The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Yankees postgame: Nova deserves old job back07.05.13

Ivan NovaThere’s no room at the moment for Ivan Nova, and yet doesn’t it seem like it’s time to make room again in the rotation? He has been excellent since he has been back from the minors, especially in this 3-2 win over the Orioles, his first career complete game. And it came with just three hits and one walk allowed, plus 11 strikeouts.

Nova would seem to have more of an upside than David Phelps, especially if the 26-year-old righty has indeed found his old consistency that abandoned him a year ago.

The Yankees could give him a start again with just nine games to go until the All-Star break. Eventually, though, they may have to make a decision. Plus, they have such a short bench with 13 pitchers here.

Joe Girardi said: “I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but he’ll probably start again.”

Nova said he had everything working, including that mid-90s fastball, some changeups and again that great curveball.

“His curveball was about as good as I’ve seen a curveball from anyone,” Vernon Wells said.

Nova was told along the way by a couple of teammates that the Yankees were going to win this game, and he believed it, too.

“I never thought we were going to lose,” Nova said. “I was positive the whole night.”

It took Baltimore’s shaky closer to help shake out a couple of runs in the ninth. Jim Johnson blew his sixth save in 35 chances and dropped to 2-7. His ERA rose to 4.02. One of the two runs in the ninth was unearned thanks to Johnson’s error on Brett Gardner’s bunt. But David Adams helped as well, opening the ninth with a single. And Wells helped with his ground single to left to touch off the celebration.

The Yankees not only won their season-high-tying fifth straight despite struggling offensively again, but they snapped their five-game losing streak against the Orioles, improving to 4-6 against them.

“That team over there has had our number,” Wells said. “They’ve played well against us even in the games that we’ve won. … We were just able to come through late (tonight). But we need to win games like that. We haven’t done it enough. We were doing it early in the season. Hopefully we can get back to doing that.”

Hiroki Kuroda felt good after his bullpen session and will be slotted back into the rotation if his hip flexor feels the same Saturday.

Eduardo Nunez went 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in his rehab game with Trenton against Reading. Besides Derek Jeter and Michael Pineda being scheduled for rehab work Saturday night with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against visiting Lehigh Valley, Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for a rehab game Saturday night with Single-A Tampa against the Brevard County Manatees at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 188 Comments →

Yankees postgame: Nova throws an encouraging start06.23.13

Ivan NovaIvan Nova doesn’t want to go back to Triple-A. He made a statement why he shouldn’t have to in this 3-1 loss to the Rays.

The 26-year-old righty got called up for the spot start and left with two on and two outs in the seventh in a 1-1 game. He ended up being charged with three runs and seven hits. He struck seven, six with curves, walked three and hit two — both after he got the first two outs in the seventh.

“He was consistently throwing strikes,” Chris Stewart said. “… Repeating his mechanics has been a problem in the past, but for the most part he was good today.”

Asked if he pitched well enough to stay, Nova said, “I’ve got to say yes. Here is where you want to be.”

Joe Girardi was happy with the effort, too. Nova made three starts after being sent down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi didn’t want him languishing as a long man here. Nova sees himself as a starter, too.

Asked about whether Nova stays or goes back down, Girardi said, “I have no idea what we’re going to do.”

Perhaps this will turn up the pressure on Phil Hughes to start being more consistent. Hughes’ next start has been pushed back to Thursday against the Rangers at the Stadium. Girardi said it’s “to try to keep everyone closer to a regular turn (and) a couple of extra bullpen sessions for him.”

“This is a game where you have to prove yourself over and over,” Girardi said.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon raved about Nova.

“Their guy really settled in,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand why this guy struggles. I have never seen him bad. I don’t know — one of the best pitchers in the world as far as I’m concerned. He gets that hook over and he’s really tough on left-handers.”

Boone Logan gave up a two-run, bases-loaded single to James Loney that broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh, so 10 of Logan’s 28 inherited runners this season have scored.

Brett Gardner went 3 for 4, giving him at least one hit in 24 of his last 29 games and a .336 average over that stretch.

Zoilo Almonte started for Vernon Wells in left the last three games and went 6 for 10 with two doubles (both in this latest game), a homer and four RBI.

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 177 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Old-Timers’ Day06.23.13

Paul O' NeillThe Old-Timers were brought out for the intros, nearly 50 of them. El Duque is among the first-time Old-Timers here. Orlando Hernandez is living in Miami, playing a lot of golf and spending time with his family, and he has a baseball academy for kids.

“It’s a big day for me,” he said.

His best Yankees memory?

“For me, everything is a good memory,” Hernandez said. “When you play for the Yankees, everything is good.”

As usual, there was a long sustained ovation, appropriately, for Bernie Williams. Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra came out last, driven in a cart from a gate in the center-field fence, waving along the way. Berra is 88 and Ford is 84.

After the Old-Timers’ game, Ivan Nova will take the ball in the real game, back from Triple-A to make the spot start. Joe Girardi indicated it has yet to be decided if Nova is staying.

“Obviously when you have a taste of this life, you don’t want to be in the minor leagues,” Girardi said. “This is the place where every player dreams about being. So you have to figure out a way to put yourself in a situation where they can’t consider sending me down. The trick is not getting here. The trick is staying here.”

Thomas Neal was sent down to make room for Nova.

Photo by The Associated Press.

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 613 Comments →

Nova a bright spot for Yankees, plus injury updates, Overbay situation05.30.13

Ivan NovaIvan Nova really hasn’t had too many good moments since the first half of last season, but the 26-year-old righty was one of the bright lights on an otherwise dark night for the home team at Yankee Stadium Wednesday.

He was working in the long-lost game against the Mets, entering for the fifth with the Yankees trailing 8-1.  He allowed just one run and five hits with six strikeouts and only one walk across the final five innings of the 9-4 loss.

“I was throwing a lot of strikes and I was aggressive,” Nova said. “It’s a good one.”

In the eighth, he struck out the side, getting Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and Ruben Tejada swinging.

“The curveball was really good,” Nova said. “Once I get ahead, I go with my curveball. That’s my strikeout pitch.”

Nova knows he has to prove that he’s worthy of being put back in the rotation after posting a 6.48 ERA over four starts and then spending April 27 through May 23 on the DL with triceps inflammation and a back problem. He pitched into and out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th inning and earned the win last Saturday at Tampa Bay in his first relief outing after returning. This second outing brought his ERA down from 6.11 to 5.16.

“I’m really excited about the way I’m pitching,” Nova said. “The way I pitched today, I’m pretty happy with myself.”

It would certainly be a boost for the Yankees if he can pitch like this consistently and regain the form when he went 16-4 as a rookie in 2011 or 10-3 in the first half last year.

Also, here’s the link to my story on last night’s game. The Yankees have scored just nine runs in the four-game losing streak. Here are updates on Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. And I spoke with Lyle Overbay and he’s loving his time here and wants to stay no matter what the role after Teixeira’s return.

Photo by The Associated Press

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 239 Comments →

Yankees postgame: More injuries04.27.13

The Yankees certainly aren’t having any luck in the injury department. They keep dropping. Add Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli to the list.

Nova left with pain around the right elbow area. Joe Girardi was still waiting for the MRI results after the game. He was under the impression the problem was in the triceps connecting to the elbow. Nova complained of a little stiffness after the second inning, but he wanted to try to go in the third. After he hit the first batter and gave up a single to the second, he was done.

“We went out there and asked him; he said he wasn’t OK,” Girardi said.

Cervelli only lasted five pitches. Leadoff batter Rajai Davis fouled a ball off the back of Cervelli’s right hand. Surgery is set for Saturday. The catcher will be out at least six weeks.

“It’s disappointing, and I know it’s real disappointing to him because of all he’s been through to get to this point,” Girardi said.

Girardi said he’ll play the catching situation by ear with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, coming up now from Triple-A. Romine was batting .333 with a homer and four RBI in 14 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Stewart said the 24-year-old righty hitter has “got a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of getting experience up here.”

Phelps would seem to be the logical choice to replace Nova, but Girardi said he wanted to wait a few days before announcing anything. Phelps had a 6.23 ERA in five outings before the game. He said he had struggled with the mentality of coming out of the bullpen, that he has been a starter basically his whole career. He said he has been better in these longer outings.

And he was good in this one, four innings, one run, two hits, nine Ks. The strikeout total was not only a career high. It was the most by a Yankees reliever since Jay Howell fanned nine over 4 2/3 in 1983. Phelps is the first Yankees pitcher to strike out at least nine in four innings or less in the Live Ball Era.

Despite all the injuries, the Yankees keep winning. They’re 13-9 overall, and 12-5 since April 7.

At the postgame press conference, Girardi expressed his happiness over what this team has achieved to date.

“Injuries are part of the game,” Girardi said. “It’s part of life. I’m sure everyone in here can attest that life doesn’t go exactly the way we want it to sometimes. But when you’re able to accomplish things and go out and continue to win games, it’s very satisfying. I’m proud of what these guys have done so far. We’ll keep fighting and we’ll keep finding ways.”

Toronto, meanwhile, has found ways to go 9-15, probably the biggest disappointment in baseball so far after all its acquisitions.

“I’d say that we’re just not playing good enough to win right now,” manager John Gibbons said.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 381 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Eyes on Nova; Wang in wings?04.26.13

Ivan Nova has a power arm and he’s only 26, but at some point the Yankees’ patience is going to have to run out if he doesn’t start showing some consistency again and if a viable alternative emerges. By the way, Chien-Ming Wang is 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA after two starts at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“I’m not looking to make a change,” Joe Girardi said. “Our organization isn’t looking to make a change. We want to get guys going.”

When Nova steps on the mound tonight against the Blue Jays, he will bring along a 6.14 ERA and a 1-1 record constructed over three starts. He was 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA over 11 post-All-Star-break starts last year after going 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 18 pre-break starts and 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011. Girardi isn’t questioning now if Nova will ever be the same.

“I believe in my heart that he has the ability to do that, to get back to that,” Girardi said. “So I’m not at that point. I don’t really have a date that I would be at that point, because I believe in our guys and I believe in him. I’ve seen him do it. I’ve seen him be dominant at times. We just have to find the formula to get him back there.”

Girardi emphasized that Wang was signed during spring training for depth. The 33-year-old righty has been through some major injuries since his great years for the Yankees. He gave up three runs, only one of them earned, and four hits over 6 2/3 in a loss to Columbus Thursday after allowing no runs and six hits over 5 1/3 in a win over Syracuse in his first start last Saturday.

“I’d probably take it seriously when I hear reports that are glowing reports that he’s throwing the ball really well,” Girardi said. “I don’t think you can make too much out of two starts. I think you have to see how a guy responds start after start after start, going every fifth day. But we’ve all seen him pitch at a very high level. If he can get back to close to that, he becomes a viable option for us.”

Kevin Youkilis is still not a viable option to be in the starting lineup. This will be his sixth straight game sitting at the start because of lower back tightness.

“He’s better,” Girardi said. “He’s still not quite there. We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”

It’s getting to the point where the Yankees could think about the DL if the progress stalls.

“It’s been a week now,” Girardi said. “So I think you look and see where he’s at tomorrow and then you make a decision what you’re going to do and when you think you’re going to get him back.

“They don’t think it’s an issue where he needs a test. Keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow.”

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 97 Comments →

Nova gets the start and needs to start turning it around04.05.13

Ivan Nova’s last start in Detroit was symbolic of his dreadful second half for the Yankees in 2012. The Tigers beat him Aug. 6, homering twice and tagging him for seven runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings.

His second-half numbers came in at 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA across 11 starts after going 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA across 17 starts.

This year, the 26-year-old righty’s first three spring outings came with a total of one run allowed. The last three came with at least four runs allowed each time. Nova’s last one, against Class A hitters March 27, came with seven runs allowed in five innings. He was trying to make mechanical adjustments, though.

Nova will make his first regular-season start Friday in Detroit. There’s the need for him to start dispelling some doubts, although Joe Girardi gave a generally positive review of his exhibition work.

“Pretty good spring,” Girardi said. “I think he had better command of his fastball. For him, it’s consistency. If he’s consistent and he’s consistently down and on the outer thirds, he’s going to be pretty good.”

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 440 Comments →

Pinch hitting: Matt Hunter02.01.13

Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Matt Hunter, who recently graduated from Carleton College with a degree in philosophy. He works at a software company in Madison, Wisconsin but does a lot of baseball writing for Yanks Go Yard, Big Leagues Magazine, and Beyond the Box Score. 

For his post, Matt found the bright side in a disappointing season.

It’s easy to be pessimistic about Ivan Nova. His ERA jumped from 3.70 to 5.02 in one year, he gave up a whopping 87 extra base hits (compared to 52 in 2011), and he all but fell apart in the second half of the season.

But here’s the thing; I feel better about Ivan Nova’s future now than I did one year ago. You heard me. The 2012 season gave me optimism, not pessimism, about Nova.

Mind you, this is not the same as saying that Nova was better in 2012 than 2011. Why? Because there is a difference between results and talent. Nova had horrible results last season, and those results were largely a product of his performance on the field – no one is denying that. However, Nova showed significant improvement in one essential aspect of his game, an aspect that happens to be the single most important factor for predicting future pitching performance.

I’m referring to strikeouts, of course. In 2011, Ivan Nova struck out 14% of all batters that he faced. In 2012, Ivan Nova struck out 20.5% of all batters that he faced. Using raw numbers, he struck out 153 batters last season compared to only 98 in 2011, despite only pitching five more innings.

More advanced numbers back up these increased strikeouts. In 2010 and 2011, 6.8% and 6.6% of all pitches that Nova threw were swung at and missed. In 2012, that number jumped all the way to 9.0%. A 2-3% difference may not seem significant, but over the course of a season, that’s about 60 additional pitches that were swung through.

That’s nice and all, but why does it matter? Well, strikeouts are the single most stable aspect of a pitcher’s performance year to year. More stable than walks. More stable than home runs. More stable than wins or ground balls or ERA.

Being stable isn’t enough, though. After all, the number on a player’s back is stable, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the pitcher’s performance or talent. Luckily, strikeouts are not only stable, but tell us a lot about how the pitcher will do in the future. Strikeouts per nine innings has one of the strongest correlations with the following year’s ERA of all statistics. In fact, strikeout rate correlates better with ERA in the following year than ERA itself!

What does this mean for Nova? Well, first of all, we should expect him to improve if only because almost any pitcher with an ERA that poor will regress back towards the mean in the following year. However, even more than that, Nova’s significant jump in strikeout rate indicates a major improvement in his stuff which, in turn, indicates that he is primed for a bounceback year.

Associated Press photo

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Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 467 Comments →

The Nova mystery11.21.12

Ivan Nova obviously has ability, but as we saw in the second half, he misplaced it somewhere.  He went 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA after the All-Star break, and finished 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA and a .288 opponents batting average. Plus, the Yankees didn’t let him near the mound in the postseason.

I asked Brian Cashman during Tuesday night’s conference call about his concern level about him going forward.

The GM didn’t sound too worried.

“I feel really good about Nova,” Cashman said. “He’s a good young arm. His maiden voyage a year ago was terrific, and he finished strong. He won one of our two playoff wins the previous year. And then this year, sophomore growing pains or whatever you want to call it. But at the same time, his strikeout total soared and his walk total reduced. So it was an interesting year for him.

“The stuff is there. He’s a good, young, under-control, not-even-arbitration-eligible starter with a boatload of experience, both positive and negative. I, without a doubt, consider Nova a rotation starter in the majors. It’s just, where’s he going to slot himself as we go into 2013? At the back end or toward the middle of the rotation.

“So that’s how I look at Nova. The equipment is there. His determination is there. Like anything, you get on the right side of the mountain, when you’ve got the positive things rolling, with his ability, you can take off. If you get on the wrong side of the mountain, you have to struggle through it and fight through it. That’s how he ended up in the end, where he was on the wrong side of the mountain, probably of confidence. But that’s nothing I worry about with him. He’s a very confident guy.”

This is the link to my story today for The Journal News and LoHud.com about the positive move of re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and a quick summary of Tuesday’s happenings. But I didn’t have room for Cashman’s take on the current rotation, minus Andy Pettitte, at least for the moment:

“On paper, we do have five starters. If you go through it, you’ve got CC, Kuroda, Hughes, Nova, Phelps, but we would certainly like to add to that and lengthen it and deepen it and strengthen it.”

Your take?

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 195 Comments →

Cashman relieved; Jeter projection11.20.12

Brian Cashman had a conference call tonight with reporters in conjunction with the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda.

“It’s a relief to know that Hiroki is back,” Cashman said. “… It’s a short-term deal that provides flexibility as we move forward and gives us an important, valuable arm to our rotation.”

Cashman didn’t have any update on Andy Pettitte’s thinking as far as a return.

He did say: “The pitching is our priority and has been our priority. So we’ll continue on those efforts.”

Cashman did talk up Ivan Nova as a starter despite his second-half struggles. He said Michael Pineda looked good recently throwing on flat ground, but that the Yankees aren’t ready to count on him yet for the rotation. He said the Yankees are still in talks with Mariano Rivera, and that he had no concerns over the closer’s reconstructed knee. Cashman also had praise for the Blue Jays’ big offseason.  And here’s Cashman’s view on Derek Jeter’s return following his broken ankle.

“He’ll be our Opening Day starting shortstop,” Cashman said.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 242 Comments →

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