The Year Jake Peavy Turned Hitters into Matt Walbeck

Jake PeavyI recently picked up the Bill James Gold Mine 2008. There’s tons of great stuff in here, as you’d expect, but two items in particular have captured my imagination (so far): the “record of opposing batters” James presents for certain pitchers, and the “comps” he offers of team batting records to individual career batting records (e.g., the Padres hit like Bobby Bonilla in wins last season and like Norm Sherry in losses).

Hey, why not mash ‘em up and see what happens? Well, that’s just what I’ve done. I examined Jake Peavy‘s year-by-year “record of opposing batters” along with the names of some hitters who had similar career lines. In each case, I searched for hitters who:

  • were active between 1961 and 2007;
  • had at least 3000 plate appearances (2000 for the ’05 season, because otherwise we’d have no comps);
  • had both OBP and SLG within .010 of Peavy’s.

I then ordered each resulting set a) by batting average and b) by OPS+. The goal was to come up with a similar looking traditional line that also translated reasonably well when adjusted for era, parks, etc. Sometimes I had to make concessions (i.e., choose greater accuracy in terms of BA/OBP/SLG or in terms of OPS+). In those cases, I went with my gut because an exercise like this doesn’t demand precision.

What we’re really going for is, “In 2002, Peavy made opponents look kind of like Steve Finley, while in 2007 he made them look kind of like Matt Walbeck.” We’re trying to get a general feel for the type of hitter Peavy turned guys into for each season.

Jake Peavy, Record of Opposing Batters
Year PA BA OBP SLG OPS+ Batting Comps
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
2002 430 .274 .334 .432 104 Rich Aurilia, Bret Boone, Steve Finley
2003 827 .238 .318 .422 96 Scott Brosius, Mike Macfarlane
2004 694 .236 .305 .359 75 Joe Girardi, Tom Pagnozzi
2005 812 .217 .271 .363 69 Ken Reitz, John Shelby
2006 846 .242 .303 .412 85 Corey Patterson, Gerald Williams
2007 898 .208 .272 .312 55 Dave McKay, Matt Walbeck
Career 4507 .232 .297 .379 n/a Kevin Elster, Ron Karkovice

Karkovice falls just short of our 3000 PA threshold, but whatever. The point, again, is to get a general sense of things. Oh yeah, and to have fun. :-)

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My Padres season preview is up at Hardball Times. No surprises if you’ve been following along here for any amount of time.
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Padres and Royals tonight on Channel 4SD. First pitch at 7:05 p.m. PT; we’ll have the IGD running about an hour before then.

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42 Responses »

  1. Slightly OT but Scott Brosius is the head coach at Linfield College in McMinville Oregon not very far from where I’m at.

  2. Great preview, GY. Not as optimistic as I’d hoped, but still good.

    Wolf and Rusch looked phenomenal yesterday. K-Cam is obviously still hurt. Lets hope our fourth and fifth starters can carry this success into the regular season. If they do, we should be fine.

  3. The problem with saying that Jake Peavy turned hitters into Matt Walbeck is that I have no idea who he is/was … but I guess that’s the point … and I like the article I read recently where Bud Black was quoted as saying he thinks Jake can/will get better still! He’s got some growing to do … in more ways than one … it’ll be fun to watch!

  4. Proof that 1998 scarred me forever: Scott Brosius and Mike McFarlane don’t seem like the same hitter.

  5. #3: Yep, exactly. Also, Walbeck was with the Padres very briefly in 2002. He’s even mentioned on page 178 of the 2008 Annual! :-)

  6. 4.

    I would be pretty interested in Reed as long as he came cheap.

  7. 4: Sounds like he could be a useful 4th or 5th OF and replacement for Edmonds. We’d probably be a bit better off with his D in CF and keeping Hairston in LF. Not sure how his bat would play. It sort of looks like he might not even match Gerut, but OF D is so important in Petco.

  8. On the THT preview piece:

    Love your coverage, Geoff. But I’, curious why you seem so stuck on the attendance topic. I just see simple variance (fluctuations within 5,000 fans) as opposed to a pattern of decline when looking at the 4-yr. chart you used in the article & have used on Ducksnorts. The highest number in the first year of a brand new gorgeous park, slight decline the next year, and fluctuations thereafter. Isn’t that just pretty normal? I’m interested if you can clarify your/the logic a bit more. Thanks in advance.

  9. Hat tip to Drama from GLB, but this is too good to not get reposted:

  10. Reed seems very injury prone (ala Kahlil) someone in the comments reccomended the Padres look into Brian Anderson from ChiSox.

  11. That’s a fun read, Geoff. Wasn’t Wahlbeck a backup catcher for the Angels at some point?

    The no-hitter that GY attended.

  12. BTW, the Cubs got Reed Johnson. I would hope this means that Matt Murton is available for the Padres, or that forever prospect Felix Pie.

  13. Ugh, I don’t know why I bother reading preview articles:

    We get a sentence. Everyone else in the West (aside from the Giants) get a paragraph. Classy.

  14. On the attendance thing: I watched dozens of Padres games last year. I’ve been a fan since the late 1970s. They were just not an exciting team to watch. They never steal bases, they don’t score many runs, they have trouble getting 2 or 3 hits in a row, they don’t hit many homers, and they don’t have a truly exciting player who, whenever he comes to bat, you think “something might happen here.” Every now and then you’ll get a “wow” play from Khalil, and watching Peavey dominate some games is fun. The first time I heard “hells bells” live at Qualcomm when Trevor came in to the game, I got goosebumps. Now, I just get cold shivers.

    I lived in Chicago all through the Sammy Sosa era. Say what you want about him, but he was fun to watch. Everybody stopped what they were doing at Wrigley when he came to bat, just to see what would happen.

    For the casual fans (the ones that push attendance from good to really good), you need a hook. I’ll bet that attendance in SF will drop this year sans Bonds. Casual fans need more than “good baseball” and steady performance to fill thousands of seats on a regular basis.

    For me, I’d rather see good baseball and winning seasons. (It would be nice to have some playoff success every now and then). But, in San Diego, the cost is fewer butts in Petco seats.

  15. #9: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I’m not so much “stuck on” the attendance issue as fascinated by it. You may well be right — this could be nothing more than random fluctuation. At the same time, the organization is enjoying a renaissance of sorts and yet, many people seem oblivious to it. I find that… odd.

    You’re right that it’s too early to draw firm conclusions. Still, I think the attendance issue (or non-issue, as the case may be) bears watching. I would love to see studies on this issue. Metaphorical gold star for anyone who can point me to some.

  16. In a surprise move, the Brewers released Claudio Vargas. This seems like a no-brainer for the Padres:

  17. That would not be a bad bet, going for Vargas.

  18. Somehow, someway, Mike Cameron only struck out this Spring four
    times in 39 PA’s, yet didn’t sacrifice power by clubbing 3 home runs. Perhaps a different approach from Cameron or is this standard Mike Cameron in spring training.

    M Cameron

    MIL OF 15 35 14 12 2 1 3 8 25 9 4 3 1 .477 .714 .343

  19. 17, 18: I expected Vargas to be better than his numbers reveal. He’s slightly worse than Lohse. Worth a flier.

    On a related note, Rotoworld says that Anthony Reyes is likely to be left out of the Cardinals rotation.

  20. 20: I expect KT would jump all over Reyes if he’s dangled on waivers. I believe its been reported several times that he’s had a significant interest in Reyes.

  21. Re: 21 Yup if Reyes is put on waivers he would prob become our 5th starter to start the season.

  22. 19: I seriously doubt a guy with Cameron’s track record, who is already in his 30′s, is going to change his approach much, and you really can’t tell anything from 39 spring PA’s.

  23. This is kind of off-topic, but it’s still relevant and has been on my mind recently. Is there a stat that compensates for outs a pitcher gets without retiring a hitter, ie. outs made on the basepaths?

    This might be easier understood with an example. Let’s say Justin Germano walks the first two batters of an inning. He then picks off the runner on second (one out). The hitter then doubles, but the runner on first is thrown out at home (two outs). The fourth hitter then doubles to right, and the runner on first is also thrown out at home to end the inning. Germano escaped by facing only four batters and without surrendering a run, yet he walked two and gave up two extra-base hits. Obviously this example is a little extreme, but it seems to me that his ERA (or even his WHIP) shouldn’t be rewarded for the other team’s bad baserunning.

  24. Anyone see this yet?

    I wish THT wasn’t giving hitters tips on reading Jake!

  25. 24: I don’t think his WHIP is rewarded in that situation. He would get a WHIP of 4.0 for that inning, which by all accounts, is awful. Looking at that WHIP, we would assume a run scored.

    I could be wrong about this, doesn’t DIPS (Defense-independent Pitching Statistics) exist almost exactly for this purpose? Is WHIP a part of DIPS?

  26. 24: That sounds like something BP would have, and which you’d have to pay for, but I really don’t know. The scenario you describe will be reflected in his WHIP though because they will still be scored as a BB or an H regardless of whether the runners are later erased.

  27. 26: I did think about that, but I still feel his WHIP should be infinity since he allowed four baserunners and got zero outs himself.

  28. 24: I believe most of the advanced stats do that. For instance, Base Runs:

    26: WHIP is not really a part of DIPS because WHIP makes no adjustment for average on balls in play, which is essentially what DIPS does .. i.e., “defense independent” as in walks, homers, and k’s.

  29. 24 … also the simple BB/9 and K/9 stats show that the inning in question is not a good one … between WHIP, BB/9 and K/9, that tells me a lot about a pitcher …

  30. To Portland: Brian Myrow, Oscar Robles, Craig Stansberry, Adam Bass, Shawn Estes, Chip Ambres.

  31. PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) – The San Diego Padres exercised manager Bud Black’s option for the 2009 season Tuesday.

  32. 31 … thanks for that news …

    Myrow is a very good hitter … he’s a good player to have at AAA … if Adrian or Clark skip a beat, Myrow can/will fill in at “above replacement level” …

    I s’pose Robles will play SS @ Portland … opposite Antonelli … which leaves Stansberry on the bench (or at 3B? … spliting time with McDougal?), I s’pose …

    Bass in the ‘pen @ Portland … proving he deserves a call-up if/when needed …

    Estes … sure seems he’s done … but if he gets a chance to prove/disprove that with a few starts in AAA, I guess there’s no downside …

    Ambres might not start @ for the Beavers … I’ve heard that the OF will be Headley in LF, Macias in CF, Venable in RF … but if Ambres is #4 (and first PHer off the bench), then the team will be good for it … he’s a decent player … to me, he’s a classic “replacement level” OFer … which can be a valuable commidity, especially with Edmonds and Giles not being models of health …

    So that leaves Luis Rodriquez and Callis Crabbe on the Padres as backup infielders? I’m good with that … I liked what I saw of both of them @ Peoria … neither are too far above “replacement level” … but don’t seem below it either … biggest concern about Crabbe is his baserunning … he may be fast, but it sure seems like he’s made a lot of outs on the bases during spring training … he’s gotta cool the jets until he learns how to stay safe …

  33. 31 … here’s TK @ UT’s view of the roster status …

    … Edmonds “doubtful” … Estes expected to go to Portland … Gernamo the “leading candidate” for #5 …

  34. 31 – I shed a single tear for Bass…

  35. 36: If Bass was a Freeman, you’d be Mua’dib.


    Top 5 2008 AL Batting Leaders, by PECOTA Projected AVG

    Player, Team, AVG

    Vladimir Guerrero, LAA, .310
    Magglio Ordonez, DET, .306
    Placido Polanco, DET, .305
    Ichiro Suzuki, SEA, .304
    Miguel Cabrera, DET, .300

  37. 38: Obviously, the folks at BP don’t expect the AL batting title to be taken with a .310 avg. I’m a bit surprised that PECOTA didn’t project Ichiro or Cabrera higher.

    This reminds me of Jeff Bagwell’s rookie year. Bill James’ projections had him at .317 (or something like that) and nobody else in the NL was projected higher than Gwynn, at .313 (I think) In the following season’s Abstract (or it might have been Bill James’ Baseball Book by then) James wrote about the heat he’d taken for “predicting that rookie Jeff Bagwell would win the batting title,”(which wasn’t his intent at all) and that the criticism caused him to root feverishly for Bagwell that year. In the end, James felt, Bagwell made him look good by winning the NL ROY, if not the batting championship.

  38. 40: I remember that.

  39. 40: Ichiro’s low BA projection does seem odd. He’s a career .333 hitter and his 90th percentile projection is “only” .327.

    Although, I guess this sort of accounts for that:
    “Important Note: The Percentile Forecasts are designed to work for the Key Statistic (EqA and EqERA) only. If a player’s 90th percentile forecast for home runs is 42, this should not be read to mean that he has a 10% chance of hitting 42 home runs (or more). Rather, it means that he has a 10% chance of having a performance as valuable as the line represented by the 10th percentile forecast, whether this comes from the particular combination of peripheral statistics listed in the percentile line, or an equally valuable (but different) combination of statistics.”