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Nick Pivetta - Ace In The Making

In 2018 there was a breakout pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who took the league by storm. After garnering league-wide attention, he’s pegged by many fantasy experts as a top-tier starting pitcher for the upcoming year. I'm talking about Aaron Nola, of course. But after this season it very well could be Nick Pivetta. He had a breakout of sorts last year as well, but the best is yet to come from the 25-year-old Victoria, BC native.

After Pivetta was traded straight up for established closer Johnathan Papelbon in 2015 from the Washington Nationals, he has flourished in the Phillies organization. Making his major league debut in 2017, Pivetta has never looked back after his promotion. An up-and-down rookie season, with flashes of brilliance, was followed by a more dominant sophomore season in which he started putting all of his talents together. He finished the campaign with a 7-14 record, 4.77 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts across 164.0 innings pitched.

A few of these numbers might seem underwhelming, but as we dive into the metrics and skills that Pivetta possesses, we can unmask a future ace. Let’s break down every standard Roto category and see what all the fuss is about, shall we?

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Pivetta's Impending Value


As we all know, there is no other stat as unpredictable as the win. There are, however, a few things to take into account for the sake of this argument. The Phillies provided the right-hander with an abysmal 3.62 RS/9, bad enough for fourth-worst among qualifiers. This number is only slightly better than that of Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom’s 3.57 RS/9, and if you followed the New York Mets at all last year, you know how frustrating this was to witness. Another factor for his low win total last season has to do with the Phillies as a whole. After playing the first half of the year in a tight battle for the NL East division lead, his final win of the year came on August 7, due in large part to the team's second-half struggle. The team's struggles were not a product of Pivetta’s by any means, as his second half was actually better than his first, but we’ll get into that a bit later.


On the surface, Pivetta’s 4.77 ERA in 2018 looks quite weak. The sugarcoating here is his 3.51 SIERA, 3.80 FIP, and 3.42 xFIP. All these numbers are suggesting that he pitched much better than what his result depicts. His ERA-FIP differential of 0.98 was the second highest mark in baseball next to Jon Gray’s 1.03. What contributed to his high ERA was his low Strand Rate (69.0% LOB%) and below average HR/9 (1.32). The LOB% is sure to see positive regression as pitchers with high strikeout numbers, like Pivetta’s (see below), aren’t typically this low. The HR/9 will decrease with his ability to generate the groundball. His 46.7% GB% was ranked 15th-best, right between Carlos Carrasco (46.8%) and Degrom (46.4%). His groundball ability also improved 2.8% from the first half to the second half suggesting it can still improve in 2019.


An improvement in WHIP is also on the horizon for the Canuck. Hits occur more often due to line drives and hard-hit balls. Pivetta had a league-worst BABIP of .326, so he must have a high LD% and Hard%, right? Wrong. His 18.5% LD% was good enough for seventh-best in baseball, sandwiched between Mike Foltynewicz and Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Let’s compare the three on some key measures.
















It is almost nonsensical that Pivetta’s BABIP was .075-.085 points higher with about a 4.0% lower Hard%. His second half in these categories was even more impressive, trickling down to a 17.8% LD% and 28.8% Hard%.


It’s no secret that Pivetta can pile up the strikeouts, as a 9.47 K/9 in 2017 was bested in 2018 with a 10.32 K/9. Pivetta averaged 95.4 MPH on his fastball last season and paired it with a devastating 80.4 MPH curveball. He threw his curve 7.0% more in 2018 than 2017, causing his Swinging Strike% to jump from 8.7% to 12.0%. He also forced more batters to chase pitches out of the zone (31.0%) and his Contact% also improved by over 6% to 74.9%. All these factors led him to have a higher K% (27.1%) than teammate Aaron Nola (27.0%) and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (26.4%).


Pivetta doesn’t necessarily need to improve on any one thing, in particular, to see better results in 2019. His metrics are already on pace with former and current Cy Young winners, but we’ve already seen year to year and first/second half improvement, so further development seems inevitable. A bit more batted ball luck, better run support, and his upward-trending strikeout numbers will make this man a draft-day steal at his current ADP of 157.

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