(Note—most responses were written before Nova’s start on Saturday, but some do reflect his bounce-back effort in Toronto.)
How does the saying go? Ball don’t lie. Well, numbers don’t either; and the numbers on Nova the last month-plus are horrific. In fact, with the exception of June, Nova would probably be in Triple-A right now. Take out June (I know, you can’t do that) and Nova would be 7-6 with a 6.05 ERA and a whopping 1.62 WHIP. So essentially he is John Lackey from 2011, without the mouth-breathing and corrupt clubhouse attitude. It is amazing to think that in June Nova was 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in 35 innings pitched; because if you look at the rest of his season you see a pitcher who does not belong in Major League Baseball.
So, what do the Yankees do with Nova? And realistically, what can they do? The BronxPinstripes Bloggers have lent their suggestions to the New York Yankees brass—whether or not they will take the advice is another story…
Nova, Nova, Nova… what to do with you?! Well, to me, the only thing you can do is let the guy pitch every fifth day so he can get his groove back. Pitching coach, Larry Rothchild, needs to go back to basics with Nova on his work days by re-emphasizing his fastball command. It has been apparent that Nova has been throwing too many breaking balls as out pitches, and not staying on his bread-and-butter mid-high 90s power fastball. His command has been off and that will throw any pitcher into a rut. Nova and Rothchild need to get him throwing hard, and often, and use his breaking balls as support pitches and not as out pitches. There is no other way to get this guy straight other than just keep pitching him. Rest, minor leagues, demotion to the bullpen—all would be counter-productive. Nova needs to work his butt off and start locating pitches, and he will see instant improvement.
In a perfect world you’d love to see Nova sent down to Triple-A to work on mechanics and come back to the team as strong as ever for the playoffs. But realistically we just signed Derek Lowe and can’t afford to lose Nova from the rotation. The best case scenario is he gets with our pitching coach Larry Rothschild to tweak his mechanics.
The bright side is he looked good in his last start: 7.1 innings, 10 strikeouts, and only 2 earned runs against the Jays. Nova is young, and with no other immediate options, I think its best the Yankees ride it out with Nova pitching every fifth day.
With a win-now attitude in the Bronx, it’s usually hard to continue to let young starters try to find their way. Nova has obviously struggled for most of the year, and with David Phelps performing well in the bullpen, the debate to remove Nova for the time being is strong. However, I think the Yankees should stick with him. This is a guy that won 16 games last year as a rookie, and started Game 2 (really Game 1) of the playoffs against the Tigers. Although he got injured in the decisive Game 5, the experience was still very valuable. If anyone has seen Nova’s postgame interviews, you will see he is a very confident player. Perhaps he’s gotten too comfortable here in his sophomore season. His trademark is bearing down in tough situations with runners on and getting his team off the field. You can’t teach that. Andy Pettitte has made a living off of that. I think the Yanks should stick with Nova, good and bad, and in the end they will be happy they did. These are just growing pains.
Super Nova hasn’t had much mid-summer luck even though he was shaping up to be the second man in the rotation, and the guy we felt most comfortable with on the mound with the exception of CC. Nova definitely needs to prove himself soon and get back to his normal self—holding teams to 2-3 runs per game. Will the Yankees attempt to move him to the pen? Perhaps, but he’s really made to be a starter. Hopefully he goes on a strong run through August and September so he makes the playoff rotation.
Another thing to look for is how the Yankees will handle him in the offseason. If he continues to struggle then Nova will not get much in arbitration—if anything at all.
The Yankees have no other choice than to keep rolling with Nova the rest of the way. He has racked up a bunch of wins already in his young career so you have to hope this tough stretch is just a blip and not a trend. At this point in the season, especially with the injuries Sabathia is dealing with and having Pettitte on the shelf, Girardi needs to keep going with Nova. Hopefully his last start (7.1 IP, 2 ER, 10 K’s and the W) is a sign that he is trending back around.
I look at the numbers and I just do not get it. From June 6 to July 8, a span of seven starts, Nova looked to be rounding into the gutsy right-hander that the Yankees fell in love with his rookie season. July 8, on a Sunday night in Boston, Nova threw 6 innings and struck out 10 against the Red Sox when it seemed that the rest of his defense had already left for the All Star break. It was probably the best start of the season for Nova—not by the numbers—but to watch that game and the way he battled was a great feeling if you are a Yankees fan. That’s what has made Nova great in his young career; he does not get rattled and always battles.
Since then Nova has been the worst pitcher in baseball, and the Yankees cannot keep trotting him out to the mound every five days. Start David Phelps in the meantime, send Nova to Triple-A or put him on the 15-day DL for some mental time and hope he gets it straightened out because it is simply not working right now. At this rate Ivan will not get a start in the playoffs—I would see the four games going to CC, Kuroda, Hughes, and Pettitte if healthy. If Andy is not health, the Yankees are better off going with a three-man rotation rather than sending Nova to the mound in October. But the playoffs are more than a month away and there is time to get Nova back on track for the rest of the season if the Yankees act now.
So Yankees fans, what do you think the Yankees can and should do with Nova? Sound off in the comment section below…