Why the Phillies should keep a longer leash on Nick Pivetta


Last season was a mixed bag for Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta. The Canadian right-hander recorded a 4.77 ERA and compiled 14 losses across 32 starts (164 IP) in 2018. Additionally, among pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched, Pivetta had the third-highest rate of hits allowed, ahead of only Jon Gray and​ ​Dylan Bundy.

Things weren’t all bad for the 6’5, 225-pound hurler, however. In fact, Pivetta often flashed ace potential despite his end of season numbers reflecting otherwise.

Pivetta struck out 27.1% of hitters last season, 13th-highest out of 57 qualified MLB starters. His ground ball rate of 46.7% was 15th in baseball, his 31.9% hard-hit rate was tied for 18th, and his 10.32 K/9 was 12th.

His season marks of 10.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 put him in some elite company as well, as only seven other starting pitchers matched or exceeded both numbers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco. Luis Severino, German Marquez, and Patrick Corbin.

Possessing a deadly arsenal of pitches, including a fastball that sits in the 94-99 MPH range and a wicked curveball that could even make Sandy Koufax jealous, Pivetta understandably forced a lot of missed swings last year.

Between his high forced whiff rate and strong ground ball and weak contact numbers, you’d think he’d fare better than his lowly 4.77 ERA in 2018.

Unfortunately, a calendar year later, we’re still left scratching our heads as Pivetta continues to struggle on the mound.

The 26-year-old righty has been dreadful for the Phillies in 2019. Although he still boasts the strong strikeout numbers and pitching arsenal he always does, his walk rate is way up and his ERA has ballooned to 5.52 through 91 1⁄3 innings pitched.

The Phillies have tried everything from a trip to the minor leagues to utilizing him out of the bullpen to try to maximize his talent but the third-year hurler just can’t seem to get out of his own way. It’s baffling that he not only seems unable to take that next step towards becoming a front-end starter but can’t even be so much as a ​decent ​pitcher for the Phils.

It’s fair to wonder if a better pitching coach is needed, as almost every single Phillies pitcher has regressed this season, but a large portion of the blame falls squarely on Pivetta’s shoulders.

Still, albeit frustrating, the Phils simply can’t give up on a 26-year-old pitcher with such a high ceiling and one that can throw pitches like these:

Pitchers with such an elite blend of velocity and movement don’t grow on trees and the Phillies pitching staff needs to find a way to unearth his raw potential. With three arbitration years remaining for the hard-throwing righty, it won’t even cost the team a lot financially to make the worthy investment into him.

It may induce a lot of hair-pulling and sleepless nights in South Philly until he gets it all sorted out, but the Phillies simply have to extend his leash a little longer on behalf of his immense ceiling.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports