The alternative title to this post was "Ivan has gone supernova." I steered away from that tasty pun as I didn't want to step on Stacey's toes too much - yet I felt the need to reference it somewhere, as I am rather proud of it. And, for what it's worth, I do worry that some might give the term 'supernova' a positive connotation; Nova simply doesn't deserve that.
Through Nova's first three starts, it seemed as though the Yankees might have caught a break in the back of the rotation, as he pitched to the following line - 16.1 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 1.65 ERA, 67.3 GB%. There were chinks in the armor, as he allowed a home run in each start and failed to pick up swings and misses (which led to a 4.93 FIP), and his .224 BABIP was bound for regression ... but we had seen Nova pitch competently before. His sinker was sinking, his slider was sliding, and his control was spot on. Unfortunately, those warning signs turned into disaster in relatively short order.
Over his last seven starts, Nova has pitched to the following line - 39.0 IP, 52 H, 13 BB, 33 K, 6.92 ERA, 47.8 GB%. On the bright side, he started striking people out at a close to league-average rate. And then there's everything else. Nova has allowed at least one home run in ever start, and has become more flyball prone in general. He's allowing harder contact, and putting more runners on-base via the free pass. And his numbers in this stretch look awfully similar to what he did in 2015 (6.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 5.07 ERA, 49.0 GB%). We are three years and a couple of injuries removed from Nova being an average or better pitcher, meaning that this may just be who he is now. The 29-year-old will be a free agent at season's end, and there might not be much worth salvaging.
The issue then becomes filling Nova's spot in the rotation. But, given the baseline that he has set, I would argue that that isn't really an issue at all. Chad Green's performance at Triple-A (81.2 IP, 61 H, 19 BB, 82 K, 1.54 ERA), absolutely merits another shot, and Luis Cessa would not need to be stretched out all that much. Dietrich Enns was recently promoted to Triple-A (he has been quite good this year), and Jordan Montgomery shouldn't be too far behind. And, of course, Luis Severino is still working his way back to the Majors. Or, if the status quo is your thing, old friend Phil Coke is stretched out at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as well.
Over the last several weeks, we have talked about the value of finding out what the Yankees have in their system. Nova feels like a lost cause at this point, and there are a handful of players in the upper minors that could step into the back of the rotation relatively soon. While none are guaranteed to be an upgrade, figuring out whether Green or Cessa has a future in the rotation is the sort of thing that a mediocre team should do.