Ivan Nova Must Pitch Out Of The Bullpen In The Playoffs

By Hunter Farman

It has been a tough 2012 for New York Yankees pitcher, Ivan Nova. In what can only be described as the proverbial, “sophomore slump,” Nova has not been as dominant as he was in his breakout 2011 campaign. Nova has spent time on the disabled list with what was described as, “arm fatigue,” and has just not been effective since the All-Star Break. Going into the month of July, Nova was one of the Yankees best pitchers, posting a 9-2 record with an ERA around 4.10. However since that time, Nova has gone 3-5 with and ERA of 6.13. Nova has also been unfortunate enough to see nearly every statistic worsen between 2011 and 2012. Because of this, if the Yankees make the playoffs, Nova must not be in the starting rotation.

Considering the fact that Nova pitched fairly well in the 2011 ALDS, it would be an awkward move for the Yankees. In the 2011 playoffs, Nova posted a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 4.32. He gave up four runs over the course of two games and struck out eight over 8.2 innings pitched. Nova was able to get the win in the series opener, pitching 6.1 strong innings in relief of CC Sabathia, who originally started game one for the Yankees, until rain postponed the game until the next day. What is not remembered by some people is that Nova was forced to leave a deciding game five of that series with a tight forearm, restricting him to only two innings pitched, and he left the Yankees trailing 2-0 in that game. The Yankees would go on to lose that game, and the ALDS.

However despite Nova’s decent 2011 ALDS, he simply can not be trusted to start in the playoffs this year. The only month this season in which Nova has not posted an ERA over 5 was in June when he pitched to the tune of a 1.26 ERA. The facts about Ivan Nova this year are right there. Hitters are batting a scorching .331 against Ivan Nova this year. That is certainly not a statistic that would leave one very trusting of a pitcher – especially in the playoffs. While Nova is striking out more hitters and walking less compared to 2011, he is letting up more homeruns. His ERA has also jumped to a total of 4.94 this season, after posting a very respectable 3.70 in 2011. It seems that in almost every Ivan Nova start this season, he puts the Yankees in a position to lose. Unfortunately with the sometimes anemic hitting of the Yankees, that is not very promising.

The Yankees are in luck, however. It looks as though they will not need Ivan Nova to be a starter in the postseason anyway. Seeing as the Yankees are used to going with a four-man rotation in the playoffs, Nova would be the odd man out. You are most likely to get a quality postseason start out of Sabathia, Andy Pettitte will give you clutch performances, and based on what they have done this season, it is possible to trust both Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes as starters in the playoffs.

Having Nova pitch out of the bullpen would also mean that they would not have a need to add Freddy Garcia to the postseason roster. Both Nova and David Phelps would work as the long-men coming out of the ‘pen. This would allow the Yankees to take another player to suit their needs. This could be another utility player, another bullpen arm, or even a pinch runner such as Brett Gardner.

Whatever the case, it has been evident this year that Ivan Nova simply can not be trusted. He has pitched poorly for much of the season, and has put the Yankees in a bad position in nearly every game he has been in. Being a long-man out of the bullpen during the playoffs would help the Yankees because he could be of some use should one of the other starters have a bad start. However, I am sure that Joe Girardi would go to Phelps before he goes to Nova. Of course, there is always the possibility of the Yankees opting to not even add Nova to the postseason roster. While unlikely, it is definitely not something to rule out at this point.

Nova has two more starts left this season, one of which will be tonight. He must prove something to Girardi and Yankees’ brass if he wants a chance to be with the team in October, even in a bullpen role, which is where he must be in the playoffs.


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