Bartolo Colon could start on Saturday. Phil Hughes may not need another rehab start, per Brian Cashman. If they both come back soon, the Yankees could be left with “too much pitching”, at least in terms of the rotation. They would have those two to go along with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. So, unless the Yankees want to go to a six man rotation (which would be stupid), they’re going to have to boot someone from the rotation.
Obviously, Sabathia and Burnett aren’t going anywhere. Colon has most definitely pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, and Hughes, despite early struggles, deserves another shot. That leaves one of Garcia or Nova as the odd man out, and both have statistical and anecdotal cases to stay in the rotation.
Garcia’s posted a 3.28 ERA with a 4.07 FIP (101 FIP-; in this version, over 100 is worse than league average) and a 4.18 xFIP (107 xFIP-). Regardless, he’s done a good job of keeping runners from scoring (78.9% strand rate) and has pitched about as well as the Yankees could’ve hoped.
Ivan Nova’s ERA isn’t quite as shiny at 4.26 and his FIP- is 113 (4.51 FIP–lack of strikeouts and relative abundance of walks huts) and his xFIP- is 108 (4.23 raw xFIP). He’s certainly had some ups and downs, but this about what we thought he’d do.
Freddy Garcia could be suited for the bullpen since he’s able to go multiple innings and that can be incredibly valuable. That’s really about it for Garcia.
Ivan Nova throws hard and has been better when facing a lineup for the first time. His stuff could play up a bit in the bullpen and like Garcia’ he provides the ability to go multiple innings.
If Garcia isn’t getting guys to bite at his not-so-impressive stuff, he’s going to get himself into trouble.
Ivan Nova doesn’t have the greatest control in the world and doesn’t strike guys out at all. Those two things do not bode well for relief pitchers.
So, what to do?
I’m a bit conflicted here because I don’t think either guy has necessarily pitched poorly enough to be demoted to the bullpen. I wouldn’t mind seeing Garcia shift into a relief role because he probably doesn’t have a future with the Yankees. Nova, on the other hand, could be a back-of-the-rotation mainstay for at least a few years. I know that’s not exactly the greatest compliment, but it’s worth noting. The Yankees definitely seem to have faith in him, and I can easily see his future being a huge factor in the Yankees’ thought process. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that the Yankees are more likely to push Garcia into the bullpen. But if I had my way, I think I would rather have Nova in the bullpen while keeping Garcia in the rotation.
Garcia has pitched just slightly better than Nova and I just don’t think his stuff can play up as a reliever like Nova’s can. This also helps the Yankees in terms of depth since they can stash Nova in the bullpen and use him to replace Garcia if/when he blows up. I’m not confident in Nova becoming a strikeout guy in the bullpen, but I think his fastball/curveball combo could play well there when he doesn’t have to get through a lineup multiple times. It would suck to have to cut his season short, but if Colon and Hughes are added to the rotation, I’m not sure you can say any longer that Ivan Nova would be one of the five best starters the Yankees would have.