After posting 16 wins in 2011 there were many owners who believed that big things were in store for Ivan Nova in 2012. However, it’s funny how wins have a habit of distorting the truth. If you looked at the numbers (like the lack of strikeouts), there was some definite cause for concern. However, I am not sure anyone saw numbers this poor coming:
153 Strikeouts (8.08 K/9)
57 Walks (2.96 BB/9)
72.5% Strand Rate
Now, the question facing fantasy owners is exactly what should we expect for 2013? First of all, while I wouldn’t consider it a given that Nova is part of the Yankees rotation all year long, there definitely should be ample opportunities for him. Andy Pettitte is likely going to need at least one stint on the DL, CC Sabaia showed signs of breaking down in 2012 and has thrown a lot of innings and Hiroki Kuroda is no spring chicken. Throw in Phil Hughes and his potential to struggle (though that’s a conversation for another day), plus the mystery that is Michael Pineda, and you know Nova is going to get his chances.
Unfortunately, when Nova was in the Majors last season he was often hit hard. A 22.4% line drive ate is tough to overcome and makes his .331 BABIP look reasonable. There were just too many days where he allowed 9, 10 or 11 hits. In fact, in 13 starts after July 1 only once did he go beyond 6.2 innings.
While 10.25 H/9 may seem extreme, he was a 9.33 over his minor league career. Suddenly, Nova appearing hittable is an extremely realistic notion.
The strikeout rate was a huge jump last year, and something that came relatively out of nowhere. Over his minor league career Nova posted a 6.42 K/9 and was at 6.95 over 38 Triple-A starts. Can we really come to expect this type of improvement? I would certainly have a hard time believing so…
So, you have a pitcher who will likely give up a lot of hits coupled with a likely below average strikeout rate. So far, so good… While his control isn’t going to kill you, given the number of hits he allows he needs to be elite. The fact is, he’s not. A minor league BB/9 of 2.94 is above average, but it’s not enough.
Just for good measure, throw in a huge jump in HR/FB (up to 16.6%) and a fall in groundball rate (most became line drives) and the picture simply isn’t pretty.
While the Yankee offense will get him some wins, the fact is that Nova allows way too many base runners to be successful. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Yankees simply replace him, if not before the season then during it. From a fantasy perspective, the reward does not come nearly close to offset the risk.
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Make sure to check out all of our extremely early 2013 rankings: