Friday, September 23, 2011

Nova's Season Invokes Pettitte Flashback

New York Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova spent much of the 2011 season trying to prove himself. Since being called back up from the minors on July 30th, he has won eight games and lost zero. In fact he hasn't lost a game since June 3rd.  Nova has easily been the Yankees second best pitcher, after CC Sabathia, since that time. He has so convincingly outpitched his rotation counterparts, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes that he could start Game 2 in next week's American League Division Series.

Yankees fans may remember a young rookie, Andy Pettitte, who pitched himself into the role of Game 2 starter in the ALDS back in 1995. The Yankees were in a similiar position then to go with the most consistent of the remaining starters behind then ace David Cone, despite that fact that Pettitte was a rookie. While Pettitte did not earn the victory in the game, he pitched well enough that the Yankees were able to beat the Seattle Mariners.

Below is a quick comparison of Pettitte's and Nova's (YTD) first full season in the big leagues.

Andy Pettitte
Age W L ERA GS IP ERA+ WHIP HR/9 SO/9 SO/BB
23 12 9 4.17 26 175.0 111 1.406 0.8 5.9 1.81
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/23/2011.

Ivan Nova
Age W L ERA GS IP ERA+ WHIP HR/9 SO/9 SO/BB
24 16 4 3.62 26 159.0 122 1.333 0.7 5.4 1.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/23/2011.

Strikingly similar, and arguably Nova was better. Pettitte went on to win 21 games in his sophomore season and came in second in the AL Cy Young vote. I'm not suggesting that Nova is going to do the same next season, but the chances that this year is a harbinger of future success for Nova is fair at the least. Moreover, I'm confident that Nova will pitch well enough in the playoffs to give the Yankees a chance to win just like Pettitte did in '95. This is certainly more than I can say about Burnett, Colon, Garcia or Hughes.

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