Red Sox Starter Study: Nick Pivetta

So a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Red Sox starter study for Nathan Eovaldi. This time, it’s Nick Pivetta’s turn.

Since being traded to Boston in 2020, Nick Pivetta has been one of the brighter spots in the Red Sox rotation, with a 4.06 ERA in 106.1 IP. He has been able to limit hits and HR better than prior seasons, but the walk issues that have plagued his career remain. So what has Pivetta changed or improved? What can we expect him to do for the rest of this season? To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at his first half of 2021.

Nick Pivetta’s 2021 Red Sox Season

Pivetta has posted a 4.30 ERA, 4.17 FIP, and career-best 1.28 WHIP in 96.1 IP this year.  He’s striking out 27.8% of batters while walking 10.8%. He’s struggled in recent months after an elite 2.81 ERA in his 5 April starts, and looks more like what he had been with Philly.  Turning to the “luck” stats also suggests regression, as BABIP and LOB (left on base) % are a bit too far off from Pivetta’s norms. You could say the same about Nick’s HR/FB (down about 5% from 2020) but perhaps the deadened baseballs can help maintain the improvement in that area.


Pivetta’s 2021 numbers on Baseball Savant aren’t super pretty, as he’s been hit pretty hard.  He ranks poorly in average exit velocity, hard hit %, and barrel %. His pitch velo and movement ranks well, and he has also excelled in xBA and K%. To sum things up, this all backs up what we already knew.  Pivetta has great stuff but gives out too many free passes and allows too much hard contact. The beam of hope: this is THE season to be a pitcher with these issues!  While the deadened balls can feel like a lazy excuse, we’ve really seen the effect.  League-wide HR/FB rate has decreased from 15.3% in 2019 to 13.6% this season.

The Pitch Mix for Nick Pivetta with the Red Sox

Nick features a 4 seam fastball (50.5% usage), slider (25%), curveball (22.4%) and changeup (1.9%).  Looking at the pitch numbers offer more encouragement, as the FB and SL have an xwOBA of .319, and the CB has a spectacular .263 xwOBA. Nick’s doing a decent job preventing contact, but we still need to see him generate more whiffs or at least limit walks. Ideally he could increase use of his breaking balls, especially on first pitch and in favorable counts. My guess would be his control issues are what’s preventing such changes, so I am doubtful we can see them implemented in 2021.  Luckily Pivetta is under team control through 2025, so the Sox have time to try working things out.

Final Thoughts

While Pivetta does has plenty of cons, he can be a reliable enough number 4 or 5 in the rotation. I’m expecting his second half to be a bit worse than the first, but that’s totally fine. Boston has some reinforcements that will hopefully keep this rotation strong in Sale and Houck. Even if Nick Pivetta struggles, acquiring him AND Connor Seabold in exchange for Heath Hembree and Workman was a steal for the Red Sox.

Featured image courtesy of BoSoxInjection.com

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