A quality start in baseball is defined as a game in which the starting pitcher completes at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer.
It’s nothing crazy, and it’s a rather reasonable expectation when it comes to evaluating major league pitching.
It’s also something the Red Sox have struggled to find this season. Through 155 games, the Red Sox have received just 44 quality starts from their pitching staff, which is good for 25th in Major League Baseball. The lack of quality starts from the pitching staff is a big reason the Red Sox find themselves three games under .500 and eliminated from playoff contention.
It’s no secret an overhaul to the rotation is among the most important tasks set to be assumed by the new regime this offseason. Looking ahead to 2024, there are some major holes in the Red Sox rotation.
At the moment, the Red Sox will be entering 2024 with Brayan Bello and Chris Sale. Bello is under club control through the 2028 season, and Sale still has one more guaranteed season on his contract and an option for 2025.
After those two, there are some questions.
It’s unclear if pending free agent James Paxton will be back next season, especially when you consider his post-trade deadline struggles, and the jury is still out when it comes to evaluating what type of role fits Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, and Kutter Crawford.
Then there is Nick Pivetta.
After being bumped out of Boston’s starting rotation in mid-May, Pivetta established himself in a unique hybrid role, coming out of the bullpen in single-inning relief, as an opener, or as a multi-innings reliever throughout the season.
However, when Paxton was shut down for the season due to right knee inflammation, Pivetta found himself back in the rotation, giving the 30-year-old another chance to prove he belongs in the starting rotation, and so far, he has answered the call.
Pivetta tossed seven shutout innings at rainy Fenway on Saturday afternoon, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. Pivetta’s outing on Saturday marked just the 16th time this season that a Red Sox pitcher completed the seventh inning and marked the consecutive start that Pivetta threw at least six innings.
“Let’s see what the offseason brings,” manager Alex Cora said postgame. “I’m excited about him. I think finally he has put it together.”
Pivetta finds himself in an interesting situation. His splits would indicate that the bullpen would be a better fit. However, given the uncertainty surrounding the rotation, slotting in as a starter could be a better fit for the seven-year veteran. It’s worth noting that Pivetta is entering his final year of arbitration, and a long-term extension is probably unlikely at this point.
Pivetta has earned a spot on the roster in 2023, and this sudden late-season turnaround as a starter could land him in the rotation for the start of 2024.