Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Is There Any Reason To Believe In The Phillies’ Nick Pivetta?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

6.02 ERA
1.51 WHIP
3.86 BB/9
1.69 HR/9

If you saw these numbers from a starting pitcher, would you think that there would be any reason for optimism?  The obvious answer is no, but at the same time making a knee jerk reaction in regards to the Phillies’ Nick Pivetta could be misguided.  That’s not to say that we are ready to declare him a prime ’18 sleeper, but a .332 BABIP and 67.1% strand rate shows enough poor luck to at least dig a bit deeper.

In regards to the home runs, Pivetta isn’t an elite groundball artist.  Over his 133.0 innings of work in the Majors he’s posted a 43.8% fly ball rate.  That comes after a 43.8% mark in the minors in 2016, so pitching half his games in Philadelphia we should expect the home run issues to continue.  Maybe it won’t be quite as extreme, but it’s also not like he showed a good HR/9 on the road last season:

  • Home – 2.11
  • Road – 1.30

Pivetta has never shown elite control either, with a 3.1 BB/9 over his minor league career.  His 28.6% O-Swing% in the Majors shows that he wasn’t fooling opposing hitters much, which adds to the risk in carrying an elevated walk rate.  Even if you want to believe in an improvement, would anyone be willing to project a mark better than his 3.53 BB/9 after the All-Star Break?

The one skill we’d want to believe he has is the ability to generate strikeouts, as he did post a 9.47 K/9 in the Majors.  Of course he had a 7.6 K/9 over his minor league career and his 8.7% SwStr% is underwhelming and doesn’t support the bloated mark.

He was especially bad with his fourseam fastball, which of course is the pitch he throws most (63.30% of the time), as opponents hit .300 with 14 HR against it.  If he can’t figure that out the rest simply isn’t going to matter.

When you put it all together, what exactly would there be to get excited about?  Sure there was poor luck and reason to believe in an improvement, but it simply won’t be big enough.  You can argue that he lacks any of the skills we look for, and therefore is a clear hands-off player who may not even be guaranteed a spot in the Phillies’ 2018 rotation.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference

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