A Big September Can Net Ivan Nova AL Rookie of the Year

A Big September Can Net Ivan Nova AL Rookie of the Year

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Mike Silva

A Big September Can Net Ivan Nova AL Rookie of the Year

Ivan Nova won his 14th ballgame August 28, which I believe puts him in a great position to win American League Rookie of the Year.

It’s amazing how Nova has been overlooked in the Yankees rotation. The success stories of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, along with the struggles of A.J. Burnett, have made him the “forgotten starter.” Imagine where this club would be without his performance? Nova is ten games over .500, and his performance translates to about 2 wins above replacement level, according to Fangraphs. It’s so hard to determine a players worth with that metric, but I doubt that Brian Gordon, a recycled veteran, or one of Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Adam Warren, or David Phelps would be having the same type of season. In other words, 2 wins is hogwash.

Ivan NovaPut a .500 pitcher in Nova’s spot and the Yankees are seven back of Boston, and one game ahead of Tampa for the Wild Card. In all likelihood Brian Cashman and company would have been inclined to overpay for a veteran starter like Wandy Rodriguez at the deadline. Nova’s presence has not only provided on the field value, but saved the Yankees from purging their farm system’s A- talent on C+ to B level veteran starting pitching.

How does he fare against his competition?

If you use Fangraphs as a barometer the Rookie Leaders in WAR are as follows:

Michael Pineda (9-8, 3.71)
Alexi Ogando (12-6,3.57)
Zach Britton (8-9, 4.28)
Desmond Jennings (8/19/.354 in only 34 games)
Dustin Ackley (5/28/.282 in only 61 games)
Mark Trumbo (23/71/.256)
Jordan Walden (2.70 ERA, 26 saves)

I have seen some dispute about whether Ogando is eligible as a rookie. I believe he is since the criterion is 90 at bats for hitters, and 45 innings pitched, or 45 days on a Major League roster before September 1 of the previous year for pitchers. He didn’t reach the innings or the September 1st service time in 2010. Beyond the Box Score disputes this in a post earlier this season. I believe my research is correct, and will go with Fangraphs on this one.

Alexi OgandoAckley and Jennings haven’t played enough this year for me to seriously put them into consideration. Trumbo certainly has put up nice numbers (23/71/.256), and is probably the best offensive candidate out there. Give Britton credit for hovering around .500 with a bad Orioles team, but he is still a below league average pitcher when you break down the peripherals. The real competition for Nova is with Ogando, Pineda, Hellickson, and Walden. The three starters have comparable numbers, although Nova leads in wins. The naysayers would cite Nova pitching for the Yankees, but winning ballgames in this league is tough no matter who you is behind you; just ask A.J. Burnett.

This is a tough call.

Will the voters give an edge to the offensive player in Trumbo? Unlike Nova, Trumbo has spent the entire year in the majors. The Yankees starting pitching depth is the reason for that, but it is a black mark nonetheless. You could argue that his teammate, Jordan Walden, is equally if not more important closing out ballgames. A team like Anaheim needs a dominant closer since most of their games are played close to the vest. If you go pure numbers,  pitchers like Ogando and Hellickson are a notch above Nova. Ogando has slumped in the second half (5.01 ERA), while Hellickson (2.56 ERA) has improved. One thing going against Nova is that he doesn’t qualify for the ERA title since MLB requires a pitcher to pitch one inning per every game (162 innings) the team plays; that could play against him.

I think it comes down to September and whether Nova get to 16 or 17 win level. If so, he’s got a great chance. The last time the Yankees had a rookie so close to the award was 2003, when Angel Berroa netted the award over Hideki Matsui. That was more of a debate about whether Matsui was truly a rookie. The voters gave it to Ichiro Suzuki two years earlier, but penalized Matsui.

It’s going to be close, but I believe a big September will give Ivan Nova a real shot at American League Rookie of the Year.

Update:  August 30th

As Chuck Johnson and Beyond the Boxscore pointed out, Ogando is not a rookie as he had 114 days of service time. My calculation was off, and Fangraphs should not have him listed with the “rookies.”

By Mike Silva
Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011

A.J. Burnett, Adam Warren, Alexi Ogando, Anaheim Angels, Bartolo Colon, Boston Red Sox, Brian Cashman, Brian Gordon, David Phelps, Dellin Betances, Desmond Jennings, Dustin Ackley, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova, Jordan Walden, Manny Banuelos, Mark Trumbo, Michael Pineda, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Wandy Rodriguez, Zach Britton


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