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Is Jake Peavy A Fit for Fenway?

Somehow, I’m going to go with “because there is no god”, Jake Peavy was the headliner on the biggest trade of the non-waiver trade deadline period (unless you too have a hard on for Drew Butera).  By this point, Jake Peavy is largely a known quantity, so it might be a bit of a headscratcher that I’d opt for a breakdown of him from a dynasty perspective. But, being the shameless pageview whore than I am, writing about someone who was moved at the traded deadline (and in a three-team trade no less) seemed like a good idea.

So let’s just look at a few things to set the scene. First, I wanted to see how Peavy was pitching this year, relative to a successful 2012/earlier career to inform us of what we might expect going forward. Peavy is currently striking out 23.5% of batters this season and walking only 5.3%. Those are great rates and actually better his percentages from 2012 and are comparable (small stretch) to his prime seasons. It might make one wonder then, why his 4.28 ERA is so close to his 4.09 FIP. The answer resides in the number of home runs he’s allowed, as he’s seen his HR/9 rise to 1.58, the highest rate of his career. It might not be so surprising to see a HR/9 that high given that he’s only generating groundballs at a 35.2% clip compared to 47.1% for flyballs, a marked departure from his prime, where he would generate more groundballs than flyballs. What makes me optimistic that Peavy can improve upon his performance by limiting home runs, despite the escalated FB% is that his HR/FB rate is currently the second highest of his career, and nearly 3% higher than his career rate.

I know Fenway doesn’t come to mind as a pitchers park, but through July 31 it’s the 24th ranked park (.845) when it comes to giving up home runs, a full 11 spots better than Peavy’s previous home, U.S. Cellular (1.079)*.  So, throw in regression towards his career HR/FB (not to, since he’s likely lost something, stuff wise) and moving to a ballpark that has, so far, suppressed home runs more than his previous park and we can expect some statistical improvement for Peavy.

*Stats courtesy ESPN

The other factor I thought it prudent to look at was, just what I mentioned above – Peavy’s stuff. Given his age, and perhaps more importantly, his injury history, it’s reasonable to think that Peavy has lost a little something over the years. For that, we go to our old friend BrooksBaseball.net:

Year Fourseam Sinker Change Slider Curve Cutter
2007 95.16 95.63 86.11 83.67 76.24 88.20
2008 93.40 93.79 85.49 81.97 77.08 86.46
2009 92.55 92.43 84.24 81.62 78.68 86.93
2010 92.28 91.99 84.58 83.59 80.04 87.50
2011 91.27 91.41 83.13 83.27 77.66 86.69
2012 91.51 91.55 84.05 82.88 80.03 85.99
2013 91.32 91.56 83.39 82.55 80.17 87.17

So, yes. It’s clear that Peavy has lost velocity, but his current numbers jive with what he’s been since 2011 and aren’t that far off from 2010. I thought it might be more instructive to look at the movement on his pitches, to see if they’re much different than his previous seasons. Again to Brooks Baseball:

Horizontal Movement

Year Fourseam Sinker Change Slider Curve Cutter
2007 -7.39 -10.46 -6.90 6.15 6.07 1.84
2008 -6.27 -9.43 -7.39 6.64 6.60 2.30
2009 -6.84 -9.83 -8.47 5.62 5.58 1.75
2010 -6.51 -8.89 -8.12 2.70 3.46 0.41
2011 -5.69 -7.99 -6.96 3.07 4.27 1.01
2012 -5.61 -8.72 -7.03 3.67 3.73 1.40
2013 -7.85 -10.04 -8.89 2.31 2.92 -0.44

Vertical Movement

Year Fourseam Sinker Change Slider Curve Cutter
2007 11.15 8.29 4.29 3.30 -5.30 5.02
2008 10.50 7.74 3.95 1.38 -5.48 3.87
2009 10.99 7.84 3.67 1.97 -4.44 4.61
2010 10.61 7.83 3.90 2.41 -3.08 5.40
2011 8.80 7.61 2.59 1.67 -3.99 4.52
2012 8.43 5.75 2.33 1.17 -4.25 2.64
2013 10.00 8.35 4.07 3.92 -2.48 6.24

What this tells us is that Peavy’s stuff is actually coming back towards where it was in 2007-2010, some of his more successful seasons.

That his stuff has remained in tact, despite some (expected) loss in velocity, combined with a friendlier park to pitch in and better lineup behind him, make me optimistic that Peavy is actually going to have a successful year and two months in Boston. Obviously the injury risk is a concern, but if someone is selling based on 2013’s numbers, he could provide a nice return on investment.

Source Material
Brooks Baseball
ESPN
FanGraphs

You can follow me on Twitter at @cdgoldstein
You can read my other work at Fake Teams and MLB Draft Insider

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Craig Goldstein

Craig Goldstein

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