There’s a saying in baseball that you can never have too much starting pitching. It’s hard to disagree with that statement. Pitchers are highly volatile players when it comes to both performance and health. Ballparks, defense, opponents, and a number of small sample size factors can easily trick the most attentive analyst into thinking a pitcher is more or less effective than they actually are. The rate of injury for pitchers also far outweighs that of position players, and this season pitchers are clocking in around 50% more days on the DL.
In general, it’s good to have excess pitching, but the Yankees are in a circumstance that puts even more emphasis on their young arms. As the rotation stands, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have been their two most reliable pitchers after CC Sabathia. Kuroda, 38 years old, and Pettitte, 41 years old, just happen to be two of the oldest pitchers in baseball, meanwhile the team’s ace, Sabathia, is fresh off elbow surgery. Though he’s producing with the same consistency after 9 starts, he’s showing a significant drop in velocity. That’s not to say their starting pitching has been anywhere near bad or inconsistent, their team pitching WAR currently ranks 5th in baseball, but if anyone needs a “plan B”, it’s this team.
The Yankees have had some unfortunate luck when it comes to injuries, but the bulk of time missed has come from position players. Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova are the only two starters sitting on the DL, and in comparison to the rest of the league, their days on the disabled list for pitchers ranks only slightly above average. With these two guys missing time, the Yankees have finally allowed their second string starters to see some starts, and we’ve witnessed some very strong performances from unexpected places.
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(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
The lone bright spot in
last Monday night’s absolute stink pot of a game was the Major League debut of Vidal Nuno. After being released from the Cleveland Indians’ A-ball affiliate following the 2010 season, Nuno has worked himself up through five levels of the Yankee MiL system in just a little over two seasons and put himself in a position to capitalize on an opportunity when Ivan Nova went on the DL. While so many people focus on what Nuno isn’t when labeling him an automatic non-prospect, I put more stock into what he is when I evaluated him and included him in this year’s AB4AR Top 30 (30th spot). He might not be big, he might not throw hard, and he might not have devastating offspeed stuff, but he’s still before his prime at age 25, he throws strikes, he has outstanding command, and his offspeed stuff is just good enough to strike a fair amount of batters out. As a lefty, that’s not a bad skill set to possess.
Nuno’s greatest quality, at least as it relates to the current Yankee roster, might be his flexibility. That ability to pitch in multiple scenarios, paired with the aforementioned left-handedness, could make Nuno a very versatile bullpen piece for Joe to use as he sees fit.
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With all the bad news about injuries, some of the positives of Spring Training have been overlooked. We’re only a few weeks into the pre-season, but the team’s young pitchers have looked incredible. Some of the stand outs include David Phelps(who’s given the team 14.0 innings with 10 hits and 1 run), Ivan Nova (5.0 innings with 4 hits and 1 run), and Jose Ramirez (9.0 innings with 4 hits and no runs). The first two have been competing for a starting position this March, and Jose Ramriez is a rising Yankee prospect, so early success wasn’t exactly unexpected. What’s come as a surprise is Vidal Nuno, who’s pitched 11.1 innings, given up 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, and 15 strike outs.
Despite the obscurity, Nuno has been very successful in the minor leagues. Just two years ago, the Yankees took a flyer on the Independent League pitcher at the age of 23. In 2011, he put up a 1.24 FIP in Low-A, than a 2.80 FIP in Charleston. In 2012, he was promoted to High-A, where he pitched just 24.1 innings with a 2.99 FIP, before being promoted to Trenton. In Double-A, he continued striking out batters 21.5% of the time, kept his BB% low at 5.8%, and managed a 2.45 ERA and 3.35 FIP. So for those new to Nuno, you’re probably asking why you’ve never heard of him.
He’s perceived as old, especially for the competition that he dominated. His 114.0 innings in Double-A came at the age of 24, which would have been far more impressive if he were a few years younger. Still, Nuno was not facing teenagers in Trenton, and he held himself well in the early promotion. The left-hander is also considered small, at 5 foot 11 inches, Nuno is far from the Randy Johnson type of southpaw. He typically sits in the high-80′s and can hit the 90′s with his fastball. An older, short, finesse pitcher with success in Double-A is easy to ignore.
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