Thursday, August 4, 2011
At U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday—less than 24 hours before beginning a weekend series against the Red Sox—the Yankees matched their longest winning streak of the season at seven, moved into a first-place tie after Boston’s loss to the Indians, and got a 4-1 win thanks to another dominant performance by a young starter.
On this night, it was Ivan Nova.
Nova, who made a solid big league return on Saturday and remained in the rotation this week, limited the spiraling White Sox to one run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings to run his season ERA to 3.81 and perhaps give manager Joe Girardi a bigger rotation question than he ever anticipated.
Tonight was the best Nova’s ever pitched IMO.
According to Pitch F/X, Nova threw his first cutter on May 28. Fangraphs says he doesn’t throw a cutter, that it’s a slider. Whatever it is, since he’s started throwing it Nova has been a different pitcher.
We of course need to remember that sample size limits how much we can take from this, but it’s worth mentioning that changes in walk rate and strikeout rate tend to stabilize more quickly than a lot of other statistics. For walk rate, changes are generally meaningful after about 150 PA and for strikeout rate it’s about 200 PA.
Unfortunately for Nova, it’s going to be tough for the Yankees to work a six man rotation long-term. Since he won’t be available to pitch for at least three or four days and they’re probably not going to want to go into Fenway with a three man bench, he may get optioned back to AAA despite doing nothing but pitching well since his call up. Even if that happens, I get the sense it won’t be for long. Although there’s a rule that any player optioned to the minors has to spend 10 days down before being recalled, in the case of injury they can usually bypass that rule.
With Boston losing tonight, the Yankees will head to Fenway tied for first place in the AL East. I’ll make a bold prediction. By the end of this weekend’s series one team will be in first place and one will be in second place.
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