The Phillies Should Continue to Show Patience with Nick Pivetta

PHOTO CREDIT: DAVID KOHL-USA TODAY SPORTS

With each passing day the Phillies maintain their grip on first-place in the National League East, the amount of eyeballs on the team continues to grow, and, in turn, so does the scrutiny over player performance. As the wins over the season’s first four months have piled up, expectations have changed. The Phillies are no longer perceived locally as a cute upstart with a best-case scenario ceiling of fringe playoff contention. Given their current position in the standings, coupled with the significant progression made by many of the team’s young players, the Phillies should win their division.

Obviously, such an outcome would be, you know, good, but therein lies the problem. With increased expectations and scrutiny comes decreased patience and a lessened ability to wait out the expected growing pains and performance volatility of certain young players. And that brings us to Nick Pivetta, who once again gave his team an uneven performance in last night’s 6-4 setback to the Reds.

After an encouraging start to the 2018 season in which Pivetta posted an impressive 3.26 ERA, 2.80 FIP, and 1.09 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .226 batting average through 11 starts, things have taken a downturn for the 25-year-old. Over his next 11 starts dating back to June 1, Pivetta has pitched to a 6.70 ERA, 4.55 FIP, and 1.61 WHIP while opponents have hit .297 against him. That’s not the type of performance a team that is about to enter the stretch drive of a playoff push needs every fifth day, but Pivetta’s ceiling and ability are both undeniable. Despite his recent struggles, his 2.1 WAR is 27th among all starting pitchers and several of his peripheral numbers remain strong, thus creating a dilemma for the team about how to proceed with him moving forward.

His start last night in Cincinnati perfectly captured the essence of the issue. Featuring a fastball that topped out at 98.2 mph, Pivetta frequently overpowered Reds hitters on his way to piling up 12 strikeouts, something he often does with ease. His 11.2 K/9 rate is the 8th best in baseball among qualified starting pitchers this year. But mixed in with those flashes of brilliance was an inability to execute and limit damage once he got himself into jams which led to the Phillies’ 2-1 lead quickly becoming a 5-2 deficit. This has been a common theme with him lately, but a closer look at last night’s up and down start revealed an entirely different issue for Pivetta–his breaking pitches.

Entering last night’s game, Pivetta held opposing batters to a .177 average and .437 OPS in 62 at-bats that ended with a slider. In fact, his slider had yielded zero homers and only two doubles all season, while opponents also swung to a .222 average against his curveball. The Reds, however, repeatedly mashed Pivetta’s breaking stuff last night. All six of their hits came off breaking pitches, five of which were sliders. This, of course, included the home runs he allowed to Eugenio Suarez and Mason Williams.

So what? I mean, the Reds got some hits against the slider. Shit happens. That’s baseball, right? While that’s typically a reasonable response to much of what happens on the field, a deeper look reveals that perhaps the Reds’ success last night against his breaking stuff wasn’t a coincidence.

“Cool graphs, nerd.”

Yeah, I know. But follow me for a minute. What these charts illustrate is a significant decrease in both the horizontal movement and vertical drop of his breaking pitches. In the case of the vertical movement shown on the second chart, the upward trajectory of that line isn’t good. What were tight breaking pitches with above league average movement early in the season have recently flattened out. There are a few possible explanations for this. Mechanics, grip, fatigue, or injury are each possibilities, but given his excellent velocity, this doesn’t seem like a health-related issue. Whatever the cause, getting the bite back on his breaking pitches will be integral to Pivetta’s success down the stretch.

So what should the Phillies do? To be clear, he’s had issues beyond the breaking pitch. Consistency and control remain problems, but I mention this specific development to make the point that transitioning him into an unfamiliar relief role in the middle of a pennant race, which seems to be the popular suggestion, isn’t necessarily going to magically fix his issues. Given his immense talent, allowing Pivetta another two weeks worth of starts to see if he can figure it out provides the Phillies with the highest-ceiling outcome, and they would be smart to continue exuding patience with him, rather than making a panic move on the soon-to-expire trade market. If he continues to sputter, the smart play for the Phillies is to utilize the organization’s pitching depth and fill his spot in the rotation that way—even if it feels a bit uncomfortable as patience thins and the stakes continue to rise.

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39 Comments

  • Ron burgundy July 28, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Great story. Compelling, and rich.

  • Nerd July 28, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Cool Graph

  • Robert W. July 28, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Clean your room Bobby.

  • Aton’s Non-flying almost mother in law to be. July 28, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Splat.

  • Da Real Cuz July 28, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I’ll be talkin’ about this-sssss next week on The Fellas-sssssssssss.

    ah-HA-HA-HA-HA-haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!

    • An Inquiring Mind July 28, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      Will you also be talking about how last year your buddy and you ssssssside sssssssswiped a NJ Transit busssssss and he kept driving to essssssssscape possible chargessssss. Rumor has it is your buddy had too many beersssssssss at Miller’s Ale House.

      • Haters gonna hate July 28, 2018 at 6:33 pm

        Did Cuz get charged? If not, stop hating a Philly legend and STFU.

      • Spina July 28, 2018 at 11:58 pm

        Who stop making up lies about the cuz. Who gives a fuck if he did do it. Cuz has a special place in the Philly sports fans hearts & gets a pass by me . 4 For 4 for LIFe!!!!

      • Gabagool stuffed primo July 29, 2018 at 1:05 pm

        The transit bus hit the cuz. He was an innocent drunk passenger.

      • Stop hating on the Cuz because July 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm

        He spends more on spilt liquor in a year than you make!!!

  • Louie dumps July 28, 2018 at 4:46 pm

    Pivetta stinks . Can’t remember the last good game he pitched. Knock him out if I ever see him. Fucker lost me $$ at the borgata last night

    • rich vos July 28, 2018 at 9:19 pm

      Louie….Beans!…i want my money….beans…you can’t dodge me forever. John, i got a problem with this guy ova here, louiebeansss

  • Paul Jolovitz Fan Club President July 28, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Ate some dudes a s s out behind the dumpster at the Nelson show at the Mann a few weeks ago. He was talkin s h ! t so I gave him the two finger kinker stinker as well. That’ll teach em!

  • Tongue my stink whole July 28, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    -Reuben Frank

    P.S. Bring the stirrups

  • miffy.me July 28, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    ? Disponível dentro de: >. P.143-250. Busca mulheres nuas? https://miffy.me/mulheres_ao_vivo_659550

    • Big Daddy Graham July 28, 2018 at 10:31 pm

      Hey! NO ONE gets to out-plug me! I’ve had an unopposed rolling infomercial during the overnight for the last 20 years, and I ain’t giving that s h ! t up now! ALASKA!!

  • www.ekoplast-Zn.pl July 29, 2018 at 12:40 am

    Bom Paulo: Ascendência Artigo de fundo, 2009. http://www.ekoplast-Zn.pl/index.php?option=com_phocaguestbook&id=1//

  • Big Meat locker fan July 29, 2018 at 7:09 am

    Wish Cuz was on Sunday mornings too!

    • Mr. Deeds July 29, 2018 at 8:20 am

      I don’t know if the sideswipe of the NJ Transit bus is true, but I have a buddy who attends the same church as Cuz. He said he saw Cuz on a number of occasions take money out of the collections basket when passed around the pews. I thought Cuz already makes lot of money? Then why steal from the church/poor then? Tsk, tsk Cuz!

  • Crossing Broad should not continue to show patience with Russ joy July 29, 2018 at 9:28 am

    For those who missed it, Russ had a Phils piece a couple days ago so awful Kyle had to delete it.

    Trying to be a hot take artist is one thing, but doing so while utterly misinformed about sports is ridiculous. Please stop indulging this guy.

  • Yelp reviewer July 29, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I know the Cuz is 10 inches, but is it thick too?

  • Dark Knight shoved it up Phils ass July 29, 2018 at 10:47 am

    Hard to believe, Harry.

  • Royonbroad July 29, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Hey Kyle,
    I played fantasy baseball once. Can I write for the site?

    Thx

    • joylessonbroad July 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      No. You’re overqualified.

  • Ropes Guy July 29, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Is it wrong of me to want the cuz to work on Sunday mornings too? I just need to hear his thoughts on all things philly sports everyday. It’s Sunday and I want to go to the church of the cuz. The cuz is so philly. Everyone loves the cuz, that’s why he’s number 1 in the mornings in philly.

    • T I t s July 29, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      You are being selfish bro. Just listen to the meat locker podcast. Let the Cuz and his big 10 incher relax.

  • Missing the cuz July 29, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Sunday is the worst day of the week without cuz on. Dieing here!

    • “Hot tub” Johnny West July 29, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      I hear ya!!!

  • Jacuzzi jerry July 29, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Saw the Cuz out to dinner last night with Mr Laurie. They were at R2L. I saw them both sign 2 autographs and take pictures with fans. Good dudes.

  • Steve Randle July 29, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    AIN’T NOBODY GONNA CALL THE FUZZZZ IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD….CAUSE THEY KNOW BETTER!

  • Gay andy July 29, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Gargano is truly the total package. Handsome, rich, famous, talented, ang hung.

  • More Cuz Controversy July 29, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Many of you in the Cuz Cult may not like this story, but I heard the Cuz was down Wildwood this weekend. I was told he went to Samuel’s Pancake House, ordered up a boatload of food, scarfed it all down, and then walked out on the bill. The waitress, who is a college student looking to make money for fall tuition, had to then foot the bill. That’s so not cool!

    • Samuel’s pankcake house employee July 29, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Not true. Not only did he pay with an Amex black card…he left a huge tip too.

      • Boardwalk Patron July 29, 2018 at 7:21 pm

        I was on the boardwalk earlier. While walking by Mack’s Pizza, I saw the Cuz. I said hello to him. He stopped me in mid-sentence and jokingly said, “Watch this!” He then walked over to an elderly couple sitting on a bench. He tossed his slice right in front of them. At that point an army of seagulls began torpedoing down on the elderly couple. The old couple were so tramautized. I felt truly bad for them. The Cuz walked away laughing.

        • Actual boardwalk seagull July 29, 2018 at 7:31 pm

          No. None of that is true. The Cuz is infallible.

          • Goodnight Irene’s Bouncer July 29, 2018 at 8:23 pm

            Tossed Cuz from the patio last night. Caught the guy dipping into other people’s pots that were sitting on the bar.

        • Da Real Cuz July 29, 2018 at 9:21 pm

          Ummmm you forgot the best part of the story Jay-Eauxxxxxxxxxxxx. I tossed Alka Seltzer in the air and we all watched dem gulls-ssssssss explode like 4th of July Roman Candles-sssssssss.

          ah-HA-HA-HA-HA-haaaaaAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!

  • DelcoEd July 29, 2018 at 9:22 pm

    On paper the Phillies latest addition looks great, obp alone.
    How will the manager rotate 4 players in the three positions? Then add in Crawford, 5 players in the 3 positions won’t work.
    Cabrera isn’t going to work out. The Phillies aren’t going to make the playoffs, at some point the defense needs to become accountable. You just can’t making the mistakes they make and be a true contender. No matter how Gabe paints it.

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