Don't Be Jaked By Peavy's Mainstream Stats
On the surface, it appears as if Jake Peavy is having a poor season. His record stands at 4-8 with a 4.46 ERA. So what's wrong with Peavy, you ask? Well, not much.
Let's compare his vital stats this year to those in 2004 when he led the National League in ERA:
G GS W-L IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA BR/9 H/9 BB/9 K/9 K/BB 2004 27 27 15-6 166.1 146 49 42 13 53 173 2.27 11.34 7.90 2.87 9.36 3.26 2006 17 17 4-8 107.0 102 53 53 14 26 118 4.46 10.98 8.58 2.19 9.93 4.54
Peavy is actually walking fewer batters (top left graph below) and striking out more (top right) per nine innings in 2006 than 2004, yet his ERA is more than TWO runs higher this year. That's almost impossible. How can that be? The obvious answer is that Jake is serving up more gopher balls (bottom left) this season (1.18 per 9 IP) than two years ago (0.70/9).
A closer examination shows that Peavy is giving up more flyballs (45.7% vs. 37.0%) and a greater percentage of those batted balls are leaving the ballpark (10.4% vs. 8.0%). But there are some other factors at play here. Consider that the 25-year-old right-hander has yet to allow an unearned run this year, whereas he gave up seven such runs in 2004. Furthermore, Jake's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a tad higher (.324) than it was two years ago (.310) despite the increase in flyballs and a decrease in groundballs.
Perhaps due to the reduction in grounders, Peavy is inducing fewer GIDP (0.34 per 9 IP vs. 0.92/9 in 2004). Jake is also allowing more stolen bases (1.26 SB/9 IP) than before (0.87).
Thanks to sites such as The Hardball Times and Fan Graphs, we can also ascertain one other important variable that gets little, if any, attention even among the stathead crowd. Peavy's LOB% was 84.0% in 2004 and is just 70.0% in 2006 (bottom right). That is an important difference. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder was lights out with runners on base two years ago (.218/.311/.324) compared to the current campaign (.250/.315/.424).
With respect to the difference in Peavy's won-loss records, look no further than run support. When Peavy was 15-6 in 2004, the Padres averaged 6.44 runs per nine innings while he was the pitcher of record. His run support ranked 12th out of 86 qualified pitchers. This year, his teammates are scoring 4.21 runs per 9 IP, ranking him 82nd among 93 qualified pitchers.
The bottom line is that Peavy's Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is virtually the same this year (3.50) as it was in 2004 (3.56). In other words, the native of Mobile, Alabama hasn't lost much, if anything. He is basically the same pitcher. You just wouldn't know it by looking at his win-loss records and ERAs.
Graphs courtesy of Fan Graphs.