Projections for 2019
Thanks to the improvements Pivetta made and the success he showed early in the year, Pivetta is being talked about as a breakout candidate for the year. Mike Petriello of MLB.com named Pivetta one of his five breakout pitchers for the year, citing Pivetta’s high strikeout rate and swing-and-miss ability with his curveball.
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A key component of projecting a breakout for Pivetta this year is that the defense behind him won’t be the worst in the league. Pivetta falls under the category of a fly ball pitcher, so when he started last year, manager Gabe Kapler would be more comfortable starting Asdrubal Cabrera and Scott Kingery in the infield. This led to Pivetta having the highest batting average on balls in play among qualified pitchers, placing even more pressure on him.
This year, Pivetta will an adept defensive shortstop in Jean Segura along with a healthy Cesar Hernandez up the middle. Perhaps even more importantly, Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams have been replaced by Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen in the corner outfield positions.
Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projection system projects Pivetta to finish the year with a 3.46 ERA, 2.4 wins above replacement, 1.18 WHIP, 168 strikeouts, 47 walks, and 148.2 innings pitched in 26 starts. Other projection systems are a bit more conservative with Pivetta’s ERA but still project him to be around two to three wins above replacement.
If Pivetta limits his mistake pitches, it will lead to fewer disaster innings and an overall lower ERA. Having a better defense behind him should help things considerably. Pivetta has the ability to pitch like a high-end starter; he just has to show he can do it over a long period of time.