Ivan Nova is good, but can be better for the Yankees
By Benjamin Orr
Do records truly indicate everything? Well, let’s take a look back at 2010, a year where Phil Hughes won 18 games. To anyone, 18 wins shows that the pitcher is more than likely the ace of the staff. Is Phil Hughes the ace? Far from it. Is he a bad pitcher? No way. The New York Yankees found something special in Ivan Nova and I’ll give him credit, winning 14 games in your rookie season is amazing. However, the ERA is a whole different side to a pitcher. What was Phil Hughes’ ERA at the end of 2010? 4.19. What is Ivan Nova’s current ERA? 4.64 with an 8-2 record. Yes, Nova is a good pitcher, but you know what this says? He has an offense that provides him more run support than any team in the league, unless you count the Texas Rangers this year. Ivan Nova is young and has time to settle down and find control of his pitches, but until then, his wins are a direct result of the offense.
One thing Ivan Nova struggled with a lot, and still does, is his command. He allows quite a lot of hits as his opponents do have a .290 batting average against him. In 77.2 innings pitched so far in 2012, Nova has allowed 88 hits, 40 of those translating into earned runs. His walk ratio has not been to bad as on average, Nova walks anywhere from one to three batters a game, sometimes less. The stat that does impress is his strikeouts this season as he has 69 so far. He had a 12 strikeout game against the Cincinnati Reds and usually gets anywhere from four or more strikeouts a game. Nova also lasts pretty far into games as well, usually reaching the 7th inning, however he did reach and pitch the entirety of the 8th inning in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays a week ago.
Nova’s WHIP is a high 1.42, which is mainly due to the amount of hits he gives up. More often than naught, the Yankees’ offense has had to bail Nova out of some games. In his outing against the Los Angeles Angels, Nova gave up five runs in 6.2 innings pitched. Typically, a pitcher who has a bad outing like that will not get a win, but a loss or sometimes a no-decision (if they’re lucky). Fortunately enough for Nova, and well the Yankees in general, he was able to come away from that with a win. We saw Phil Hughes do this a lot in 2010. Let’s break down Phil Hughes’ 2010 season:
18 wins, 8 losses
4.19 ERA (83 runs given up, 82 were earned)
1.248 WHIP (162 hits allowed, 58 walks)
176.1 Innings pitched
That’s really not ideal for a starter (aside from the record of course), but then again, Hughes coming out of the bullpen to the starting rotation was a mystery enough. My biggest example of how records really mean nothing is Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Doug Fister. Before going to the Tigers, Fister was a hard luck loser a lot of the time with the Seattle Mariners. His career numbers (with the Mariners) before going to Detroit are as follows:
12 wins, 30 losses
3.81 ERA (171 runs given up, 160 were earned)
1.238 WHIP (389 hits allowed, 79 walks)
378 Innings pitched
Now, it’s probably unfair to compare a career to just one season, but the point is, Fister’s numbers did not coincide with his record. In fact, he walked only 21 less batters in two years than Hughes did in only one. Fister also had a lower WHIP than Hughes did and had better command. To speculate, Fister’s record should have been around 25-17, but that’s just a guess. That shows however the differential in run support. Fister should have had a much better career record, but did not as Seattle hardly gave him any run support. That is not the case for Hughes and Nova in New York though. The bats of the Yankees have always bailed out pitchers who were in a jam and it’d be a shame to see Nova have to rely heavily on his offense for the rest of his career.
Ivan Nova does have an advantage that Phil Hughes never had; he’s always been a starting pitcher. Phil Hughes was so used to bullpen pitching that he became somewhat comfortable in that role and even was speculated early on that he may get a shot at closing games, however that was before David Robertson came along. Nova is a good pitcher, but he’s not great. He can get much better and at 25, he definitely has the time to find his control. Until then, Nova is a guy who can get the job done, but will need his offense to help him out. Lately though, Nova has shown vast improvements in his last two appearances, only allowing one earned run in a total of 15 innings pitched with 11 strikeouts, two walks and nine hits. Perhaps this Nova as of late is the one all Yankee fans are hoping we’ll have for a long time.