Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Good Was Ivan Nova Yesterday?

The answer would be "very good."  Nova rebounded nicely from his rough outing last time against the Blue Jays, throwing strikes and attacking a weaker lineup that was not familiar with him.  He got ahead in a lot of counts early and put hitters away with ease the first time through the lineup, and more importantly, showed some toughness and ability to work out of jams when they started adjusting to him the 2nd and 3rd time through the lineup in his last 2 innings of work.  All in all, Nova continued to justify his place in the rotation while the question marks continue to swirl around him.

Through the first 4 innings, Nova allowed just 2 hits and struck out 5 batters.  He was working quickly and economically, and the Orioles didn't seem to have any idea what he was doing.  In the 5th he ran into a little trouble, and his at-bat against Matt Wieters wasn't good (fell behind 3-0, gave up a 2-run homer on a meatball), but that was really Nova's only mistake of the day and he was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.  Particularly telling was his inning-ending strikeout of Ty Wigginton after the Roberts double and intentional walk to Markakis in which he threw 3 straight curveballs that Wigginton swung and missed at.  That takes some balls to throw those pitches with runners on and talent to make them look appealing enough for a batter to not lay off of, and is something that I would bet A.J., Javy, and Phil couldn't do right now.

Nova got himself into another 2-on, 2-out situation in the 6th before retiring Cesar Izturis to end the threat, once again working out of self-made trouble created by wild pitches and intentional walks.  To be able to bear down and get an out after throwing 4 straight balls is something that we've seen plague other pitchers, but Nova handled it coolly and calmly.

At the end of the day, Nova's line looks very good by any standards: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 ER, 6 K.  But his total performance was actually better than those numbers indicate.  He threw first pitch strikes to 19 of the 26 batters he faced, a very solid 73.08%, and while his strike percentage (60/91 or 65.93%) doesn't blow you away at first glance, you have to remember that 8 of those balls thrown were intentional.  Eliminate those and re-calculate and you get a better strike percentage of 72.29% (60/83), which is much more indicative of how well Nova pitched yesterday.  He threw strikes, was usually ahead in the count, and did not unintentionally walk anybody.  He pitched more than well enough to win and only lost out on one because of the pathetic Yankee offense.

Once again, Nova pitched beyond his limited experience and continued to impress as a vital member of this year's rotation and a potential asset to the back end of the 2011 rotation.  At this point he is more of a known commodity than other younger Yankee pitchers, and he doesn't have the "blow you away" stuff of a Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos, but Nova can certainly hold his own in the Majors and should continue to be a key contributor for the Yankees going forward.

P.S.- 3 innings of scoreless, hitless, walkless, 6-K relief to back up Nova wasn't too shabby either.

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