15.9%) went through the roof. He doesn’t look good, but xFIP and SIERA say Nova is better than last year. Maybe he is just unlucky (and was lucky in 2011).

    • kenthadley

      he’s unlucky “high”…..the difference between last year (ground balls from keeping the ball down) to this year (line drives from getting the ball up).

    • Hoss

      This is why sabermetrics and other “advanced” statistical measures can be incredibly misleading. They can, like many other stats, tell you whatever you are looking for, if you choose the right measure. (In addition, some are just plain arbitrary (like UZR)). If you have watched Nova pitch, and you have some knowledge of baseball, I think that you will realize that he has digressed and has pitched poorly this season, especially of late.

    • 28 this year

      His LD% went from 18.4% to 22.3% which is a massive increase which is mostly responsible for the uptick in BABIP. Also, his GB% went down 7 points to about 45% and his fly ball percentage increased. More line drives and fly balls equals much higher extra base hits and home runs so xFIP might not be a good number to look at because that increase in HRs could be a result of all the line drives and more fly balls. Its hard to say exactly what is happening but just looking at him, he is making a lot of mistakes up in the zone that are getting pounded. Its hard to say he’s unlucky when literally he’s throwing meatballs that are getting beat up.

      • Voice of Reason

        “Throwing meatballs” is the sort of phrase that needs to be eliminated, it permits a lot of weaseling and easy answers. Everything’s a meatball when it gets hit.

        If a 15.9 HR/FB and a .331 BABIP is who he is now, then he’ll be a major outlier and at the extreme end of the continuum in those categories respectively. Is that a more likely scenario than the alternative?

      • Hardy

        You make valid points. However, I am not convinced that they tell the story.
        Consider this: There are 24 qualified pitchers who have a higher LD% than Nova. 11 of them have BAPIPs below .300. Or look at the list of players who have both a higher LD% and a lower GB% than Nova: Francisco Liriano, Ian Kennedy, Joe Blanton, Randy Wolf, Bruce Chen, Matt Cain, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Strasburg, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Kyle lohse, Tommy Milone, Jeremy Guthrie, Tim Lincecum, Jarrod Parker.
        And if he is just throwing meatballs, who does he have a K/BB that is above league average?

        • Tom

          GB’s actually go for hits more than FB’s.

          So high LD/high GB has a higher xBABIP than high LD/high FB. The list of pitchers you gave SHOULD have a better BABIP as more FB’s (vs GB’s) will offset the LD rate in terms of BABIP.

          His issue is command… DIPS theory is based on things “evening out” over time but you can have stretches with either absurdly good or bad command where the BABIP will look like “luck” but is actually skill related – it’s just that that skill is not usually sustainable for long periods of time.

          His K rate is good because his secondary stuff (specifically the curve) has been good… If you look at his Swinging strike % by pitch type he gets a ton of swings and misses on the curve, but not many on the fastball… so the issue becomes his command of the curve early in counts – if he falls behind, like he was last night, he has to come in with a fastball which has a low swinging strike % and is coupled with poor command.

  • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

    The issue, to me, with sending down Nova is Joba Chamberlain, who also needs to straighten himself out.

    I want to make it clear that I don’t think we should be giving up on Nova, by any means, but this is not good right now.

    I guess both could be sent down, keeping Garcia and Phelps in the rotation until Andy returns, which I don’t have any problem with at the moment. I guess who takes that last bullpen slot really doesn’t matter all that much, especially with rosters expanding soon enough.

    What I do know is that the team needs to get Ivan Nova the help he needs to be the pitcher we know he can be, and the MLB starting rotation, during the stretch run, when the division lead is within a series’ worth of games, isn’t the place right now.

  • Mister D

    The way he’s pitching, he looks like a guy who had a career minor league ERA of almost 4.00 with a 6.5 SO/9.

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      People do actually improve on their skills over time. That means absolutely nothing.

    • Voice of Reason

      How does a guy striking out 8/9 at the ML level look like a guy who strikes out 6.5/9 in the minors?

  • JorgeM

    I agree Nova has been pretty awful, and i also agree with him being sent down or skipped to get a positive reaction from him. Having said that, your assumption that Hughes will hold down the fourth spot with some level of competency are pipedreams. Hughes has been as awful as nova, but has gotten some lucky breaks. I hold no love for Hughes and people who still defend him because he gets one or two good starts among a bunch of crappy ones are just as infuriating. I believe both(Nova & Hughes-if possible) should be sent down to the minors and give phelps a shot, what is the worst that can happen, he can be a decent n-4 starter or even 5th.

    • G

      One good ones? Hughes strung together a long series of excellent starts. To say he’s been as awful as Nova is just blind hate. Hughes barely gets hit. When he does, it’s often a home run, but more often than not its a solo shot because he doesn’t really walk guys or let them hit their way on.

    • G

      One good start*

  • paul a

    Watching Liriano last night I just can’t help wonder why Cashman didn’t take a chance with him. Even more so now that ‘the best pitcher in baseball’ has basically sucked lately. HURRAY UP ANDY WE NEED YOU ASAP.

    • Hoss

      We had Liriano on the ropes last night and let him go. He is probably not worth the prospects the Chisox gave up for him.

    • MannyGeee

      Because we already had Liriano, but he was taller and blonder and was called AJ urnett. One “electric” outing should not make him the missing link…

  • Troll Hunter

    Send Nova to the Pirates he will win a Cy Young!

    • MannyGeee

      can we get a re-do on the AJ deal and get an AJ/NOva deal for McCutchen? really, 2 “20 Game winners” for a CF? Who doesnt do that??

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Mike, the article was well written. I agree Nova needs to be out of the rotation. He has failed to adjust to the pounding. The White Sox’s were hitting heat seeking missiles. Thankfully right at someone for some outs.

    At this point we know its not a matter of bad luck. He’s a big guy with some talent. His location is not existent. Pitches are up in the zone. Thus Rockets red glare are the order of the day. He needs some extra help. He doesn’t look to me as a guy who needs an attitude adjustment but I’m not his coach.

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    Nova is a 25 year old in his second full season. He has command issues like any hard throwing 25 year old would. His ceiling is still high and he’s shown a pension for working hard to get right as shown by his demotion last year. Is he a number 2 or 3 like we all wanted him to be at the beginning of the year? No, but he’s still a very good young pitcher who is still learning how to pitch in the big leagues.

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      I agree with you, but this isn’t the time to just let him work out his problems while in the rotation. This is the stretch run and, while I like four game leads, there’s an awful lot of games left against the teams directly behind the Yanks.

  • Freddy’s Mom

    My only problem w your plan is I don’t want Nova in the Rays series cuz it might be still close then, or, heaven forbid, they might lead us! But I don’t have a better plan, just feeling free to criticize yours!

    I mostly only care about A) making sure we make the postseason, i.e., not pulling a collapse a la last year’s BoSox, and B) the rotation thereof. Pettite should be back. We should be OK as long as the offense shows up.

    It sux about Nova but we are far from dead.

  • Cy Pettitte

    Find a 40 man spot for Mark Montgomery, replace Joba and Nova with Montgomery and CC.

    • MannyGeee

      Mongomery = Wrong Answer…

      Burrito Memes this way, please.

      • G

        Considering he already has a major league plus slider and a solid fastball, I can think of worse things than letting Montgomery pitch in September. Maybe he doesn’t do all that well: so what? It’d be no worse than the current middle relief. Maybe he exceeds you expectations.

  • Jay

    Is there any time frame at this point as far as when we can expect Andy to start a MLB game? I know he’s not throwing off of a mound yet, but is mid-September around the earliest we can hope for? Or is that pushing it?

  • DM

    I think it depends on the standings as well. If the lead shrinks in the next few days you can make the case to skip him. But I could also make a case for him getting one more start — against Toronto’s lineup, since his last good game was against them. You could have him pitch the 2nd game and just keep Hughes on turn for the first. That would give some extra time for Nova, and reset the rotation (like after the All-Star break).

    It’s still too early for the playoffs talk, but I’d guess we’d be in trouble if we need meaningful innings from Nova, Hughes and Joba in the post-season.

  • Athenian

    While this article is accurate that something needs to be done about Nova, doesn’t it say more about the Yankees organization in developing young pitching. I know there have been successes – Pettitte, Mo, possibly Phelps – for example but there have been more glaring failures mainly because unlike the two mentioned as successes, the others have been more high ceiling candidates – Joba, Hughes, Nova(not so much).

    It seems that if the Yankees fail on the open market to acquire decent pitching, their internal options never seem to work out past maybe one year.

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      No. It doesn’t.

      • Athenian

        hmmm… pitchers are ticking time bombs, one pitch away from blowing out something in their arms so it may not be fair to assess an organization on their pitching failures unless the team is the Astros or the like.

        • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

          That was precisely why I never liked a certain trade this team made a certain number of months ago but, rather, accepted and learned to live with it.

          • MannyGeee

            would those ‘certain’ number of months be 72, and that certain trade happen to have involve Randy Johnson?

            NO? Ok then….

    • Athenian

      Of course there is this article which would dispute my comments – rather interesting and perhaps that is the biggest issue is the perception that is placed on the Yankees because the expectation is so high that the slightest hiccup becomes a total failure.

      • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

        I’d certainly agree with that. Sure.

        I also think our own metric for judging success versus failure allows for very little grey area and it basd on right this moment. For example, you slightly putting Phelps under “success” and Nova slightly under “failure.” It’s entirely within reason you could be reversing those within a year.

        • Athenian


  • sevrox

    Nova? Tag ’em and bag ’em.

  • Bubba

    Where is that idiot Deep Thoughts talking about baseball and leadership after Nova’s latest shellacking?

    Leadership involves putting your team in a position to win and rolling Nova out there every five days has far more often than not done the exact opposite. The question is not whether Nova should be pulled from the rotation but why wasn’t this done a month ago when he could have gotten some starts in AAA to work through his issues?

    • Robinson Tilapia aka Melky’s Webmaster

      Sweet Baby Son of Mo.

    • Deep Thoughts

      I’m getting counseling for my hurt feelings.

      Oh well, you have a point. I’ll eat the poop sandwich I have prepared for myself.

      I’m still not clear whom you would add to the active roster in his place–Wade? Warren? Some other unproven minor-leaguer?–but I agree it’s (perhaps past) time to move him to the bullpen like they did with Freddy at the beginning of the year.

      • Bubba

        The thing is I think the kid has some skill and I’d hate to see him languish in the bullpen, but given the time of year that’s probably the only viable option.

        If they just sent him down a month ago, maybe he could have fixed what ails him and then be an asset in the postseason. Right now I would be terrified of him in the postseason… like Phil Hughes terrified.

  • OMG! Bagels!

    I don’t remember any fanfare when Nova came up or when he was in the minors. I think he was a bit overlooked until he crowned himself king of the starting pitchas. He needs to get straightened out right now but I think that there have been times he has exceeded expectations. I hope they can straighten him out.

  • Kosmo

    Nova doesn´t seem to get it. He throws the most beautiful belt high to letter high fastballs, hitters are leaving drool at homeplate with giddy anticipation. It´s not rocket science, if you continually pitch up in the zone you´re gonna get hammered.
    I don´t think Nova is ever going to be much better than what he´s shown these past 2 years. In 2011 he was good but not exceptional. This year he´s shown flashes but I think it´s more about luck than talent.

  • roadrider

    What is this idiotic fascination with returning Phelps to the bullpen? Freddie Garcia should be put in that role since he only seems to be good for a few innings per start. Why did they bother stretching out Phelps in the minors only to stick him in the pen when he came back? Now that they’ve stretched him out again they want to send him back to the pen? WTF?

    • RkyMtnYank

      Totally agree!! They have yanked Phelps around worse than Joba although imo Phelps is for sure a rotation candidate unlike Joba. Phelps totally deserves to be in the rotation even though he gets no love here at RAB. I think only because Mike never rated him above Mitchell or Warren who are clearly inferior pitchers.

  • Peepee Hands

    I think for now you skip a start, but long term, Phelps has earned Nova’s spot.

  • JLC 776

    Throw me on the Phelps love-train as well.

    If we had the same kind of lead we had a month ago, I would be fine leaving Nova in and hoping his issues are just sophomore year in nature, but the margin in the East is getting very uncomfortable. I know TB has had an easier schedule over the last couple of weeks, but that is a good team with some very scary pitching and we still have to play them quite a bit before October rolls around. Throwing a near automatic loss every fifth day is not cutting it.