Phelps to the Rotation, Nova to the Bullpen, Praise be to Logic

With three games remaining in the season and Nova having struggled mightily (to put it lightly) in five of six months, the Yankees have decided to give Phelps a shot with a veritable first-round ‘bye’ on the line. Nova’s struggles thus far have been well-chronicled, yet it seems as if the onus has been placed on his second half … and I feel that it needs to be said that that is a fairly inaccurate representation of his season. Consider the following splits:

Apr. – 24.1 IP, 5.18 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 3.42 xFIP
May. – 38.1 IP, 5.87 ERA, 5.84 FIP, 4.40 xFIP
Jun. – 35.2 IP, 1.26 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 3.79 xFIP
Jul. – 34.2 IP, 5.97 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 4.01 xFIP
Aug. – 24.1 IP, 7.03 ERA, 4.96 FIP, 3.91 xFIP
Sep. – 13.0 IP, 6.23 ERA, 5.34 FIP, 3.69 xFIP

Yes, ERA is far from a perfect measure of performance. Yes, these are arbitrary endpoints. Yes, these are individually small sample sizes. And, yes, his FIP and xFIP marks paint the picture of a pitcher fighting a losing battle with the luck dragon. However, as A.J. Burnett demonstrated with gusto in 2011 and 2012, there is more than white noise in all of these numbers that needs to be captured. Nova’s command has been out of whack, his pitches have intermittently lost all signs of movement, and, for this, his BABIP and home run rates may be more accurate than something like FIP and xFIP would care to believe.

This is not going to be a complete lamentation on the fact that Nova has been a poor pitcher far more often than not this season, and I am not going to call for the head of Girardi for failing to pull the plug on Nova earlier. Rather, it is a bit of a qualm with the patently incorrect narrative that has sprung up, which aims to paint Nova as a victim of injury or innings, neither of which really works for April or May.

Taking a more positive, if not proactive approach, I also feel that Phelps deserves a shot at this juncture. In ten starts, the rook has tossed 52 IP (which is solid, considering some pitch limits), with 8.65 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, and a respectable 3.81 ERA. The gopherball has been his bugaboo, as he’s surrendered eight home runs in those innings … but, being positive, he did not allow a home run in his last two starts (Red Sox and Blue Jays).

I don’t know what this all means for the remainder of the season or the playoffs, let alone the future … but it’s a worthwhile issue to discuss and ponder.