Should the Yankees start Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova?

With Andy Pettitte’s groin injury, the biggest question in Yankee Universe is who should be a temporary starter in place of “Gawky” Andy Pettitte. The Yankees are going with Sergio Mitre for now, but is that the right decision?

Before I begin, let me state my love for Sergio Mitre. I love him. Plain and simple. Why? I don’t know. I cannot remember how I first learned of him and why he was so special to me. Maybe it was that sex panther musk he had on that allured me to him. But I do remember him winning a Cy Young award for me on MVP Baseball 2005- the best XBOX era video game ever created. So naturally when the Yankees signed him, I was pretty excited. So one would figure I’d be wetting myself over the fact he will be a starter in the Yankees rotation.

But there is a reason he is called Sergio “Meat-tray”.

Mitre is not that good of a pitcher. I wouldn’t call him terrible, but he’s not exactly good, or even average. In three of his first four professional seasons, his FIP was above 5.00. However, his xFIP was always average to slightly below average. In 2007 he had a breakout season, posting a 2.6 WAR in 149 innings with a 3.98 FIP, 4.28 xFIP, and 3.99 tERA. But he suffered an injury and missed all of 2008. Despite that, the Yankees signed him prior to 2009 and he was a disappointment. Although he had a 4.00 xFIP, his FIP was above 5.00 once again. I think it’s safe to say that 2007 was an anomaly.

Just taking a look at his numbers will show why he has not produced at the ML level. His K rate is 5.46 K/9 and his BB/9 is 3.02. So he walks a fair amount of batters, but doesn’t strike many out, meaning he has to rely on BIP. That can be dangerous considering he puts a decent amount of men on base via walks. His career BAA is .296, so men are also hitting their way on against him. So it’s no surprise that he gives up a lot of runs. He gives up hits, walks people, and doesn’t strike many guys out. To make things even worse, his HR rate is 1.09. Eeesh.

However, there is one good thing about Mitre: ground balls. He has a career GB rate of 59.2%. That is really good. Since he relies on contact so much, it’s important he gets a ton of grounders. His FB rate is 24.5% which is good considering he gives up a lot of homers, but on those fly balls, 14.4% go for home runs. So when Mitre is hit, he is hit hard. Factor in NYS and it can be scary to have Mitre pitching for the Yankees with his long ball problems. Yet when he is on, he can be very good. It sounds to me like Mitre is suited for the bullpen where he can pitch one inning at a time and maximize his GB rate.

So with Mitre we have a ground ball pitcher who pitches to contact, but is killed by the long ball when he can’t induce a grounder, pitching in NYS- a home run park. What does Nova give us?

To begin, Nova is not a strikeout pitcher either. In 111.2 IP at AAA, he has a 6.80 K/9. Also like Mitre, Nova walks a fair amount of batters as shown by his 3.23 BB/9. Even more like Mitre, Nova gets grounders and does not give up fly balls. He has a 50.2% GB% this season and a FB rate of 23.8%. However, there is one difference between the two- homers. Nova allowed just eight deep flies on the year, translating to a 0.64 HR/9.

If we look at Nova’s 67 AAA innings last year we see had a 5.78 K/9, 3.76 BB/9, 0.54 HR/9, 42.7 GB%, and 27.1 FB%. And last year 72 AA innings he had a 5.88 K/9, 3.88 BB/9, 0.38 HR/9, 63.1 GB%, and 19.6 FB%.

It should be noted that both Scranton and Trenton deflate home runs, but it’s safe to say Nova is a ground ball pitcher who does not die with the home run.

So the Yankees have two pitchers who are nearly identical. One would believe Nova’s K rate would decrease in the majors while his BB rate would go up some. But he should continue to garner grounders and avoid the homer. They might as well give Nova a shot. He is not a prospect and doesn’t factor in the Yankees long term plans, but neither does or neither should Mitre. For a handful of starts, Nova could be useful. We already know what to expect from Mitre and the expectations are not high. So we might as well give Nova a chance- especially with series against Kansas City and Cleveland on the horizon.

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