(Right now he really is Ivan The Terrible)
If you want to say it was the outing before, I'm not going to argue with you, but for my money last night's start was the culmination of Ivan Nova's season-long descent into shittiness. It's a topic that hasn't gotten as much coverage as it rightfully should if you look at his numbers, mainly because there have always been bigger injury-related stories dominating the headlines or the team still managed to win the games in which he was pitching, but after July's problems and August's implosion it's making its rightful way to the front pages.
What made last night the culmination in my eyes was the fact that, for once, it wasn't a barrage of extra base hits off and over the wall that did Nova in. Oh no, it was an endless string of well-struck singles through, over, and around the infield right into the waiting outfield gaps. 8 out of 11 batters that came to the plate in the 5th and 6th innings got base hits, 5 on fastballs, 2 on sliders, 1 on a hanging curve. It's been easy to say that it was just the extra bases that were causing the problems and the results, and that a little BABIP luck would help even things out. But last night killed that excuse and put the period on the end of the "Ivan Nova just hasn't been good at all this season" sentence.
- There has only has 1 month this year (June) when Nova's ERA was below 5.18.
- There's only been 1 month this year (June) when Nova's FIP was below 4.29.
- In his last 7 starts, Nova has allowed fewer than 1 H/IP just once. In that start, he walked 6 batters. Nova also hasn't thrown 7+ innings in a start since the end of June.
- Nova has pitched a total of 40 innings in his last 7 starts. He has faced 188 total batters in those 40 innings. 70 of those 188 batters have reached base (37.23%).
- For the season, Nova's tripleslash against is .291/.348/.515. His .863 OPS against is 2nd-worst amongst all qualified starting pitchers in MLB, ahead of only Randy Wolf.
- His 283 TB against is dead last amongst all qualified starting pitchers.
- In just his last 2 starts, Nova's line is: 10.1 IP, 21 H, 16 ER, 1 BB, 10 K.
The numbers don't lie. Ivan Nova has been an awful starting pitcher for the Yankees this season, and at the moment he is by far the weakest link in the rotation. He isn't even giving his team a chance to win when he steps on the mound, and with the offense being hampered by injuries and collectively struggling again and the division lead down significantly it's starting to become a real problem. It's not a stuff issue, and it hasn't been all season. Anybody who watches him pitch, even when he's as bad as he's been his last 2 starts, can clearly see that the stuff is there. But he's consistently missing up in the zone with everything, and he's consistently getting hit hard when he does. Whatever Nova has been trying to get back to his high-GB ways has clearly not ben working.
I don't know whether it's mechanics, release point, confidence, or focus, but I suspect it's a combination of everything. This would be the perfect time to send Nova down to Triple-A to work his shit out like the Yankees did last year, but unfortunately they don't have any available options to replace him with Andy on the DL, David Phelps worked back down to relief pitch counts, and Adam Warren inspiring no confidence based on his first Major League start. Nova's struggles also make the Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances situations this season all the more frustrating because this would be the perfect time to justify giving them a shot in Nova's spot if they were healthy/not pitching just as horribly as Nova.
The good news is that the Yankees are still doing enough to maintain their division lead even with Nova killing them every 5th start, and that Nova has time left to work out the kinks. The bad news is that his manager is starting to lose patience with him, which certainly won't help any kind of confidence problems Nova may have, and there is no way to remove him from the rotation and get him in a lower-stress environment to fix himself. Between Nova and Larry Rothschild, they need to work something out or change something up, and they need to do it fast.