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The greatness of Ivan Nova is yet to be fully appreciated

Sep 3, 2011, 11:15 AM EDT

New York Yankees Ivan Nova pitches to Toronto Blue Jays in New York

It’s fair to say Ivan Nova is on pretty nice roll right now. He is 11-0 dating back to early June and 7-0 with a 3.45 ERA over seven starts since returning from the minor leagues at the end of July. This includes seven innings of two-run ball in a win over the Blue Jays last night.

Nova is building a pretty strong case to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter in the playoffs and with 15 wins, he should get plenty of votes for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Most sane baseball fans should be content to leave it at that, but Rob Parker of ESPN New York is here to tell you that the greatness of Nova is yet to be fully appreciated.

New York hasn’t seen a rookie stud pitcher like this since Doc Gooden went 17-9 for the Mets in 1984. Of course, Nova doesn’t have the strikeout magic that Gooden had. But he gets outs and wins.

Yes, that just happened. Parker is comparing Ivan Nova and his 3.99 FIP to Dwight Gooden, who had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time when he posted a 1.69 FIP for the Mets in 1984. Making this an argument about wins is about as intellectually lazy as you can get.

I don’t want to take anything away from Nova, because he has pitched quite well recently, but his numbers are actually very close to Jon Niese, who posted a 4.20 ERA (4.10 FIP, 3.89 xFIP) as a rookie with the crosstown Mets last season. A nice year, yes, but Nova’s contributions wouldn’t look nearly impressive if he was pitching somewhere else.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    “Pitching somewhere else”
    “Pitching somewhere else”
    Sorry, D. J., there are 30 teams in MLB and he happened to land here. We score a few runs to back him up, can catch his induced fly balls and he seems to be mature enough to handle all the New Yawk-ese that will shape his career.
    We’ll keep him

    • D.J. Short - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      You’re missing my point. He has pitched fine, but we don’t need columnists to engage in hyperbole. Let’s keep things in perspective here.

      • cur68 - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        That’s right D.J. It’s HBT commenter’s jobs to engage in the hyperbole. How dare these guys step on our turf! This is the sort of thing that requires few facts, a large vocabulary and a propensity for crapping-on in overblown jibber jabber. My Forté, IOW. This giddy fan-boyness that the ESPNers engage in is unbecoming of people who are supposed to be impartial conveyers of dry, stale stuff like facts and figures. Who do they think they are, Andy Rooney?

      • yankeesfanlen - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM

        Well, I certainly know a fluff piece when I see one, they’re all around us, particularly that horribly partial ESPNNewYork, an entity that does everything a bit unbalanced in unpredictable ways, Kind of like Lupica.
        Restating my conclusion: Nova seems up to the task and it’s nice to be able to point to his accomplishments so far and gather hope for the future. One less spot in the rotation to be concerned about. We never could wait for Ian Kennedy to ripen.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        ESPN New York has yet to appreciate the true greatness of Ricky Romero.

      • deathmonkey41 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:51 PM

        I understand what you’re saying DJ, but this is officially his rookie season, so even though we shouldn’t put him in Cooperstown just yet, there is certainly enough promise there to be excited about this kid in the future. I haven’t had this much hope in a Yankees farm system pitcher since Pettite and he was 12-9 with an ERA over 4.00. If this kid becomes the next Andy Pettite, I won’t be disappointed at all.

      • purnellmeagrejr - Sep 4, 2011 at 11:17 AM

        Totally agree – I saw the headline and said to myself, “Self, oh Brother …”

    • kopy - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      I don’t mind Ivan Nova being a Yankee at all, but we should all be able to agree that he is better at “getting wins” than he otherwise would be because he plays in the Bronx. He’s had a good rookie season, but he even got the win against the Royals a couple weeks ago after giving up 7 runs.

      • D.J. Short - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:29 AM

        Right. “Getting wins” isn’t a skill and it shouldn’t be a part of any argument.

      • D.J. Short - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:49 AM

        I should clarify that certain pitchers have an ability to put their teams in position to win, but that is usually reflected in their skills.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        Isn’t getting outs with RISP part of getting wins? Isn’t pitching the game your given – whether it is 7 innings in a 3-2 nail biter or hanging in their for 5+ innings until the pen can pick you up?

        By your method nobody should ever get any recognition if they play in the Bronx. It’s like a penalty. A stupid, silly, penalty.

      • kopy - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:34 PM

        That’s not what I’m saying and you’re being dramatic. Nobody is getting penalized for playing for the Yankees. I’m just saying that win totals should be taken with a huge grain of salt because people can give up 7 runs and get the win or throw a no-hitter and get a loss. This should be common knowledge.

        The Bronx reference is the fact that the Yankees provide enough offensive support to inflate his win totals and allow him this great W-L record. But even with no offense he’s still pitching a good rookie year, which I already said, so I don’t know why you’re claiming my method is to not recognize anyone that plays for the Yankees.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        Dramatic? DRAMATIC?! YOU WANT TO SEE DRAMATIC??!!!
        /s

    • southofheaven81 - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      I’ll agree with DJ. He’s got the makings of a great career, maybe a future ace in New York or elsewhere, but comparing him to Gooden is ridiculous.

      • m056432 - Sep 4, 2011 at 8:03 AM

        Look, Rob Park is usually out of his mind biased and completely over the top. This time, I don’t think he’s that far off. He’s not saying he’s having a better year than Gooden, he’s not even comparing him to Gooden. He’s saying since Doc’s rookie season, no one since has had a better Rookie year as a NY pitcher. Is that not atleast debatable? DJ brings up Niese… Nova has a lower FIP and has more QS than Niese did last year. What amazed me to find out what Niese gave up 6 or more ER 6 times. Nova’s given up 5 once and then the 7ER shelling the other week. I don’t care if your on the Yankees or the Giants (mlb worst 3.36 runs/game) if your constantly pitching 2 or 3 run games you’re going to give any team a chance to win which is why Rob Parker then said “He gets outs and wins”

  2. proudlycanadian - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Nova has been very lucky. He got bailed out of last night’s game by his outfield. Gardiner made 2 great catches in the first inning that saved at least 2 runs. The other 2 outfielders also made difficult catches that saved runs. Once there are runners on base, he slows down his pace greatly. He is not confident at all when there are base runners.

    • southofheaven81 - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      I disagree. Just a couple games ago he got himself into a no-out, men on second & third base jam (I forget against who, I want to say the White Sox or Twins) and he came back with 2 strikeouts and a grounder to third.

  3. southofheaven81 - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    The best thing about Nova so far is his poise. He’s very young & inexperienced in the big leagues, yet when he gets himself into a jam or gives up a couple of runs (like he did last night in the 1st) he can settle himself down and pitch a great game anyway. CC has that ability, and AJ absolutely doesn’t.

    • deathmonkey41 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM

      southofheaven? Slayer fan?

      • southofheaven81 - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:36 PM

        Damn right.

      • deathmonkey41 - Sep 3, 2011 at 8:43 PM

        My man!

  4. FC - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I wouldn’t put much stock into his FIP right now. I don’t really think there’s enough of a sample size. This is a common mistake a lot of people fall into. Give me three seasons worth of data before I give more weight to FIP. Pitchers are still developing in MLB in their first couple of years… of course he could just continue to play as is since his H/9, HR/9, K/9 and BB/9 are not really remarkably different from last year, so maybe his FIP is more relevant than is usually the case.

    • Bryz - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      Career 4.04 ERA/4.08 FIP/4.10 xFIP

      Even though he’s only made 30 career starts, those numbers are stunningly close. He still has the ability to change (and a ~4 FIP pitcher is definitely valuable) but so far, what we’ve seen is what you’ll get out of Nova.

      Besides, you may not put much weight in a 3.99 FIP, but considering it’s close to his season’s 3.89 ERA, it’s a good sign that he won’t have a lot of regression in the future. This concludes the only time I’ll say something positive about a Yankee.

    • Kevin S. - Sep 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM

      Actually, the opposite is true. FIP works best anywhere from 1-3 seasons. I think even Tango has said that after four years, he’d use ERA (or RA) instead. That’s why a lot of people like fWAR for single-season analysis and rWAR for career perspective.

  5. paul621 - Sep 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    I don’t think he’s being compared to Gooden at all. Saying “he’s the best since…” actually means Gooden was better than Nova, or the author would have gone back even farther. If he picked a pre-Gooden comparison point, then I’d agree. It’s like saying, “Wow, that C I got in history class is my best grade since my A in math.”

    • ThisIsBaseball - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      You hit the nail square on the head.

    • southofheaven81 - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:37 PM

      I’d replace C with B+, but yes, you’re pretty much exactly right.

  6. dondada10 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    I’m a die-hard Mets fan, but comparing Nova to Niese isn’t a strong comp. Nova has an ERA+ of 111 this season, where as Niese had an ERA+ of 94 last year and 86 this year. Nova is the better pitcher.

    • D.J. Short - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

      Fair enough, but I’m more comfortable using them in the same sentence than Nova with Gooden. That’s basically my point here. Both good, but not great pitchers. Why do we need to inflate his accomplishments? He’s doing fine.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        Since Gooden, not as good as…

      • deathmonkey41 - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        Hopefully Nova stays away from the nose candy because Gooden wasted a great portion of his career messing with the junk.

      • crpls - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:30 PM

        Unless you’re being willfully naive, you should be able to recognize why a partisan writer invoked Gooden’s name. None of this “WELL HE REALLY MEANT THIS” BS.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        Don’t pretend to know me.

        And I won’t pretend to know what he really meant. I will just read the words:

        “New York hasn’t seen a rookie stud pitcher like this since Doc Gooden went 17-9 for the Mets in 1984.”

        Repeat after me:
        Since.
        Since.
        Since

        Since definition: In the intervening period between (the time mentioned) and the time under consideration, typically the present:

      • crpls - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        It depends on what your definition of “is” is!

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:23 PM

        Thumbs up, crpls.

    • D.J. Short - Sep 3, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      Pettitte had a 111 ERA+ in his rookie year in 1995. What about him?

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        With Pettitte there is the possibility of “as good as”, but Nova is better in the *GASP* Win/Loss totals. This makes the “since” argument with Doc acceptable.

        Besides, Pettitte played in the Bronx, so he is ineligible for comparisons.

  7. yournuts - Sep 3, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    He’s a rookie, give him time to ripen! Let him make a name for himself in New York, lets see what his final numbers will be. He still has a lot to learn about pitching. The last thing he needs is for some columnist to compare him to Doc Gooden in his rookie year.

  8. aburns77 - Sep 3, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    It’s really quite sickening that some writer would even think to compare Nova’s season to that of Doc Gooden. Sure, Nova has been a fine pitcher this year, getting better as time as gone on and in fact his peripherials have gotten better every month, going from a 4+ xFIP in April to a 3.25 last month, but to call him anything more than ‘solid’ is clearly hyperbole. I wasn’t fortunate enough to see Gooden pitch in his prime, but to see the highlights and the underlying stats is to see that Gooden was much more than solid, but rather a revelation. Wins are nice and all and Nova’s on a nice little streak here, but to suggest that he’s even in the same stratosphere as one of the greatest rookie pitching performances (arguably the greatest) is really laughable.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      It’s Rob Parker. The triumvirate of Parker, Matthews and O’Connor for ESPNNY should be avoided at all costs. Same with articles from NYPost and, for the most part, the NYDaily News. If you want Yankee specific information, read the many blogs that provide far more detail, insight and analysis (riveraveblues.com, yankeeanalysts.com and itsaboutthemoney.net for 3 specific ones).

    • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      There is no comparison between Doc & Ivan in the article.

      “…since Doc Gooden..”

      Think of Gooden’s rookie year as a point of reference on a timeline. That is all the author is doing. And he even clarifies that Ivan does not have the same k ability as Doc, just wins like him.

      So please, allow me to be the first thumbs down on your post.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:19 PM

        New York hasn’t seen a rookie stud pitcher like this since Doc Gooden went 17-9 for the Mets in 1984

        That’s making a comparison, and a faulty one at that too. As DJ mentioned, Nova’s numbers are very similar to Jon Niese’s:

        Player A – 10 H/9 – 3.2 BB/9 – 7.7 K/9 – 2.39 K/BB – 4.20 ERA – 4.10 FIP – 3.80 xFIP
        Player B – 9 H/9 – 3.1 BB/9 – 5.5 K/9 – 1.81 K/BB – 3.89 ERA – 3.99 FIP – 4.02 xFIP

        Now, Nova is striking out more guys since his return from the DL, but we need more than 7 starts to see if that’s just a string of luck or he’s actually a different pitcher.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        1970———————-Doc/1984————————————Nova/2011

        Doc’s rookie season is a plot on a timeline. Parker believes that no one between ’84 and ’11 did better than what Nova is doing right now. That is what Parker is saying. He even carifies that Nova does not have the strikeout skill of Doc. I don’t know if I agree with Parker, but I don’t think it is a direct comparison.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        That is what Parker is saying

        And he’s wrong. That’s what DJ and others are saying. In fact, the Yankees had an even better starter than Nova just a couple of years ago:

        ERA FIP xFIP WHIP SO/BB
        Hughes 4.23 4.3 4.17 1.248 2.52
        Nova 3.89 3.99 4.02 1.341 1.81
        Niese 4.2 4.1 3.8 1.463 2.39
        Chamberlain 2.76 2.9 3.38 1.301 2.96

        Chamberlain as a starter was better in ever single category than Nova.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        “Yes, that just happened. Parker is comparing Ivan Nova and his 3.99 FIP to Dwight Gooden…” – D. J.

        Sorry, but D. J. is complaining about a direct comparison.

        And Nova is better than Niese in the numbers D. J. used.

        What year do you cite for Chamberlain? If it is 2008, he started 12 games and pitched 100 innings. He was used more as a reliever, and I hope we can agree that starter/reliever comparisons are dodgy, at best.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 3, 2011 at 3:11 PM

        Those are Chamberlain’s numbers as a starter in 08. Fangraphs has splits per year based on starter/reliever.

      • ditto65 - Sep 3, 2011 at 3:21 PM

        ok – but 12 starts is a pretty small sample size.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 3, 2011 at 4:56 PM

        It’s definitely a small sample size, but some points:

        A – no one was writing an article about how Joba was the best rookie pitcher in NY since Doc
        B – Chamberlain had a far better track record, albeit smaller, in the minors than Nova did
        C – the next time ESPNNY writers use sample size issues intelligently in a post/column will also be their first time

  9. ssazz - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    DJ seems to be struggling with the meaning of the word “since”. The author of the article never at any time said Nova was as good as Doc. Nice try though.

    • ssazz - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:23 PM

      Ah, should’ve read all the comments before posting, Mr Short’s reading acumen, or lack thereof, had already been addressed.

  10. chrisny3 - Sep 3, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Agree completely with D.J. that Parker is over the top and delusional with his mention of Gooden and Nova in the same sentence. But then this is ESPN NY, home to many Yankee shills.

    Wins are not a great accomplishment for a starter who pitches for a team that scores a lot of runs and has a very good bullpen like the Yankees do. So that yardstick is highly suspect. Nova is successful in part because he pitches for a successful team. He is not dominant the way Gooden was. Gooden was flat out dominating in his early years.

    To put the two pitchers in perspective, Gooden in his first two years had an ERA- (ERA that’s league and park adjusted; the lower the better) of 74 and 44. Nova’s ERA- for his first two years is just 107 and 95.

    Even the “since” qualification in Parker’s article is a stretch. Bobby Jones for his first two years with the Mets had an ERA- of 92 and 78 which is much better than Nova’s numbers so far. That covers Jones’ first 220 IP in the majors.

    Nova is a good pitcher, but before he’s put on a pedestal he not only has to pitch better, he has to do it for a sustained period of time.

  11. ssazz - Sep 4, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    Where would the internet be without the fuel of perpetual outrage over nothing?

    I mean, –“Of course, Nova doesn’t have the strikeout magic that Gooden had. But he gets outs and wins.”

    This is the statement deemed so offensive? Why? A guy writing for a local NY fan base for the most part makes a fun little aside, not a thesis statement, and boy howdy then the stats start flying to show how wrong he is, followed by the lectures reminding that Nova still needs to prove himself more first before ….yada, yada, yada.

    “He gets outs and wins” –that’s all the article is underlining (following a night where he did exactly that, again) which happens to be completely true and accurate. Chamberlain wasn’t a rookie starter (and when he was a starter he never saw this kind of sustained success even with superior SO stuff), neither did Niese put a string like this together. And that is the only thrust or point of the article that has so offended. The same line-up hits for the other 4(5) starters in this rotation last I checked as well. Yeah, many see wins as a completely meaningless stat, and rank it at the very bottom when gauging a pitcher’s statistical standing against his peers and the league. Fine, that’s valid. But when the whole objective of playing the games is to win them, can no merit whatsoever be given to a guy who is consistently leaving the mound with his team in position to do just that? Is it all just rotisserie numbers ultimately? (and when Hughes won 18 games after finally becoming a full-time starter again it was definitely in part due to the fact that he lucked out on run support during plenty of those games, so that happens, but Nova has been more about managing opposing line-ups of late. there is a difference) No one is saying he’s Doc Gooden, or Steven Strasburg, or that he’s a Cy Young candidate this year, he’s not. The article is simply noting that you can no longer place what Nova is doing under the “well, we still need to see more before making up our minds” column. He’s doing it, he’s arrived as of now. Who knows what will happen in the weeks, let alone seasons to come? But this season up to now he’s gotten outs and wins for the Yankees and in the process he’s put together this streak for the first time since 1939.

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