Red Sox SP: Nick Pivetta
Chaim Bloom has made a lot of smart moves over his two years as the Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer, but his best move may have been the one that brought Nick Pivetta to Boston for the low, low price of Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree. On the surface, it’s difficult to see exactly what Bloom saw in the right-hander, who posted a 5.50 ERA over his four years with the Phillies. The underlying metrics, however, showed that Pivetta struck out and walked batters at an above-average rate, and the Red Sox were betting that a change of scenery would help him unlock his potential.
A year into Pivetta’s Red Sox career, it appears that they were right. Pivetta proved himself as a quality middle-rotation arm, taking the ball 30 times and posting an acceptable 4.53 ERA. He continued to miss bats, striking out over ten batters per nine innings and turned up his game even further in the postseason (2.63 ERA).
What’s allowed Pivetta to take the next step has been the increased development of his curveball. Pivetta’s high-spin hook has always been an effective offering, but by adding six inches of vertical movement in 2021, it became downright nasty. Hitters batted .165 and .295 against his curve in 2021 and whiffed at the pitch 26.4 percent of the time. The effectiveness of his curveball, along with a fastball that gained two miles per hour, allowed Pivetta to make the leap he was never able to make in Philadelphia.
For Pivetta to become a true frontline starter, he’ll need to be able to rely on more than those two pitches. Batters slugged .471 against his slider (or 13 points higher than Joey Gallo), and his changeup was even worse (.313 batting average/.688 slugging percentage). Having only two useful offerings hurt Pivetta as he worked deeper into the games. He had a 5.48 ERA in the fifth inning and a 6.48 ERA in the sixth, and he faced just twelve batters in the seventh inning or later all year.
With Sale out for the first two months of the season and an inconsistent bullpen, the Red Sox really need Pivetta to be able to eat innings. His curveball and fastball are more than good enough to get through the first part of his game, but it will take further development of his slider and changeup for him to be a worthy second option to Eovaldi.
Stat Predictions: 10-9, 4.37 ERA, 163 IP, 9.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9