Kings of the Road
In yesterday's article, I identified the leading candidates for the Cy Young Awards and listed their qualifications with a focus on who *should* win rather than who *will* win.
The race for the American League CYA is wide open with at least five legitimate candidates while the National League has two pitchers who are equally worthy and a couple more who have an outside shot as the season approaches the Labor Day weekend.
What's interesting to me in the NL is that the two principal hopefuls pitch in ballparks that are distinctively different. Arizona's Brandon Webb pitches his home games in a hitter's park whereas San Diego's Jake Peavy performs home games in one of the most pitcher friendly environments in recent baseball history. Advantage Peavy, right?
Well, let's take a closer look at Webb's and Peavy's home and road splits:
G W-L IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Home 12 6-4 82.2 81 33 27 4 32 76 2.97 .258 .327 .369 .696
Away 15 8-4 109.0 83 35 29 5 26 90 2.39 .206 .258 .286 .544
Totals 27 14-8 191.7 164 68 56 9 58 166 2.63 .229 .288 .323 .611
Not surprisingly, Webb has bettered his home stats while pitching away from Chase Field. He has started three more games and thrown 26.1 additional innings on the road. I'm not sure if that is by design or sheer luck but Webb's adjusted stats may slightly overstate his pitching prowess this year if the formula assumes an equal number of starts at home and on the road.
G W-L IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Home 16 7-5 104.0 91 34 33 5 30 112 2.86 .236 .298 .329 .627
Away 11 8-0 73.2 42 13 10 2 24 85 1.22 .163 .235 .225 .460
Totals 27 15-5 177.2 133 47 43 7 54 197 2.18 .207 .273 .287 .558
Based on Peavy's away numbers, I think it is safe to say that his success is not a product of Petco Park. Sure, he is pitching well at home. But check out those road stats. Peavy is 8-0 with a 1.22 ERA outside of Petco. With an AVG/OBP/SLG against line of .163/.235/.225, he's making hitters long to be Nick Punto (.199/.290/.258), who has the lowest OPS of any regular player in baseball.
During Bob Gibson's CYA and MVP season in 1968 when he fashioned a 1.12 ERA during the Year of the Pitcher, opponents "hit" .184/.233/.236 against him. Gibson's OPS was .469 that year. Peavy's OPS on the road in 2007 has been .460. That's right, Peavy's road numbers are comparable to what Gibby put up in what some believe to be the best season ever by a pitcher. In fairness to the Hall of Famer, he tossed over 300 innings so his sample size is more than four times Peavy's. But the purpose of this exercise is to make sure voters don't discount Peavy's performance this year based on the fact that he pitches his home games at
Yellowstone Petco Park.
Just as Webb's adjusted numbers may overstate his case, Peavy's adjusted totals may actually understate his success. Either way, the native of Mobile, Alabama is having a truly remarkable year. Excluding teammate Chris Young's current season, Roger Clemens (1.87 in 2005) is the only pitcher in the NL over the past ten years to forge a lower ERA than Peavy's current mark of 2.18.
SINGLE SEASON ERA LEADERS
1 Roger Clemens 2005 1.87
2 Greg Maddux 1998 2.22
3 Jake Peavy 2004 2.27
4 Randy Johnson 2002 2.32
5 Jason Schmidt 2003 2.34
6 Kevin Brown 1998 2.38
7 Andy Pettitte 2005 2.39
8 Kevin Brown 2003 2.39
9 Mark Prior 2003 2.43
10 Al Leiter 1998 2.47
As shown, Peavy had a similar ERA in 2004 and his peripheral stats (save for HR) are comparable. However, Peavy is on pace to throw about 54 more innings this season.
IP ERA ERA+ K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2002 97.2 4.52 85 8.29 3.04 1.01
2003 194.2 4.11 96 7.21 3.79 1.53
2004 166.1 2.27 177 9.36 2.87 0.70
2005 203.0 2.88 134 9.58 2.22 0.80
2006 202.1 4.09 103 9.56 2.76 1.02
2007 177.2 2.18 189 9.97 2.74 0.35
I'm not surprised in the least by Peavy's success. He pitched much better than most people realized in the first half last season when he was ridiculed for posting a 4-8 record with a 4.46 ERA. Peavy proceeded to go 7-6 with a 3.68 ERA in the second half even though his peripheral stats were roughly the same pre- and post- All-Star break.
Peavy beat Arizona 3-1 last night, enabling the Padres to pull within two games of the Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West. Jake allowed one run, three hits, and three walks in seven innings. He struck out 11 for the third consecutive start (including seven in a row at one point) and reached double digits for the eighth time this year, running his NL lead to 197.
Webb is scheduled to start tonight and could match Peavy's win total of 15 with a victory. He will be gunning for his seventh straight in the hopes of putting some distance between the D-Backs and the Padres.
As for the Cy Young Award, a strong case can be made for Peavy and an equally strong case can be made on behalf of Webb. It's so close, I would be comfortable giving the award to Brandon Peavy. Or maybe Jake Webb.