Red Sox P Nick Pivetta has hinted at dominant stuff, and now he must harness it

John Tomase
·3 min read

Tomase: Can Pivetta provide a shot in the arm to Boston's rotation? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

* Throughout this month, we'll put a member of the 2020 Red Sox and one of their most notable statistics under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead. Today's installment: Nick Pivetta.

10.3

In today's launch-angle-obsessed game, every pitcher is a strikeout pitcher. Hall of Famer Walter Johnson needed nearly 6,000 innings to record his 3,500 strikeouts. Rapid Robert Feller reached Cooperstown on the strength of baseball's best fastball, but he barely struck out six batters per nine during his career. Not even Roger Clemens whiffed a batter an inning lifetime.

All of this is a way of saying that the game has changed, and that Nick Pivetta's 2018 strikeout ratio with the Phillies should be viewed in its proper context. Whereas once striking out over 10 per nine would've been the domain of Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez, it's now a far more attainable number.

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That doesn't mean we should dismiss Pivetta's best full season with the Phillies, however. His rate actually ranked fifth among NL starters that season, suggesting an ability to overpower hitters that made him an attractive trade target of the Red Sox before they snagged him for closer Brandon Workman this season.

What went right for Pivetta in 2020

Pivetta didn't join the Red Sox right away, reporting instead to the team's alternate site, where the player development staff could properly evaluate the 27-year-old and allow him to build arm strength.

He arrived with a legitimate arsenal, but disappointing results. The Phillies believed he would ultimately end up in the bullpen. The Red Sox wanted a crack at his mid-90s fastball and hammer curve and believed he could still make it as a starter.

He arrived for the final week of the season and made two starts, going 2-0 with 1.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 innings, making a positive first impression.

What went wrong for Pivetta in 2020

Pivetta wouldn't have even been available if he had pitched to his potential with the Phillies, who tinkered extensively with his delivery and pitch mix over the years. Pivetta allowed 10 hits and three home runs in three relief appearances before being demoted.

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Had the Red Sox not acquired him, he almost certainly wouldn't have thrown another pitch in the big leagues in 2020. His lifetime ERA of 5.40 speaks to the inconsistency that has plagued his career.

Nick of Time?

Nick Pivetta's ERA in 3 games with the Phillies in 2020.

15.88

Nick Pivetta's ERA in 2 games with the Red Sox in 2020.

1.80

Variation

Double

Early outlook for 2021

The Red Sox will give Pivetta a chance not only to secure a spot in their rotation, but also to become a long-term piece of the future. By not promoting him until late September, they denied him a year of service time, which means he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season.

Pivetta sounded OK with it, since he understands that free agency and service time are only issues if you're good enough to stick. For now, his focus will be on harnessing his impressive stuff and maintaining consistency as a starter.