Coming into the 2016 season, the Yankees had to make a decision about who should be their fifth starter. Towards the end of June, it’s still looking like the Yankees made the right decision in choosing CC Sabathia. He’s experiencing a career renaissance and we’re debating his chances at winning Comeback Player of the Year. Ivan Nova, Sabathia’s competition for the rotation spot, was sent to the bullpen. With a 162-game season, however, it’s impossible to make it through with just five starting pitchers. Sabathia and Luis Severino were placed on the disabled list and Nova finally got his chance to be in the rotation.
Initially it looked like as though Nova belonged in the rotation. In his first three starts Nova pitched to the tune of a 1.65 ERA (4.91 FIP) and really impressed. I’ll admit to being one of Nova’s biggest doubters and wanting nothing to do with him in the rotation, and those first three starts had me wondering if I was wrong. The six starts he’s had since then have reaffirmed my initial doubts. Ivan Nova does not belong in the rotation and the Yankees would be wise to remove him.
After giving up only one run in each of his first three starts, he’s given up at least four runs in five of the six starts since. His 5.50 ERA (4.78 FIP) in that stretch leaves plenty to be desired. The only quality start he had came against a pretty bad Los Angeles
Mike Trouts Angels team. Nova doesn’t have much to offer in terms of an arsenal, as he is predominantly a two-pitch starter, so that could explain his struggles. Plus his FIP from his first three starts even indicate that he wasn’t pitching as well as his numbers would indicate. Whatever the case is, the Yankees need to stop sending him out there every fifth day.
Nova would be an understandable option in the rotation if there was no other choice, but the Yankees actually have other options. The most obvious option that comes to mind is Luis Severino. The young phenom was 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA in his seven starts before going on the disabled list in May with right triceps strain. After two weeks on the disabled list, Severino was healthy and ready to pitch. The Yankees, however, took this as an opportunity to demote Severino and let him work out stuff at Triple-A, where he’s looked like Severino again.
In his most recent start in Triple-A, Severino pitched an absolute gem.
Since being demoted, Severino has pitched really well for the RailRiders. Since joining the Triple-A rotation, Severino is 3-0 with a 2.52 ERA (2.85 FIP) and looking like the pitcher everyone thought he was. His numbers are even lower (2.25 ERA, 2.74 FIP) if his rehab start for High-A Tampa is taken into account as well. Obviously the small sample has to be considered, but still it looks like Severino is back on track.
Previously, I wrote that Severino should have stayed with the Yankees and worked out his problems on the major league level. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Yankees chose not to listen to me and sent him down anyway—crazy, right? Perhaps the Yankees will listen to me now and bring Severino up and give him Nova’s rotation spot. This would help the Yankees not only now, but also in the future.
Severino has ace-like potential so obviously he instantly is a boost to the rotation compared to Nova. Nova has his random moments of brilliance where he gives the impression that he’s a good pitcher, but Nova on his best days is still not as good as Severino. The other fact is that Severino has dominated the minor leagues, so pitching down there isn’t helping him out in the long run either. He needs to figure out how to attack big league hitters and shockingly, that can only be done at the highest level.
After Saturday’s performance, Joe Girardi said that he still wanted to see more out of Severino. He watched the game and noticed an improvement, but again wanted more from the outing. This is not the first time Girardi made such comments either.
"It's location. Consistency is the big thing. You see some really good pitches, some well-located pitches, but it's consistency and here (in the majors) you can't leave ball in the middle of the plate or they get hammered. So I think a lot of times you have to look beyond the numbers."
The fact that Girardi has been closely watching Severino’s games shows that the team does seem keen on bringing him back up at some point. While I think the time for that is now, it seems that the Yankees and I are once again at an impasse. Just because they might feel Severino isn’t ready doesn’t mean the Yankees should feel stuck with Nova either. Chad Green and Luis Cessa, acquired in the trade that sent Justin Wilson to the Tigers, are also options to at least temporarily take a rotation spot.
Green, who had an underwhelming MLB debut, has been dominant this season in Triple-A. In 12 games started he has a 1.83 ERA (2.38 FIP) with 67 strikeouts and only two home runs given up. Cessa has not been quite as dominant, but still pretty solid. In seven games started he has a 3.86 ERA (4.76 FIP) and 21 strikeouts. Either of these numbers would represent an upgrade over Nova’s.
Nova next pitches tomorrow against the Rockies, so maybe another bad outing from him could force the Yankees’ hand, especially the way Severino’s pitching. Even if not Severino, the Yankees have options and could very well make things interesting. Although now that I wrote this, Nova’s probably going to a pitch a no-hitter just to shut me up.
What do you think the Yankees should do?
*Season statistics provided by FanGraphs