Last night, Ivan Nova won his 14th straight decision, the most by any pitcher since 1951. Let’s talk about what this means.
1) Ivan Nova is a good pitcher. It takes a good pitcher to play professional baseball. It takes an even better pitcher to make the major leagues. You might conclude that it takes an even better pitcher to start for the Yankees, the game’s richest and historically greatest team. Ivan Nova does all of these things.
4) Ivan Nova gets a lot of run support. In the 14 “wins” during this “streak”, the Yankees have scored 118 runs, or 8.43 runs per game. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a pitcher with a 7.00 ERA would also go 14-0 in these games, since runs haven’t been equally distributed. His teammates have scored as few as three and as many as 17 runs in these games. Which leads us to…
3) Ivan Nova is very consistent. On August 16, 2011, Nova gave up seven runs in 5 1/3 inning agains the Royals, but the Yankees scored nine, all in the first four innings, so Nova was credited with a win of the cheapest ilk. In the other 17 starts during his “streak”, he’s never given up more than four runs, and he’s pitched at least five innings every time out. Most pitchers, even great ones, pitch the occasional three-inning, six-run nightmare. Not Ivan.
4) No decisions don’t count in “decision streaks”. Four times in the 10 months since this “streak” began, Nova started a game, but was not the pitcher of record. That includes a 7 1/3- inning, one-run gem in September against the Mariners and two six-inning, four-run efforts in which he was bailed out by the bullpen. In general, these no-decisions were no more or less impressive than the 14 games in which he “earned the win”.
5) Minor league results don’t count in “decision streaks”. Last July, a month after this streak started, Nova was optioned to AAA for three starts, not necessarily because he had pitched poorly, but because Phil Hughes, a more highly-regarded prospect than Nova, came off the disabled list and left the Yankees with six viable starters. Nova was not the worst of the six, but certainly the cheapest and least likely to complain about a demotion, so he went to Scranton, where he picked up the loss in two of three games he pitched.
6) Postseason statistics don’t count in baseball. When we’re comparing season home run totals, it doesn’t make sense to include the postseason, where one player may have 100 more opportunities to hit a homer than another. It makes some sense, then, that baseball completely ignores postseason stats when calculating “streaks” across multiple seasons. Still, it’s worth noting that on October 6, four months into his current “streak”, Nova started the decisive Game Five of the AL Division Series against the Tigers. Nova gave up back-to-back home runs in the first inning, was yanked after two, and the Yankees never tied it up.
7) Pitcher “wins” are ridiculous There’s no denying that Nova has pitched well since last June. In 118 1/3 innings, he’s struck out 84, walked 33, given up 12 home runs and 44 runs (all earned). That’s a 3.34 ERA and a 3.57 FIP. Only 25 pitchers in baseball have matched both of those numbers since the beginning of 2011. Of course, none of those pitchers are 14-0 either.
I’m sure the Yankees feel good every time they send Nova to the mound. But wins and losses are for teams, not pitchers.