What Nova does well for the Yankees is not without precedent. He is in the same mold as Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte. Neither of those two were ever among the leaders as pitchers, they were just good enough to pile up the wins. Pettitte has pitched his particular brand of “good” for so long that there will be a Hall of Fame debate. But we all know that Andy Pettitte has never been an elite pitcher just like Wang in his good years with the Yankees was not elite. The skills they possessed while Yankees is the same as Nova’s: Keep the team in the game, bend and don’t break and pile up the wins. Here is a breakdown of some areas we can compare between the three:
- Pettitte with the Yankees: 3.88 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 9.5 hits per nine innings, 0.8 homers per nine, .635 winning percentage.
- Wang with Yankees: 4.10 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, 9.3 hits per nine innings, 0.6 homers per nine, .679 winning percentage.
- Nova with Yankees: 3.82 ERA, 1.358 WHIP, 9.1 hits per nine innings, 0.8 homers per nine, .750 winning percentage.
Wang started 104 games for the Yankees and in 78 of those starts, he pitched at least five or more innings and gave up four or less runs. That is 75 percent of his starts. Andy Pettitte is even more remarkable in this area as he has made 405 starts for the Yankees and in 346 of those, pitched at least five innings and gave up four or less runs. That is 85 percent. Nova has made 39 starts for the Yankees and in 28 of them, he has pitched at least five or more innings and given up four or less runs. His rate in such events are 72 percent. While Nova’s proficiency for pitching that kind of start is lower than Wang and Pettitte’s, he is eleven of his last twelve in doing so.
And really, that is all Ivan Nova has to do to win like he does. This modern era of Yankee teams has consistently featured elite offenses and strong bullpens with the constant of Mariano Rivera at the end. If a pitcher for the Yankees can survive beyond five innings and give up four runs or less, the odds of winning the game are large. Is it always pretty? No. Does it have to be? No.
Ivan Nova’s first start this season was good enough. It might have been borderline very good with nine strikeouts and zero walks. He gave up ten hits, though, and a homer. He bent, but he didn’t break. And that is all the Yankees need from him, and really, from all their starters. Ivan Nova might draw a few puckered mouths from the stats guys and they are not wrong. But all he has to do is keep doing what he has been doing for the Yankees to keep piling up the wins.