The switch flipped after May 1 for Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta.
Pivetta, by no means the “ace” of the Red Sox, has pitched like the top-of-the-rotation anchor that the team had yearned for. Pivetta didn’t get through six innings in any of his first five starts, owning an abysmal 7.81 ERA (unless your name happens to be Patrick Corbin). The 29-year-old simply struggled to make his deep into starts before getting tagged.
Those trends are now a thing of the past.
Everything Is Spinning
Pivetta has supercharged the Red Sox rotation, providing stability and pitching hoards of innings while lowering his ERA to 3.25. In his last 10 starts, the right-hander owns an 8-1 record, a 1.85 ERA in 68 innings, striking out 65 hitters while issuing just 16 walks, and holding opponents to a .180 batting average against.
The British Columbia native utilizes a heavy fastball and curveball mix, challenging hitters by frequenting his best two pitches often. His 93 mile-per-hour fastball ranks in the 72nd percentile in fastball spin, per Baseball Savant, and it’s a pitch that Pivetta chooses 52 percent of the time. His curveball, in the 82nd percentile in spin, is utilized on 27 percent of his pitches. Without Lightning McQueen-esque speed on his pitches, Pivetta’s fastball needs the spin to be effective. Hitters get underneath a pitch from the right-hander and hit it in the air 30.7% of the time on batted balls, a notable increase over the MLB average of 24.4%.
Pivetta attacks the whole zone with his high-spin fastball, unafraid to climb the ladder and challenge hitters at the letters to generate fly balls. The sixth-year veteran relies on inducing fly ball outs, getting 159 this year. Opponents only hit .172 against the fastball, exemplifying the effectiveness of his bread-and-butter pitch.
The curveball and slider typically land low and away, creating different angles from the fastball and forcing the hitter to fend off the pitches from a suboptimal location. Only three home runs have been surrendered on the breaking balls this year in 621 pitches due to the strong command Pivetta showcases.
Success Can Be Contagious
Pivetta’s resurgence after May 1 has helped the Red Sox rebound from their 9-13 start in the season’s opening month. After dipping below the Baltimore Orioles, baseball’s version of flunking out of school, the Red Sox have dastardly disposed of their opposition, now sitting nine games above .500. While catching the Yankees, who have hit the seams off of any baseball in their path, appears to be a dubious task, a playoff spot is certainly not out of the equation.
In order for the Red Sox to continue playing in October, Pivetta will need to lead the rotation. After an abysmal April, Pivetta’s strong streak has breathed life into Alex Cora’s squad and helped turn the season around.