How Does Jake Peavy Translate to the AL East's Small Ballparks, Lethal Offenses?
When the Boston Red Sox shook up the trade deadline chatter on Tuesday evening, they emerged with a quality veteran starting pitcher to soak up innings in the rotation, and, if the asking price out of Philadelphia was to be believed, a pitcher capable of dominating without costing the organization their best prospect.
Of course, Peavy is a risk. First and foremost, he's no lock to stay healthy for any period of time. 2012 was the first time since 2008 that he made at least 30 starts. After spending time on the shelf this summer with a rib injury, Peavy has only taken the mound 13 times for the Chicago White Sox.
Yet, health isn't the only red flag that will follow Peavy to Boston for the stretch run and sprint towards October. Unlike Cliff Lee, the other, bigger fish in the starting pitching pool, there are concerns about Peavy's ability to transition to the AL East ballparks and high-octane opponents.
While Lee is clearly the better and more durable pitcher, he would have been coming back to the AL after years in the NL. For Peavy, that's not an issue. Since July of 2009, Peavy has done his work in the American League.
For Red Sox fans, here's my pro-Jake Peavy article from last week. He's good and underrated. http://t.co/axoteLOiYz— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 31, 2013
Furthermore, he's pitched, relatively well, the bandbox that is U.S. Cellular Field. A quick look at how Peavy has fared in opposing AL East ballparks during his career gives a glimpse into how he might fare in big September games against division rivals, but his numbers against current AL East hitters and peripherals in 2013 give a better indication of just what Boston has added to their team.
During Peavy's time in Chicago, he's either missed turns, been injured or simply didn't line up to face his new AL East foes in their respective ballparks very much. For his career, Peavy has pitched a total of five combined games in New York, Baltimore, Tampa and Toronto, respectively. The numbers in New York (6.75 ERA) and Toronto (5.93 ERA) are poor, but buoyed by his work in Tampa (3.65 in 12.1 IP). His next start in Oriole Park at Camden Yards will double as his first.
Before diving into Peavy's good and bad numbers against the best current AL East hitters, small sample size must be acknowledged in all areas, but some match-up data can be useful moving forward.
Among Peavy's most difficult challenges in the next two months: Alfonso Soriano (3 HR, 1.035 OPS), Ichiro Suzuki (.320 BA in 25 PA), Robinson Cano (4-for-9), Ben Zobrist (.400 BA in 12 PA), James Loney (.321 in 29 PAs, mostly from their respective NL West days) and Melky Cabrera (.500 OBP in 12 PA).
On the flip side, these hitters should be sweating Peavy's arrival on a soon-to-be pitching forum: Derek Jeter (0-for-10), Evan Longoria (.167 in 12 PA), J.J. Hardy (1-for-14), Edwin Encarnacion (.222 in 22 PA) and Jose Bautista (.143 in 17 PA).
Of course, Peavy's ability right now, in 2013, supersedes his stuff on any given day or year when those respective battles took place.
While Peavy's game should be enhanced by leaving the home run heaven that is Chicago's home ballpark, his GB/FB splits and HR/FB splits are troubling as he heads to parks like Fenway, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre.
For the season, Peavy is only generating 35.2 percent (via Fangraphs) of batted balls to be hit into the ground for ground balls. The fly balls allowed in home run parks, especially U.S. Cellular, have led to a 13.1 percent HR/FB rate. In other words, Peavy is allowing a high rate of batted balls to be hit into the air this season. When he does, those balls have left the yard at a higher than average clip.
Yet, don't fret Red Sox fans. Peavy, if he can stay healthy, is bringing a good arsenal to Fenway Park for the stretch run. Although the veteran right-handed arm may give up cheap home runs over the Green Monster, his K (8.55 per 9) and BB rates (1.91) profile as his best since 2009. The ability to keep runners off the bases can limit how damaging those home runs become.
Peavy is a major move for Boston. Don't expect Cliff Lee dominance, but if Peavy helps the team reach October, Red Sox executive Ben Cherington will come out a winner in this move.
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*All batter vs. pitcher stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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