Last year's disastrous 2012 was rock-bottom for Ivan Nova. Seemingly every start, especially during the second half, was filled with booming extra base hits and quick exits for Ivan. That was sort of the same early on in 2013, but recently something has clicked. Over his past five outings, Nova has pitched well enough to the point where, dare I say, he has inspired some confidence to those who watch him every fifth day.
After tossing eight innings of one-run ball last night against the Royals, Ivan Nova has pitched to a 2.35 ERA and 2.58 FIP in his last five outings and 34.1 innings. Three of those five outings were starts while the other two were relief appearances and they came against the Mets (in relief), the Rays, the Orioles (in relief), the Orioles again, and finally the Royals on Wednesday.
These five appearances weren't exactly bunched together, though. His relief outing against the Mets came in a blowout on May 29. This was his second outing since April 26 due to elbow inflammation before getting sent down to Triple-A for nearly a month so he could get some regular starts in with all five spots in the big league rotation already occupied.
Nova made his return on June 23 after pitching well for the Scranton RailRiders; the Yankees needed another starter since they played a doubleheader against the Dodgers earlier in the week. Nova was OK against Tampa (6.2 IP, 3 ER), but allowed 12 base runners in those 6.2 IP, and apparently it was enough for him to stick around. This seemed odd because keeping Nova on the roster meant having six starters and a short bench for a team struggling mightily on offense, but not so much with pitching. The decision to keep him around, however, is looking like a good one.
The having-six-starters-and-short-bench problem was solved when David Phelps was placed on the DL. Because of this, the Yankees could slide Nova into the rotation and then activate Eduardo Nunez so the team could have a full four-man bench again. Nova has responded by pitching 17 innings of three-run ball in his last two starts against the Orioles and Royals. Altogether, Nova has been so good of late that he is now pitching to an impressive 3.63 ERA and even more impressive 3.01 FIP on the year. That 3.01 FIP is backed up by strong strikeout (9.35 K/9), walk (2.77 BB/9), and home run (0.5 HR/9) numbers.
While those numbers are impressive, they don't come without a small sample size warning. After all, this run comes after just five outings and a couple of hairs under 35 innings pitched. We also have to remember that we're dealing with someone who was horrible in 32 games from 2012-June 2013. Either way, Ivan is will continue to get starts with Phelps still on the DL and Michael Pineda continuing to inch closer back to the big leagues, and he has earned it. Even though it's highly unlikely he'll be this good moving forward, I don't think it's quite out of the question that he's capable of being a solid mid-back end of the rotation starter in the future. This would definitely serve some value for a team that'll potentially have to replace three starters for 2014 and beyond.