Phillies: Breaking down Nick Pivetta’s first MLB start

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April 30, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (43) throws in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
April 30, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (43) throws in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nick Pivetta made his major-league debut for the Phillies April 30. Here we’re going to break down he performed and look at the numbers.

Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta made his major-league debut last weekend, facing a solid Dodgers lineup. He went five innings, giving up just two runs despite allowing nine hits and a walk. Pivetta struck out five batters during the start.

To get a better grasp on Pivetta’s first start in the majors, we’ll take a look at his numbers from the start and see how they stack up versus the rest of the league. For reference, I will be using Brooks Baseball’s Pitch f/X tool for the numbers unless otherwise stated.

The first thing that stands out about Pivetta’s start is his velocity. He averaged around 95 miles per hour for every inning besides the fourth where it dropped to averaging 92. What’s more impressive is that he hit 97 mph in every inning besides the fourth where got it up to just under 93 mph. Considering his scouting report when the team acquired Pivetta in 2015 had him sitting in the low-90s while occasionally hitting 96, this is definitely an improvement.

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Compared to the rest of the league, Pivetta’s average fastball velocity of 94.98 mph is above-average with a z-score of 0.97, nearly a whole standard deviation away from the mean.

Pivetta’s fastball is his best pitch, and it showed in his usage. He threw his fastball 62.64% of the time. Meanwhile, he threw his slider 20.88% of the time while using his changeup 13.19% of the time. He mixed in a couple curveballs as well, throwing three Sunday.

Diving into how he attacked hitters using his arsenal, Pivetta unsurprisingly often went with his fastball on the first pitch. He used it 55% of the time on the first pitch against lefties while using it 75% of the time against righties. When Pivetta fell behind in the count, he relied on his fastball even more, increasing his usage to 63% and 88% against lefties and righties, respectively.

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When Pivetta got ahead in the count, how he attacked the hitter varied depending on which side of the plate they were on. Against righties, Pivetta continued to use his fastball, using it 57% of the time when ahead in the count and 63% of the time with two strikes. Against lefties, Pivetta relied more on his slider and changeup. He used each 40% of the time when ahead in the count against lefties and used a slider in 57% of his two-strike counts.

Altogether, Pivetta mixed in most of his arsenal against lefties, using his fastball and changeup most often against them.

Against righties, Pivetta used his fastball 75% of the time while throwing a breaking ball the other 25% of the time. He never threw a changeup against a righty in his first start.

Pivetta got his five strikeouts using his fastball twice and slider three times.

To give a general gist of how each of Pivetta’s pitches performed, I will let Brooks Baseball’s “At-A-Glance” feature explain:

"His fourseam fastball is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, has slight armside run, has slightly above average velo and has some added backspin. His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 19 of them in 2017) is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ sliders, generates more whiffs/swing compared to other pitchers’ sliders and has some two-plane movement. His change (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 12 of them in 2017) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups, is much firmer than usual, has a lot of backspin and has slight armside fade. His curve (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 3 of them in 2017) is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ curves, results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ curves and has slight glove-side movement."

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Pivetta’s first start could have gone better, but it gave us our first look at how the pitcher attacks hitters and how his pitches perform compared to other major-league pitchers. His next start comes Friday night against the Nationals, and it will be interesting to see if he changes how he approaches hitters.

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