(More like Nova The Awesome)
Last night Ivan Nova didn't have his best stuff. Certainly not the kind of stuff he had when he dominated the White Sox in his previous start. But in place of that, he had composure, which he used to navigate his way through 6 innings of 3-run ball, results that don't speak to how well he actually was pitching before losing the strike zone in the 7th. Nova only got 2 swings and misses on his 59 strikes last night and had no strikeouts at all, but he located the ball just well enough to not let himself get hit hard and induced 14 groundball outs.
It was the kind of outing that could have turned ugly for Nova, and the kind of outing in which we would expect other Yankee pitchers (cough, cough, A.J.) to completely fold. But Nova showed he's got some hair on the peaches, he's learning how to pitch smarter at this level, and that he's more than capable of being a major contributor to this rotation. And for a guy who has been the first name chosen to get booted from the rotation a couple times this year, that's reassuring to see.
Nova now has 11 wins on the season, most amongst AL rookies. He's made 19 starts, thrown 112.1 innings, and his 3.85/4.27/4.11 tripleslash is ahead of all his season projections, as are his K/9 (5.37) and BB/9 (3.28) rates. There's nothing about Nova's numbers that jumps out initially, but when you look at the big picture and realize that he's outperforming all expectations while passing the eye test of improvement with flying colors, you have to give the guy props. Ever since he stumbled out of the gate in April, Nova has consistently seen his ERA and FIP go down while his K/9 rises. He's learning on the job, applying the techniques that are being taught to him, and getting very good results. And now he might very well be positioning himself for a spot in the postseason rotation, something that probably seemed out of the question on Opening Day.
This season-long improvement has me excited about Nova's future and the potential for him to be a #3-type starter instead of just back-of-the-rotation fodder.