Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Expecting Ivan Nova to boost Yankees’ rotation begs disappointment

Note: This post has been updated at the end to account for Nova's start Wednesday.

What New York Yankees’ right-hander Ivan Nova has accomplished – returning from Tommy John surgery after 14 months away from the game – is undeniably commendable. It takes hard work and determination to rehab from this surgery despite its commonplace. But, it is not fair and completely disillusioned to expect Nova to be anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. He’s not saving this team’s suddenly shaky pitching staff.

Ivan Nova
Photo Credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
Forget the fact that Nova has not been on a Major League mound since April 2014; he was never more than an inconsistent middle-of-the-rotation starter to begin with. And that’s being kind.

Nova apologists can point to his rookie campaign in 2011 when he went 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA (4.00 FIP), and I’ll note the inconsistencies within the season (he allowed four or more earned runs in eight of his 27 starts) and he received enormous run support (5.95 runs per game).

Next I’ll remind Nova supporters of his sophomore season where his ERA (5.02) and FIP (4.60) skyrocketed. They’ll counter with 2013. Once again, that season was constructed by very uneven phases. At one point in 2013, Nova was so bad, the club demoted him. Finally, 2014 was awful, though I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the elbow was the factor there.

Nova has been a characteristically average pitcher where it concerned walk rate (3.0 BB/9) and strikeout rate (6.8 K/9) through his career. When he is going well, he generates ground balls, and when he is not he has a tendency to allow balls to leave the yard (1.0 HR/9 for career).

Nova has not been especially sharp in his rehab appearances. He compiled a 4.02 ERA in 15.2 combined innings at High-A and Triple-A, but the Yankees want to run with a six-man rotation for a little bit and need Nova in order to do so.

In the short term, the Yankees hope Nova can give them some length and ease the burden recently placed on the bullpen. Over the long haul, the club hopes he finds some consistency and that he can channel the strong stretches from his past more often than not. I’m here to warn you not to get your hopes up.

Updated 6/27/15: Nova tossed 6.2 innings of scoreless ball in his return Wednesday. A great start indeed. I'm still not going to buy into Nova's long-term prospects here, simply because its almost par for the course where it concerns him. It would not shock me if Nova has a bad outing in his next turn, or throws a few good games before reverting backwards for a few. That's his modus operandi. I've become skeptical of Nova's performances because of his inconsistencies described above and one good performance is not going to change my perception.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.


  1. Nova is what his track-record says he is; a three-pitch pitcher with a good fastball, an average breaking ball, moderate command, unremarkable control, and an injury history.

    He'll have this year and next year to make his case for a big contract, and it will be up to the prospecting team to see whether he's improved (such as mastering a fourth pitch) that will allow him to age gracefully.

    To this point, he wouldn't warrant more than a one-year contract at 5 million (similar to Capuano).

  2. My perception of Nova has always been an unreliable pitcher with good potential but cursed with a laissez-faire competitive attitude. One never knows what to expect from him but I believe he will help them out and be an asset to the team.

  3. Tanaka is a number 2
    Pineda is a number 3
    Warren is a number 3
    Nova is a number 4 who pitches like a 2 or a 5
    CC is a AAA starter
    Eovaldi is a number 4 (a 5 who will give you 200 IP)

  4. Terry, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. That's a pretty good evaluation. I cannot see him grabbing a big contract based on what we've seen so far. I'd bet he'll end up elsewhere when he becomes a free agent.

  5. Hi Les, thanks for the comment. I actually believe he can log some innings, but that's about all I'll expect from him. Like you said, he's mostly unreliable.

  6. WalDan, thanks for the comment. These are all good evaluations of the staff at this time.

  7. I agree with you mostly.. Nova got my hopes up in 2011 with a fairly decent rookie year.. After that, it was a roller coaster and you never knew which pitcher was coming to the mound.. However, I do prefer to have him on the rubber instead of Sabathia, Eovaldi or Capuano and would have chosen him last year over Greene, Nuno, Phelps, Whitley or Capuano.. I am sure he will leave the Bronx with free agency and will sign a decent 2-3 year deal to be a #3 or #4 on a west coast team with a pitchers park.. Volquez got $10m a year from the Royals so it is not out of the question for Nova to get that or more per season..

  8. Thanks for reading and the comment. Very fair statements. Pretty amazing what average (at best) pitchers get on the open market, isn't it?

  9. Couldn't agree more.. I was absolutely shocked when Capuano landed $5m this past off season..