Archive for Ivan Nova
I know it has been a little while since he pitched, but I wanted to take a look at Ivan Nova‘s last outing. It was one of his most impressive performances of the season despite it being his first start back from injury. In total, Nova went six innings, giving up just two runs on four hits (only two of which went for extra bases) and two walks, with eight strikeouts.
Honestly, my expectations were pretty low for Nova in this start. He has been hit hard all year, giving up a ridiculous quantity of extra-base hits en route to a 4.81 ERA (including his most recent outing). While his strikeout rate is at a career high and his walk rate has been pretty low, one would expect him to be having a career year. Instead, Nova has been one of the weak points in the Yankee rotation, and I figured that missing time with a shoulder injury would likely cost him his rotation spot. However, Nova proved the doubters wrong with a strong outing. I was curious to see what was working for him.
Looking at Nova’s outing on Brooks Baseball, the first thing that comes to mind is his fastball. His average velocity on the pitch jumped a good 0.6 MPH, going from 93.46 to 94.07. Just to put that number in context, an average fastball of 94.07 MPH would place Nova 7th among qualified starters in average fastball velocity (behind usual suspects Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander). With the increased velocity also came better movement, as both the vertical (by about two inches) and horizontal movement by about 2/3 of an inch) on the heater were increased. The extra life on the pitch corresponded to a four-fold increase in whiff rate, 16% in his last outing compared to just over 4% for the rest of the season. This is a massive difference, even though the change in velocity and movement seems to be relatively small. For what it’s worth, Texas Leaguers shows more dramatic differences in velocity and movement.
While the improved fastball is the main thing that jumps out at me, there are some noticeable differences in Nova’s curveball as well. The velocity of the pitched jumped about 2-3 MPH over his season average, though the vertical and horizontal break actually decreased. This could mean that he was throwing a tighter, sharper pitch, and consequently, opposing hitters whiffed at it about twice as often as they did earlier in the season.
The fastball and curve were Nova’s bread and butter in his most recent outing, as they have been throughout the season. He threw them about 83-percent of the time earlier in the season, and threw them nearly 90-percent of the time his last time out. I have no idea if Nova made a mechanical change during is time on the DL — it appears he did — or if the extra rest has simply given his raw stuff a little boost. Regardless, the extra hop on Nova’s fastball and tighter curveball seemed to be very effective in the small sample size of one outing. At this point in the season, Nova is auditioning just to earn a spot on the postseason roster. Unless he is absolutely lights out and another Yankee starter suffers an injury or setback, it is hard to picture Nova earning a spot in the playoff rotation. Regardless, if he continues to show his improved fastball velocity and more effective curveball, the Yankees could have a tough decision on their hands.
After yet another close game (though thankfully, last night’s was of the winning variety), the collective blood pressure of the Yankee fanbase is once again a little higher than optimal. While the Yankees were able to jump ahead of the Red Sox in the early going, the inability to accomplish the mythical shutdown inning allowed the Red Sox to stay within striking distance for the majority of the game. This has been a problem for much of the recent stretch of subpar play.
While David Robertson and Rafael Soriano have individually had very strong seasons, the Yankee bullpen, and these two stalwarts in particular, have shown mortality at particularly inconvenient times. Robertson’s fastball velocity is down slightly from last season, and his reduction in the use of his curveball in favor of the cutter is a little puzzling. Several recent Yankee losses can directly be tied to blowups by one or both of the Yankees’ top relievers. While Joba Chamberlain has impressed in his recent outings, he is probably still not at the point of being relied upon to be a consistent shutdown presence in the 7th inning. The Clay Rapada/Cody Eppley/Boone Logan trio have performed adequately, though none of them (possibly excepting Logan) really are useful against opposite-handed batters.
As the Yankees battle through the last few weeks of the season and hopefully into October, it is evident that they could use another bullpen arm with the ability to retire hitters from both sides of the plate. Presumably, a trade is incredibly unlikely at this juncture, so whatever help the Yankees are going to find will have to come from within. With several players on track to return from injury, the Yankees will have a few options as they shuffle their rotation to accommodate the returnees. Here are some of the ways they can proceed, and variables to consider.
Nova should be back from injury relatively soon, but his uneven 2012 season raises questions about how he can be most effectively deployed. He’s currently in line to replace Freddy Garcia in the rotation, but given his propensity to surrender extra-base hits, there’s no guarantee that he will be a significant upgrade. While Freddy’s repertoire doesn’t really translate well to a short relief role (though he could be an effective long man), Nova could be an effective option for shorter stints, allowing him to focus on his fastball and slider and not worry about his other pitches.
Andy Pettitte is also on his way back, though his timeline for returning to the rotation is unclear at the moment. The Yankees are currently planning to let Pettitte build his innings back up on the Major League roster, which will likely entail him making piggyback starts with one of Nova, Garcia, or Phelps. If Nova and Pettitte both make it back into the rotation, Phelps likely gets bumped back into a relief role. Phelps has been very impressive when used as a reliever this season (albeit in a small sample), so he could be an intriguing option to add more depth to the Yankee bullpen.
Yes, Wade has been incredibly disappointing in the majors this year, but he has handled himself fairly well since being demoted to AAA (2.27 ERA). That said, his strikeout rate is down compared to 2011 and his walk rate is elevated, and both trends continued when he was sent down to the Scranton traveling road show. Even though Wade is not pitching as well as he did last season (or early this year), it could be worth giving him some innings to see if he can get his confidence and stuff back.
Mark Montgomery (obligatory)
I know the Yankees have said that they will not call up Montgomery this season, but I think it is an option worth considering. He has continued to dominate his minor league opposition, and I’m not sure if there is a serious developmental case to be made for keeping him in the minors much longer. AA hitters simply have no answer for his slider, and he is striking them out in droves. While there is some obvious risk inherent in calling up a minor leaguer to contribute to a playoff chase (some may fear that getting hit around could ruin him forever, a la Mark Melancon), Montgomery has the talent and upside to be a shutdown guy right away. I trust that the Yankees know better than me regarding his big league readiness, but the possibility that Montgomery could be a shot in the arm to the Yankee bullpen (a la rookie Joba Chamberlain or Francisco Rodriguez back in the day) is hard to ignore. Considering the Yankees’ recent bullpen struggles, it seems worthwhile to reconsider the calculus of whether keeping Montgomery down is really the best option.
While a Montgomery callup doesn’t seem forthcoming (though I will continue to dream), returning Phelps to the bullpen could give the Yankees the reliable middle-inning arm that they have been missing since Cory Wade began to struggle. While Montgomery has the highest upside, Phelps is the safest bet. Phelps has excelled in the role when called upon this season, and since the Yankees may not want to overwork Chamberlain and Robertson, it makes sense to have another reliable middle relief arm who can pitch to both righties and lefties. It would be hard to expect much out of Nova or Wade if they were given a relief role, and they would definitely have to impress in their few opportunities to earn their spot.
Of all the problems facing the Yankees this season, the bullpen is probably the least of them. That said, it has contributed directly to several losses, and the Yankees do have several decent options available that could improve the situation. I assume when Pettitte and Nova are back, we will start to see some pieces in motion, as the Yankees look to fortify the middle innings.
Via Erik Boland, Joe Girardi said that Ivan Nova will return to the rotation and start on Saturday. That’s Freddy Garcia‘s next turn, and I assume he’ll just be removed from the rotation rather than be pushed back a day to create a six-man rotation situation or something wacky like that. Saturday’s game against the Rays is pretty important, so hopefully Nova’s got himself straightened out.
Yesterday we heard that the bullpen was a “consideration” for Ivan Nova once he got over his rotator cuff tendinitis, but apparently now he is in line to replace Freddy Garcia in the rotation as soon as Sunday. George King and Dan Martin report that if Ivan doesn’t experience any discomfort in his shoulder today following his latest bullpen session, he will indeed be on the bump to start the finale of this all-important four-game series with the Orioles. Garcia has been pretty ineffective in his last three outings but it’s not like Nova was tearing it up before he got hurt. That said, if I had to pick between the two, I’d lean towards the kid if I was the Yankees.
Via Meredith Marakovits, right-hander Ivan Nova threw a 30-pitch bullpen session today as he works his way back from right rotator cuff inflammation. He is eligible to be activated off the DL tomorrow, but that seems unlikely.
The more interesting news is that when he does return, Nova isn’t guaranteed to step right back into the rotation. Marakovits hears that the bullpen is a “consideration” and that all options will be discussed before a decision is made. Ivan was getting pounded before being placed on the DL — 7.28 ERA (4.74 FIP) in his last eight starts (47 IP) — and I get the sense that his return to the rotation will depend on a) how well David Phelps pitches, and b) how quickly Andy Pettitte gets healthy.
Nova very clearly has the stuff to start and should continue to do that long-term, but if the Yankees have better rotation options at the moment, then I would be interested to see him out of the bullpen. He’s made just a handful of relief appearances in his career and given the team’s shaky middle relief, Nova could end up being pretty useful down the stretch if he takes to it.
Robinson Cano is in tonight’s lineup as the DH after testing his left hip both in the batting cage and during batting practice. The second baseman said his the joint still feels “tight” following last night’s awkward step on the game-winning eighth inning hit, and he still feels it when he bends over. Hence the DH thing. There are no tests planned at the moment, but Joe Girardi wouldn’t commit to the lineup until Robbie hit on the field and gave the thumbs up.
- That lineup, by the way, can be found here. Curtis Granderson is back in not just center field, but also in the second spot of the batting order. The regular 2-3-4 hitters have just been bumped down a slot.
- Ivan Nova (shoulder) threw live batting practice to Eduardo Nunez and Chris Dickerson before the game. He faced seven “hitters” and threw north of 20 pitches, including breaking balls and changeups. Nova said he feels fine and right now the plan is to see how he responds tomorrow before determining the next step.
- Mark Teixeira (calf) has been jogging but has yet to really push it and run sprints. He’s still not ready for that, making a Thursday return to the lineup unlikely at the moment. Unsurprisingly, Teixeira hopes to be back no later than the weekend.
- Casey McGehee is back with the club and will be active tonight. The Low-A Charleston season ended yesterday, so he was able to rejoin the team without waiting the full ten days.
Some updates on the walking wounded …
- Mark Teixeira (calf) said he’s feeling “better” and expects to play when the Yankees get to Baltimore later in the week. Three games on the turf in Tropicana isn’t the smartest idea with a leg problem. Teixeira did take batting practice and ground balls/throws at first today, which I think he’s been doing that for a few days now.
- Curtis Granderson (hamstring) is feeling better and took batting practice before the game. Joe Girardi is wary playing him on the turf right away, but he could return to the lineup as the DH as soon as tomorrow.
- Andy Pettitte (leg) feels fine following yesterday’s bullpen session and will throw live batting practice on Wednesday. It’ll be his first time facing hitters since Casey Kotchman broke his leg with that comebacker.
- Ivan Nova (shoulder) also feels fine following yesterday’s bullpen session. He’ll face hitters in live batting practice either tomorrow or Wednesday.
- Alex Rodriguez (hand) will not play for High-A Tampa today after playing in two straight games, and will instead do a lot of work on the side. Joe Girardi indicated that it is very possible A-Rod will rejoin the team when they arrive in town to play the Rays tomorrow.
- Andy Pettitte (leg) threw 35 pitches in the bullpen and felt good. The next step for him would be facing hitters in live batting practice, which I suppose could happen within a day or two. A simulated game and then a minor league rehab stint wouldn’t be too far behind if all goes well.
- Ivan Nova (shoulder) threw a bullpen session as well, his first time since going on the DL about a week ago. Right now they’re just going to wait and see how his arm responds before determining the next step.
- David Aardsma (elbow) will continue his rehab stint with Short Season Staten Island based on his Twitter feed. The High-A Tampa season ends today, but the SI Yanks play until Wednesday. After that, he could play in postseason games for the Triple-A or Double-A squads.
No update on Pedro Feliciano (shoulder), but he threw an inning for Staten Island on Friday and I suppose could do so again in the coming days. His 30-day rehab window expires on September 9th, so they have a week to determine if he’s big league ready.
Via George King, right-hander Ivan Nova threw long-toss yesterday for what I believe is the first time since being placed on the DL with rotator cuff inflammation a little more than a week ago. Don’t quote me on that first time stuff though. He’d been getting treatment and medication, but had to stay away from throwing for a little while.
The Yankees indicate that Nova won’t miss much more than the minimum 15 days, so this isn’t anything too serious. Then again, it is scary any time a pitcher reports some kind of shoulder pair or discomfort. Nova was getting hammered prior to being placed on the DL — 46 runs in 59 innings in his previous ten starts — and I sorta hope the injury explains why. Would be nice if he came back pitching like he did last year.
Thursday: Nova has been diagnosed with inflammation in his rotator cuff and has been placed on the 15-day DL. The treatment is just rest and medication, and he won’t pick up a baseball for at least five days. I expect the club to be very conservative given the Pineda stuff, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Nova has already pitched his last game of 2012.
Wednesday: Right-hander Ivan Nova is headed back to New York to be evaluated after complaining of tightness in his throwing shoulder last night. He felt something pull in the back of his shoulder while throwing a fastball to the final batter of the sixth inning. Joe Girardi said that Nova is expected to miss at least one start and is a candidate to be placed on the DL. David Phelps will remain in the rotation for the time being and CC Sabathia is due to come off the DL on Friday.
Obviously any kind of shoulder problem is a concern, especially with the Michael Pineda fiasco fresh in our memories. Nova has been extremely durable throughout his professional career, and the only other arm injury he’s dealt with is the forearm strain that forced him from Game Five of last year’s ALDS. As poorly as he’s pitched of late, Ivan is an important part of the club and the Yankees will surely be conservative.