CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (05/01)
<< Previous Column
Painting the Black: Oc... (04/17)
Next Column >>
Painting the Black: Je... (05/03)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Process: Post-Draf... (05/01)

May 1, 2012

Painting the Black

Peavy Does It

by R.J. Anderson

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Jon Lester and Jake Peavy engaged in a pitcher’s duel on Saturday afternoon. Officially, Lester and the Red Sox won 1-0, but Peavy stole the show as he threw back-to-back complete games for the first time in his career. All told, Peavy’s line through five games moved to 37 2/3 innings pitched, 21 hits allowed (one home run), seven runs against, and 28 more strikeouts than walks.

The temptation to label Peavy’s April as “vintage Peavy” is as strong as it is inaccurate. Peavy no longer sits in the mid-90s (he touches 94 mph) and he no longer strikes out a batter per inning. But Peavy is still a bulldog on the mound, his tenacity evident in both his pitching and in his unwillingness to be forthcoming about injuries. A certain air of invincibility is required in order to make it as a major-league pitcher; however, being a pertinacious pitcher can have its drawbacks—like being in denial about lost velocity and continuing to ride a subpar heater.

Judging a fastball by its velocity is like judging a woman by the clothes that she wears—both are wrong, and both wrongs are committed often. Take Peavy’s efforts on Saturday. Put yourself in his cleats. What would you throw if you knew you had to face such hulking left-handed hitters as David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez without your best fastball? Where would you concentrate on throwing your fastball when you did throw it? You probably said that you would throw more soft stuff and keep the hard stuff down and away. Not illogical, but not how Jake Peavy, professional bulldog, went about his business:

Peavy’s eagerness to pitch up in the zone with his fastball is not a one-start gimmick, but a season-long attraction so far. This tidbit helps to explain why Peavy owns the majors’ lowest groundball rate (24.5 percent) despite never before finishing a season with less than 40 percent groundballs. Everyone knows to approach radical shifts over small samples with caution, yet Peavy’s new territory is coming with a new approach that should lead to more contemplation and fewer dismissals.

Consider the tables below, wherein Peavy’s 2010-2011 and 2012 fastballs are charted into one of four quadrants:

Split v. LHB

Fastballs

Up-In%

Up- Away%

Down-In%

Down-Away%

2010-2011

1,658

13.9%

14.4%

17.6%

35.9%

2012

237

28.3%

28.3%

16.9%

26.6%

Split v. RHB

Fastballs

Up-In%

Up- Away%

Down-In%

Down-Away%

2010-2011

1,382

18.2%

24.4%

13.5%

43.8%

2012

275

16.7%

34.2%

10.2%

38.9%

Peavy is noticeably working more to one quadrant—glove-side, high—in 2012 than in the previous two seasons. That means going up and in on lefties and up and away on righties. The increased flyball rate shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, and neither should the knowledge that Peavy’s 16.3 percent pop-up rate marks a career high (his previous best, 12.6 percent, came back in 2002); working the heater inside on left-handed batters is leading to more jamming. Peavy had a multi-year True Average Against of .251 versus lefties and .237 versus righties entering the season; so far, lefties are hitting .175/.200/.238, slightly worse than righties.

While Peavy’s increased flyball and pop-up rates are likely to have some staying power, one area that may change is his ability to prevent extra-base hits against lefties. Only two batters, Endy Chavez and Ryan Sweeney, have managed to rack up multiple bases off a Peavy fastball this season. It is worth noting that neither seemed like a poor pitch on Peavy’s part, as the images below support:

For added context: Chavez falls into an 0-2 count before tomahawking a high heater into the right-field corner. The pitch before, a high in-zone fastball, saw Chavez take a hapless hack. Given the result, it’s likely that Chavez was thinking high fastball again. As for Sweeney, Peavy had struck him out on an inside fastball back in the first inning. Peavy went to the well again, and got Sweeney to break his bat. The only negative is that Sweeney hit a blooper that a diving Gordon Beckham just couldn’t reach. (Hawk Harrelson decreed Beckham’s play as “the definition of gutsy.”) Peavy likely walked away disappointed, but not discouraged by the results at hand.

Perhaps the biggest question about Peavy is not how the league adjusts to his new approach or how he counters, but rather if he stays healthy long enough for those issues to become concerns. Peavy’s 35 starts over the past two seasons are just one more than he made during his 2007 season. The injuries have stayed away so far, which is more than left-handed hitters can say about Peavy.

Thanks to Bradley Ankrom for research assistance.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Eric Chavez,  Jake Peavy

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Baseball Prospectus Ne... (05/01)
<< Previous Column
Painting the Black: Oc... (04/17)
Next Column >>
Painting the Black: Je... (05/03)
Next Article >>
Premium Article The Process: Post-Draf... (05/01)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Is Marcus Stroman the Rea...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Winter League Games to ...
The Week in Quotes: December 15-21, 2014
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Martin in Miami, Nate ...
Premium Article Ninety Percent Mental: The Predictable Aggre...
Premium Article 2015 Prospects: Colorado Rockies Top 10 Pros...

MORE FROM MAY 1, 2012
Baseball Prospectus News: Introducing the Re...
Baseball ProGUESTus: Spitting Imaging
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: September Surges, April Strugg...
Fantasy Article Value Picks: First, Third, and DH for 5/1/12
Premium Article Collateral Damage Daily: Tuesday, May 1
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Tuesday, May 1
What You Need to Know: Tuesday, May 1

MORE BY R.J. ANDERSON
2012-05-07 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: A Roach, a Padre and a...
2012-05-03 - Painting the Black: Jesus Montero Against Ma...
2012-05-02 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Rhymes With Longoria
2012-05-01 - Premium Article Painting the Black: Peavy Does It
2012-05-01 - Baseball Prospectus News: Introducing the Re...
2012-04-26 - Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Can't Spell Depth With...
2012-04-24 - Premium Article Prospectus Game of the Week: The Accounts an...
More...

MORE PAINTING THE BLACK
2012-05-15 - Premium Article Painting the Black: Living Low and Away
2012-05-08 - Premium Article Painting the Black: The Reeducation of David...
2012-05-03 - Painting the Black: Jesus Montero Against Ma...
2012-05-01 - Premium Article Painting the Black: Peavy Does It
2012-04-17 - Painting the Black: Occam's Rubber
2012-04-10 - Painting the Black: Who Are These Guys?
2012-04-03 - Painting the Black: 2012 Milestones Watch
More...