Red Flags for Jake Peavy

Handicapping News: Red Flags for Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox, who gets the start Wednesday Night on the road at St. Louis, began the season like a Cy Young contender. He had been a disappointment since coming over from San Diego (largely because too many in baseball and the media are still ignorant of park effects). But, he was seemingly unhittable through his first seven starts of 2012

1.89 ERA
44 K's
7 Walks
7.5 IP per start
4-1 Won-Lost Record
Only loss a 1-0 heartbreaker

Fantastic. The stuff of superstars, because posting a very low ERA like that while going into the eighth inning on a regular basis is a tough combination to pull off. And, remember, this was happening in the American League with the DH! But, look at his key stats in the five starts since then...

5.04 ERA
28 K's
13 Walks
6.1 IP per start

Those are the numbers of a borderline pitcher outside of the good K-per-inning rate. Peavy is still getting strikeouts, but he's become much more hittable. He's getting knocked around. And the increase in walks is meaning more guys come around to score when Peavy gets knocked around! Making things worse...lasting only 6.1 innings means that mediocre long relievers have to come in to replace you rather than the set-up man and the closer. Basically, in a fingersnap, Peavy went from being an overpowering staff ace to being the 5th man in the rotation.

This recent slide is part of the reason Peavy is an underdog tonight in St. Louis vs. Lance Lynn. Lynn has been surprisingly strong all year, and has yet to put up any red flags. If you learn to follow the markets closely, you'll see that the sharpest bettors in Vegas are very responsive to warning signs like we've seen with Peavy. If the walk rate goes up. If balls start rocketing around the park. If there's a loss in velocity or rumors of a minor injury, those bettors react. Be on the lookout for pitchers whose recent form doesn't line up with what was happening earlier.

Best categories to monitor for red flags:
Strikeout rate
Walk rate
Home Runs allowed
IP per start
Fastball velocity (now commonly reported on in the media)
Injury news (best covered by fantasy baseball fans)

Issues in multiple areas over multiple starts usually mean something. We're not suggesting that Peavy is now going to be useless for the season...or is destined for a trip to the DL. He was pitching a bit over his head during the best of times and was due to regress to the mean. The goal to remember is that you're trying to figure out how each pitcher is going to throw TONIGHT based on the most reasonable indicators....and then you're going to compare those expectations to what the market has posted. If you can learn to spot red flags as they're happening (preferably in 2-3 games rather than five or more), you can stay one step ahead of the market.

Has the market adjusted too far? Meaning, Peavy will now offer value as an underdog just as he's due to re-regress back toward better effectiveness? Handicapping is an art, not a science. It could certainly help that he's facing a National League offense rather than an American League offense. Peavy did shine against the Cubs in his only NL start this season.


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