Could Ivan Nova be the 6th man?

Remember yesterday, when I said that, since the Yankees don’t have many real holes on their big league roster, the local media generally has to make mountains out of molehills to gin up something for people to panic over? Wheeeeee!

Which brings us to young Ivan Nova, the Yankees’ pitching prodigy whom Anthopoulos just as easily could have been talking about. The 25-year-old Nova was about the Yankees’ most consistent starterafter CC Sabathialast year, turning in a superb 16-4 rookie season in which he was undefeated (12-0 with a 3.25 ERA) in his last 16 starts and finished with a 3.70 ERA. But in his first two starts this spring, Nova has been anything but consistent, especially with the location of his bread-and-butter fastball, and while it’s only a total of 87 pitches in the Grapefruit League, it’s enough to warrant some concern about whether this may be another example of the “volatility” of youth.

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So everyone seemed to be in agreement that Nova’s location problems are nothing more than the rustiness of early spring. At the same time, however, no one talks about the importance of Nova to the rotation, for all his youth and inexperience. With the uncertainty of Hughes, the work-in-progress that is Michael Pineda and the unfamiliarity of Hiroki Kuroda with the American League East, whether the Yankees like it or not, Nova projects as their No. 2 starter off what he accomplished last season.

So let me see if I’ve got this right: Ivan Nova struggled in his second outing of spring training because he was having trouble commanding his fastball and getting ahead in counts (though he did work a 1-2-3 inning in the first), though his pitching coach and manager are just chalking it up to spring rustiness. Still, the is a BIG DEAL, because Nova is a Young Pitcher and thus cannot be afforded the right to have some time to shake the rust off, if he doesn’t come into spring training ready to perform like it’s mid-August it’s a sign of immaturity. You have to earn the right to use these games as tune ups for the regular season, even if you’re apparently the team’s number two starter. Although, to be fair, I guess Nova is being given that title by default since the 2011 All-Star who struck out nearly four more batters per nine innings pitched than Nova while walking slightly fewer in 5.2 more (regular season) innnings is a work-in-progress due to the inconvenient fact that he has just two plus offerings while Nova has an array of eight different pitches with precision command of each one on a level that would make Greg Maddux proud pitched in the American League East last year.*

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The over/under game

It’s Friday, so let’s take it easy here. There’s less and less to write about every day and I’m a bit fried this week, so here’s a fun game to pass the time on a Friday morning. It’s simple: I’ll throw out a player and a stat, you tell me if you think he’ll go over or under that number. Feel free to add your own in the comments. Have a great weekend! Russell Martin: 105.5 games caught Mark Teixeira: .495 SLG Robinson Cano: 29.5 Home Runs Alex Rodriguez: 130.5 Games Played Derek Jeter: 165.5 Hits Brett Gardner: 50.5 Stolen Continue reading The over/under game

Nightly Links: Nova, Robertson, Hughes

The Yankees have now lost four straight games. It was a 6-1 loss motivated by Ivan Nova‘s shaky command, giving up 5 runs over 2.2 innings. David Phelps went 2.1 IP and went scoreless with 2 walks and a hit. The rest of the pitchers also struggled with baserunners, Cabral, Betances, and Burawa each allowing two men on within their single innings. Offensively, Colin Curtis scored the only run of the game with a homerun, and Ramiro Pena went 2 for 3 with a double. (Box Score) The biggest and worst news today was on David Robertson‘s ankle. The man Continue reading Nightly Links: Nova, Robertson, Hughes

Poll: Prospect Most Likely To Breakout This Spring

At the moment, any vacancy on the 25 man roster appears to be open for a reliever. Regardless, a strong enough spring could force management to consider one of the organizational prospects. Zoilo Almonte has impressed the most so far, going 5 for 6 with a double and a triple. Top prospects, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos were scoreless in their debuts. Last year’s Scranton starters David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell were also scoreless, with teammate Adam Warren giving up one run through his first two innings. There’s also David Adams going one for four so far, a strong bat Continue reading Poll: Prospect Most Likely To Breakout This Spring

Bold Prediction: Phil Hughes The Number Two Starter

In my first post here at TYA, I was optimistic about Phil Hughes due to a relationship I saw between FIP and velocity. I don’t necessarily think that the faster he pitches the better he’ll be, but perhaps the relationship depends on good health or confidence. Regardless, we watched the right hander make his debut on Tuesday, and Hughes was hitting 93 on the radar gun. As I speculated in my previous post, Hughes’ work at Athletics Performance Institute this winter could bump his velocity to numbers we saw the last time he worked out there. During the 2008-2009 offseason, Continue reading Bold Prediction: Phil Hughes The Number Two Starter

The Incredible Disappearing Opposite-Field A-Rod

(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) Alex Rodriguez‘s home run off of Roy Halladay this past Sunday, meaningless as it seemed from a statistical standpoint, was actually more important than you might think because of the swing he took to hit it.  It was a compact, balanced, fluid swing that drove the ball to the opposite field with power, and in terms of the eye test it passed with flying colors as it represented a part of A-Rod’s game that has become increasingly absent over the past four seasons.  As he’s dealt with his litany of injuries, A-Rod has Continue reading The Incredible Disappearing Opposite-Field A-Rod

David Robertson getting MRI on right foot

Update: Uh-oh. Word out of Tampa is that the Yankees are “concerned” about D-Rob’s injury, and that he’s going to get more tests, including a CAT scan and a weight-bearing MRI. That’s not something that makes you optimistic about this clearing itself up before Opening Day.

Via Bryan Hoch, David Robertson fell down some stairs last night and sprained his foot. X-Rays came back negative, which is definitely a good sign, but the Yankees are sending him for an MRI today to determine how bad the injury is. Not welcome news by any means, but hopefully it’s just a minor thing aN. Robertson will be ready to go next month. Continue reading David Robertson getting MRI on right foot

Great moments in axe grinding

Bill Madden is a funny guy:

Scouts familiar with the Yankee minor-league system have their doubts about both Banuelos and Betances, at least for the near future. The reason is the manner in which Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras babies starting pitchers. It gets to the point where they often lack command on all their pitches or fail to get the necessary experience of pitching out of their own jams. In 27 starts at Double-A and Triple-A last year, Banuelos pitched more than five innings only five times. For Betances, it was only eight times in 25 starts.

As one scout who frequently saw both of them last year said Monday: “If they’re so conditioned to coming out of the game after five innings in the minor leagues, how are they supposed to be able to help the big club? In the end, it’s all about endurance and location and while they both have good stuff, neither one of them can consistently locate his spots. For me, that would be a concern — to still be the case by the time they’ve reached Triple-A.”

Now I’d take this “report” with a large grain of salt, in no small part because Madden has long had an axe to grind on the topic of pitch counts, innings limits, etc, but also because it really doesn’t make any sense if you apply a little bit of though. The idea that pitchers need to “work through their jams” and this is why it’s wrong to keep an eye on how many pitches they throw in a game is brought up not infrequently, but I can’t ever really figure out the logical progression at work here. Are there minor league starters being taken out in the first inning or two because they put a couple of runners on base? How often do you see big leaguer pitchers get to 100-110 pitches in the 5th or 6th inning, load the bases or put a couple of runners on, and not have the manager go to the bullpen to get out of the jam? And what, pray tell, does a pitch count have to do with whether or not a 21-23 year old Triple-A pitcher has good command of his fastball? This isn’t to say that Banuelos and Betances don’t go deep into games but, as much as anything, that’s probably because of their high walk rates and difficulty commanding their pitches.

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April and the Rotation

The trickiest thing when managing a starting rotation is attempting to strike the ever delicate balance of rest and optimization. While a four man rotation–hence, three days rest–may get a teams ace more starts, it’s possible that, unless closely monitored, the pitchers will get overworked. But even with today’s five man rotations, there are occasionally opportunities to skip the fifth starter and give that start to the staff’s ace. We saw the Yankees use this strategy last April, as they were able to take advantage of some off days. This April, the Yankees have just two off days, and only Continue reading April and the Rotation