Grading the Yankees: Ivan Nova


Two words come to mind when trying to describe Ivan Nova’s 2012 season: “frustrating” and “yikes.” The two terms are not mutually exclusive, as Nova failed to replicate the success he enjoyed in 2011. Much of that success and Nova’s ability to “just win,” belied many deep issues, and those emerged with a vengeance in 2012, ultimately costing him his spot in the rotation and postseason roster. With that said, let’s take a closer look at Nova:

Even Ivan Nova thought his 2012 season stunk. (Image: Tom Szczerbowski, US Presswire)

While one should always look at peripherals when examining pitchers, even Nova’s superficial numbers in 2012 are pretty ugly. He sported an inflated ERA of 5.04 across only 170 IP, leading to a deceiving 12-8 record. With a WHIP of 1.468, Nova allowed 196 hits. Additionally, for all the consternation about Phil Hughes’ tendency to give up the long ball, Nova wasn’t much better, allowing 28 homers with a 1.5 HR/9 IP ratio, a pretty significant number for anyone, let alone a ground-ball pitcher. An unfortunate reoccurring trend from Nova was also his tendency to walk batters, giving up 56 walks this year coupled with 10.3 H/9 IP. More troubling, 87 of the hits surrendered went for extra-base hits (28 homers, 7 triples, 52 doubles). To put that in perspective, Nova allow the most extra-base hits, second-most doubles, and 12th most homers in all of Major League Baseball. By enjoying significant run support and “pitching out of trouble” in 2011, much of the ability of Nova to win masked many of his struggles that fully came to fruition in 2012.

Digging a bit deeper, Nova’s RAA rating took a staggering plunge in 2012; while his RAA was +15 in 2011, it crashed to a -9 rating; effectively, Nova was worth -9 runs in games. Considering the talent in the division that’s not exactly a recipe for success, particularly when coupled with the Yankees’ frustrating inability to hit for long periods of time. Meanwhile, Nova had just a .4 WAR and 11 RAR (as compared to 3.0 and 34 RAR the previous year). Not shockingly, and most importantly, the Yankees’ winning percentage was less than .500 when Nova was on the bump, clocking in at .494.

Interestingly, not all of Nova’s numbers are ghastly. In 2011, Nova produced 5.3 K/9 IP, but in 2012, his K/9 IP spiked to 8.1. For a guy who has an above-average ground ball production, Nova’s success largely depending on his ability to strikeout batters. In all 12 wins, his average number of strikeouts was 4.81 with a 2.27 ERA; by comparison, in all eight losses, the average number of strikeouts was 2.67 with an 8.83 ERA. Similarly, in a no-decision situations across 176 ABs, it was 1.44, with a 5.19 ERA. (It’s fair to say that with such an inflated ERA in ND contests, they were probably more likely the result of failing to pitch five innings more so than leaving a game while the score was tied.) In at-bats where batters fell behind 0-2 or after two strikes, opponents hit .168 and .167 off Nova, respectively. The bottom line is that without location, Nova got hit hard. As with any pitcher, lack of location can lead to disappointing results. That said, the fact that Nova gave up a ton of extra base hits definitely led to his demise this season, from Spring Training right through losing his spot on the playoff roster (though June was a pretty solid month).

Given the high expectations after his success in 2011, 2012 was an abject disaster for Nova. Given the injuries to the starting rotation that could have proved devastating, and an offense that often looked absolutely inept, he failed to help the team in any tangible way other than consume innings. Now that Joe Girardi has announced that four rotation spots already claimed by CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Hughes, Nova’s 2012 has left him in a position to compete for a spot in Spring Training with David Phelps. Given Phelps’ impressive rookie campaign, if Nova has a spring remotely resembling this season (or last spring, for that matter), his spot on the 2013 team will be remain a question mark.


  • Needs to focus on control of pitching
  • Must be less generous with the extra-base hits
  • Confident


Conclusion: Ivan Nova was an all-around mess in 2012. For the future of the team as they dramatically slash payroll to get to $189 million (though, you can absolutely win with this, it’s just about distribution of the money, which hurts the Yankees), and need cheap, good pitching, Nova needs to find himself again in 2013. He showed promise in 2011, but it remains to be seen whether that performance was by luck or ability. To compound the issue for him, his performance this year didn’t earn him cache with the team, but rather sets competition for a spot in the rotation already announced for 2013 and rumors of him being trade-bait as the Winter Meetings concluded in Nashville. As for 2012, fans of the team, and probably even Nova himself, are just glad it’s over.

**Please check out our Grading The Yankees page for more player grades **