First half NL Cy Young Winner: Jake Peavy

Sure, we’re not to the All Star Break quite yet, but we’re halfway through. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to take a look at the best
players in each league thus far.

Jake Peavy (9-2): 105 IP, 113 K’s, 2.14 ERA.

Jake Peavy has been a great pitcher for quite some time now. As a matter of
fact, if it weren’t for his 2006 hiccup, many would probably regard him as the
greatest pitcher in the game. After all, Peavy finished 2004 with a 2.27 ERA,
and ’05 with a 2.88 ERA and 216 K’s in 203 IP. However, pitching for a
less-than-stellar Padres team, he went just 28-13 combined. In 2006, he had an
‘off’ year. Most of his stats were identical, except that he gave up
significantly more hits, resulting in a 4.09 ERA.

In 16 games so far, Peavy has gone 9-2. He leads the NL in strikeouts with
113 – that’s 9.69K/9IP, and batters are hitting a meager .216 off him. However,
his most remarkable statistical improvement – and there have been many – has been his ability to keep those balls that are
put in play on the ground. Previously, Peavy had been a slight fly-out pitcher,
hovering around a G/F of 1.20. This year, his G/F ratio is at 1.49. The result
is 1 HR allowed and 10 double plays. In comparison, he forced 10 and 13 DP’s in
all of 2005 and 2006, while allowing 18 and 23 HR, respectively. While 1.49 is
generally the line between a ground ball and fly out pitcher, it is an
‘increase’ over his career average and shows that Peavy has changed something on
his pitches, resulting in fewer HR and more DP’s. That provides evidence that
his performance this year has not been due to mere chance, but rather to a
marked change. Of course, the debate of a pitcher’s control over a batted ball
is one for another blog entirely.

The reality is that Peavy is having a season nearly identical to that of his
2005 campaign, but while giving up fewer walks. This, along with the G/F ratio,
again shows that he is not having a string of lucky starts. As such, Peavy wins
out and takes away the Ballhouse’s first half NL Cy Young Award.

The competition wasn’t easy, and Peavy wasn’t the original choice here. But
after some discussion, Kevin and I decided that he deserved it. The two other
finalists were teammate Chris Young and LA Dodger Brad Penny. However, the fine
folks at ESPN, in all their wisdom, provided us with some pretty compelling
stats that shifted the voting in Peavy’s favor. One of them is a Bill James
innovation called the "Game Score." Peavy’s AGS, (Average Game Score,) was 63.1,
while Young’s was 60.7, and Penny’s was 59.9. Interestingly enough, this showed
that the Ballhouse’s initial picks of the top three NL pitchers were correct.
The next highest regular NL starter was Cub Rich Hill, with 58.6.   

We’ll be continuing our first half awards with our AL/NL MVP and AL/NL Rookie
of the Year later this week.


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