Thoughts on Ivan Nova

The Detroit Tigers could get used to hitting against Ivan Nova.

In his three starts against the Tigers (including his 2011 inaugural postseason start), Nova has gone 0-3 pitching 19 innings, given up 29 hits posting a WHIP of 1.90, and provided 17 earned runs while striking out 18.

But there’s always a first time for everything, right…?

If the Yankees happen to find themselves looking over at Detroit in October, Girardi and Co. would do well to find a way to keep Nova off the bump.

Regardless of Nova’s struggle against the Tigers, the bigger picture is a slow regression of a pitcher who started the season with much promise.  At one point, you could have argued he was the best pitcher on the staff.

And yet that’s all in the past as “Super” Nova has slipped into some sort of pitching narcosis.  He has not produced a win since July 8th against the Red Sox where he went six innings giving up one earned run.  Prior to that, Nova was on a five game win streak from May 25th through June 17th; his only bad outing coming against the Angles going six and two thirds and giving up five earned runs.

Since July 15th, Nova’s ERA has billowed to 8.36 with a WHIP of 1.82.

More importantly, since the All-Star break the Yankees are 11-12 and have seen their division lead slip to 5 ½ games.  While that’s a decent amount of breathing room, the Bombers need to make sure they get enough quality starts out of their patchy rotation.

Nova especially, who looks to have about 10 more starts left this season.

After Monday nights lambasting, a dejected Nova stated, “I’ve got to work harder, try to get the next one better”.

Girardi and Martin both pointed out that Nova’s power pitch, the slider, has not been working for him.  “It’s not one pitch in particular, they’re hitting everything”. Despite that, his fastball velocity was great, clocked at 95 MPH.

Nova did seem to have his control last night but left way too many pitches up over the plate.  The result was 11 hits and two home runs.

Too many hits/base runners have been a complication for Nova, more so than walks.  This season, teams are hitting .288 against Nova, and he’s given up 160 hits in 138.1 innings. Nova has also allowed at least seven hits in 14 of his 22 starts.

With 50 percent of his starts considered quality (11 out of 22), Nova isn’t just consistently up and down.  He tends to ride a wave that progressively gets higher, reaches a high water mark, and plummets to a thunderclap.  The good thing is he still has his confidence, though maybe not as augmented as his “best pitcher in the world claim”.

“My confidence level is up”, a seemingly assured Nova stated.

Be that as it may, it’s apparent that he needs some sort of spark, some inspiration.  I knew when Andy Pettitte returned it would pay dividends to the pitching staff, (particularly for Nova) either on the mound or in the dugout.  While Sabathia is no doubt the veteran anchor, the unspoken leader is Pettitte.

And it appeared to have a very positive effect on Nova.

During Pettitte’s 2012 tenure, prior to his stint on the DL, Nova pitched pretty well going 5-1 with an ERA of 3.75 having Andy in the rotation.  One situation in particular reinforced my desire to get Pettitte back in the rotation along side Nova.  As reported by Kieran Darcy of ESPNNewYork.com, after Pettitte’s June 5th start against the Rays, he walked into the dugout after being pulled in the middle of the seventh inning.  He turned to Nova and said “Your turn tomorrow”.

“That makes you motivated”, said Nova.

He answered Pettitte’s challenge by giving up one run on four hits through eight-plus.

Nova may or may not have Pettitte to sit by his side next season and the fact remains that, at 25, this could be the turning point in his career.  To become a front of the rotation starter like he has shown in bursts, or be doomed to be a number four or five guy fighting each start to prove your legitimacy to stay in The Bigs.

Right now, the idea of handing the ball to Nova with a series on the line is a scary apparition.

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