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.