There are many reasons, despite the 5.33 career ERA, that the Phillies are excited about what Nick Pivetta can accomplish this season and beyond.
When you look under the hood, Pivetta was much better in 2018 than his ERA. His velocity, the movement of his breaking ball and his peripheral numbers all paint the portrait of a pitcher whose ceiling is a lot higher than his ERA indicates.
This season, the Phillies need him to get closer to that ceiling.
Pivetta struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and walked 2.8 last season. Only seven other starting pitchers in baseball matched or exceeded both numbers:
The combined ERA of that group: 2.89.
Pivetta's ERA: 4.77.
His ERA was a full run higher than anyone else's on the list.
The big difference between Pivetta and those aces came not with home runs but with balls in play. Among pitchers with at least 150 innings, Pivetta had the third-highest rate of hits allowed, ahead of only Jon Gray and Dylan Bundy. Some of that can be attributed to hard contact. But there was also plenty of bad luck.
These days, it's common to see teams, writers and commentators refer to pitchers as being unlucky when their batting average on balls in play is higher than the league average. It's not always the case. Sometimes it's the easy way out.