Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The "Rock" of the Rotation

No... not that guy. This guy...

The more I read about Ivan Nova's demeanor, particularly when Girardi said "I don't really think he gets rattled", I wonder if Nova will be the next "rock" of the Yankees pitching staff. You know... the guy in the rotation that's very consistant, and seems to always give the team a chance to win. Not that he can't have a bad start every now and then, but you're hardly ever going to look back at his start and think "the Yankees had no chance to win that game".

In 13 seasons with the Yankees, Andy Pettitte was that guy. It's not his career 3.88 ERA (ranked 723rd all time), or 1.357 WHIP (ranked 722nd all time), that's going to blow people away when they look back at his career. But it's his Win Probability Added (WPA) of 23 (ranked 50th all time) that can turn heads (note, only 16 of the pitchers ahead of Andy in WPA were around for as many or less seasons in MLB). In case you're not familiar with WPA, it's basically attempting to measure a player's win contribution. So going by WPA alone shows that Pettitte was indeed a "rock" in the Yankee rotation.

So going back to Ivan Nova I decided to compare some pitching stats of the two, to see if this idea that Ivan Nova could be the next Andy Pettitte (aka be the "rock" of the Yankee rotation). What I found pleased me.

After looking at this comparison I don't just think Nova could be the next Andy Pettitte for the Yankees... he could be better. And that's really saying something, as many believe Andy Pettitte has a shot at being a Hall of Famer. Then again, every person that says Pettitte should be considered for the Hall points out Andy's 19-10 record, and 3.83 ERA, in the postseason. Not to mention that Pettitte failed to go at least 6 innings in only 9 of 42 postseason starts (note- he was one out away from a quality start in one of those starts).

Their ERA, WHIP, Hits/9, HR%, XBH%, and Triple-Slashes are virtually the same. All of which is a great sign for Nova. However, what really excites me is that this kid could be better than Pettitte was. Seeing as how Nova's GB% (ground ball percentage) is higher, and his LD% (line drive percentage) is lower, there's reason to have high hopes for Mr. Nova. All it would take for Nova to reach that level is striking out more batters and walking less, both of which he was able to do Monday night (7 Ks to 0 walks). Granted, that was against an Orioles lineup, which is composed of players whose career average OPS+ is 101 (the Yankees lineup has a career average OPS+ of 116). But expecting Ivan to strike out 1.1 more batters per 9, and walking .3 less batters per 9, is not a tall order at all.

For obvious reasons Yankee fans will be closely watching Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, and Michael Pineda this season. Two of those players have top of the rotation potential for years to come, while another one is being looked at as a "rock" in the 2012 rotation. But we should pay quite a bit of attention to Ivan Nova as well, because while Andy Pettitte was that "rock" in New York for 13 years, Nova could be that "rock" for the next 10.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)