By The Numbers: Nick Pivetta, Aaron Nola, Jose Peraza
Eleven qualified starting pitchers have posted an ERA lower than Nick Pivetta’s 2.13 WHIP prior to Wednesday’s Triple-A demotion.
This is not a case where spurned investors can simply bemoan a bad BABIP and expect better days ahead. Even those who believe he is better than an atrocious 8.35 ERA can’t take much solace in a 6.41 FIP. When neutralizing his home run rate — he served up five homers in four starts despite lowering his fly-ball rate to 28.8% — the righty’s 4.80 xFIP or 4.89 SIERA still won’t play in mixed leagues.
Those long-ball woes, however, aren’t a mere byproduct of misfortune. No pitcher has yielded more barrels than Pivetta, who ties Derek Holland with 11. Ervin Santana is the only starter with a higher xwOBA than Pivetta’s .454, just four points lower than his actual abhorrent mark.
Drafters accepted the risks because of his elite strikeout upside, but the 26-year-old hasn’t even helped in those regards. His swinging-strike rate dropped from a strong 12.0% to a mediocre 8.5%, causing his strikeout rate to freefall to 17.2%.
By sending him down to the minors, the Phillies spared Pivetta a trip to Coors Field this weekend. They also stripped him of a potential bounce-back outing at Miami next week. Managers might have felt compelled to give him one last chance against the Marlins, but they can move on unless swimming in bench (or N/A) spots. That said, don’t hesitate to add him again if he returns looking like the guy who sported a 3.51 SIERA and 27.1 K% in 2018.
Aaron Nola: 48.3% First-Pitch Strike Rate
Nola won’t be joining Pivetta in the minors anytime soon. The 25-year-old righty has earned a far longer leash from his real and fake-team employers despite getting rocked to an anemic 7.24 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. Without any drop in velocity or reason to expect he’s injured, it’s not time to panic just yet. Yet there are some highly discouraging trends from his first four starts.
Nola, who has never issued a walk rate above 7.1% in four seasons, is suddenly saddled with a 12.6% clip. That will happen when you stop throwing strikes. His overall strike rate has declined from 67.3 to 61.3%, but he has especially struggled to start the count. After ushering in a pristine 69.4% of batters faced with a strike last season, his first-pitch strike rate has fallen to the lowest tally of any qualified starter.
Since inducing six and four whiffs with his curveball and fastball on Opening Day, respectively, Nola has yielded nine and three swinging strikes with those pitches in his past three turns combined. Opponents have also chased each offering off the plate less often.
On the bright side, he has struggled against two fierce NL East lineups in the Nationals (twice) and Mets. Nola may just need the weather to warm up on the east coast, so don’t sell him too short of his draft-day cost. It’s at least a good idea to sit him for Saturday’s scheduled start at Colorado unless needing counting stats in a head-to-head matchup.
Jose Peraza: Zero Walks
Never a walks machine, Peraza drew a career-high 29 free passes in a breakout 2018 campaign. Still, one or two walks would be nice, especially if he’s also not going to hit. Sixteen games into a dreadful season, the middle infielder is batting 8-for-52.
Managers can tolerate his aggressive ways when consistently putting the ball in play. That’s not the case in April. His strikeout rate, which has never hovered above 13.5% in a single season, has expanded to 26.4. He’s chasing everything in sight with the highest outside-swing rate (51.8%) of any qualified hitter. Tying it all together, he’s whiffing (12.4% swinging-strike rate) much more than ever before.
Oh yeah, the less frequent contact he’s making has also regressed. He has yet to barrel a baseball, and only Billy Hamilton has reached a 95-mph exit velocity on fewer of his batted balls. Peraza also has both the second-worst wOBA (.175) and xwOBA (.210) among batters with at least 50 plate appearances, as of Wednesday, and Statcast gives him a .203 xBA.
If he keeps this up, Peraza won’t maintain a starting job for long. Derek Dietrich has earned playing time against all righties, which has relegated Peraza to the bench in two of Cincinnati’s last five games. Nick Senzel is beginning extended spring training, and the Reds could halt the center-field experiment if an opportunity resurfaces at second base or shortstop. Even if the top prospect stays in the outfield or minors, Scooter Gennett could return from a groin injury in June. Managers in shallow mixed leagues can avoid the suspense and cut Peraza now if strong alternatives such as Jeff McNeil, Niko Goodrum, and Jorge Polanco remain available.
Zack Greinke: 318 wRC+
There is nothing useful about this number. I just felt you all needed to know that Greinke is batting 4-for-10 with a walk, two home runs, and a higher wRC+ than Mike Trout. Maybe he should have moved to shortstop after all.