Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York Yankees: Ivan Nova is consistently inconsistent

The New York Yankees hoped Ivan Nova’s completion of the 2013 season was a sign of things to come. Maybe, just maybe he had figured out pitching at a high level for an extended period of time.

After two starts into the regular season, and seasons worth of ups and downs, it is apparent to me at least, that Nova is never going to be an elite starter. He might never be a very good starter.

Nova recorded the win in his first outing of the season, but was effectively wild. He walked five batters in that game but was able to induce four ground balls into double plays. The rally cry was that he was resilient and worked around his troubles. He fought hard and it would be different in his next start. Different? Yes. Good? No.

Tuesday, in his first start at Yankee Stadium in 2014, Nova was knocked around by the Baltimore Orioles. He allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits including a home run in 3.2 innings pitched. Hey, he didn't walk anyone though!

Nova’s effort put the Yankees into a 7-1 hole and they went on to lose the game 14-5 to the Orioles, evening their record at 4-4.

Nova did not have to compete for his job this season as the Yankees were thrilled with his second half performance in 2013. What concerns me is that Nova seems to perform better when he has a chip on his shoulder.

In 2011 when he went 16-4 he pitched against the speculation his season was a fluke. He followed that season up with a 5.02 ERA in 2012. He fought for and won the starter's job in 2013. Then he was given a kick back to Triple-A in 2013 after a rough start of the season. He came back with a vengeance after once again people doubted his abilities.

Personally, I have never been a big supporter of Nova’s. I always felt that his inconsistencies would prevent him from taking the next step. I do think he is good enough to remain a starter in this league, but the perception that he can turn into anything beyond a number four or five is delusional in my opinion.

As I mentioned in my season expectations piece about Nova, even in the seasons in which he was good, he had significant stretches of mediocre or poor performances. Take 2013 for example.

After his poor April (6.48 ERA, .354 BAA and .897 OPS against), Nova went 6-2 from July through August with a 2.06 ERA, .224 BAA and .596 OPS against. He was well on his way to finishing the year strong and then he reverted to an OK pitcher for September going 1-2 with a 3.90 ERA and opposing hitters recorded a .270/.336/.417 line against him.

I had given Nova the benefit of the doubt by speculating 13-15 wins with an ERA in the 3.40 – 3.60 range “if he can eliminate the bad stretches.” So far he has started the season much like last year, poorly, and one has to wonder if this is simply what he is, a consistently inconsistent pitcher.

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.