Chat with Rob Neyer
Question: If you could have one right-handed pitcher for your team in 2008, who would you choose?For the sake of argument, for the moment we're going to assume your choice is between Jake Peavy and Josh Beckett. Seems reasonable enough, right? In the National League, Peavy was the unanimous winner of the Cy Young Award last season. In the American League, Beckett finished a strong second in the Cy Young balloting, behind left-hander C.C. Sabathia, and that was before October, when he won all four of his starts and gave up only four runs in 30 innings. Is there another right-handed starter who deserves a place in this conversation? Yeah, at least a few. But we'll discuss them later. For now let's stick with Peavy and Beckett.
In Beckett's favor:
In Peavy's favor:
Peter (Alpharetta, GA)
Who is going to have the better season in 2008? I say Peavy because he plays in the NL and faces the opposing pitcher at bat and also he does not get blisters like Beckett. Peavy can win 20 and keep his ERA under 2.50. Your thoughts Rob?
Rob Neyer (1:02 PM)
Well, it's likely that Peavy will have better numbers because of his league and his ballpark. But what we're trying to figure out isn't which of them will have better numbers, but which will be the better *pitcher*. And those can be two completely different things, right?
John (Dumfries, VA)
Rob, I'm going to have to agree with you here. While Beckett has nasty stuff I believe Peavy's is nastier. He is a much better strike out pitcher than Beckett throwing at least 215 K's each of the last 3 seasons. Sure he pitches in Petco, but w/ the way he strikes batters out he usually using his talent as a pitcher to get outs and not the park. Peavy all the way. I doubt Beckett can duplicate 2007 again.
Rob Neyer (1:03 PM)
I share your doubt. But when talking about strikeouts, we have factor in all those strikeout-prone pitchers Peavy gets to face almost every time he gets on the bump. Anyone care to "normalize" their strikeouts, AL/NL?
Rob, I agree with you on Peavy. When it is all said and done, who do you think will have the more amazing career????
Rob Neyer (1:05 PM)
In the essay that led off this debate/discussion, I was thinking just about 2008. Who would I want for the rest of his career? Again, Peavy, because he's a little bit younger and he's been a little bit more consistent.
Matt (New Jersey)
In response to John from Virginia, most strikeout pitchers have durability issues down the line because they throw more pitches. Beckett has publicly attributed his recent successes to learning how to use his 2-seamer and pitch to contact. While that will get him less face time on ESPN, it may add years to his career.
Rob Neyer (1:07 PM)
Are you sure, Matt? I think you'll find that most pitchers with great career actually were strikeout pitchers for at least the early part of their careers. Thinking about the 1960s and '70s ... Gibson, Marichal, Seaver, Carlton, Blyleven, Palmer ... all of those guys were power pitchers in their 20s, right? I think if you study the issue you'll find that it's the finesse guys who typically don't enjoy long careers (and yes, I know there are exceptions).
Beckett would have had 250 strikeouts against the nl and their pitchers, while peavy would have had around 180 k's.
Rob Neyer (1:08 PM)
Uh, Mike? Was that a back-of-the-envelope calculation? Or merely flight-of-the-fingers...
Michael (Bakersfield, CA)
Whats the BABIP for each?
Rob Neyer (1:12 PM)
Last three years for Beckett: .290, .270, .320. Last three for Peavy: .290, .320, .290. (Those are rounded to the nearest tenths because that's how my closest source has them.) Those numbers for Peavy are exactly what you'd expect, and go a fair way toward explaining his lousy ERA in 2006. But Beckett's are puzzling, as his BABiP was somehow higher in '06 than '7. One would expect it to drop this season, which is a real positive marker regarding his immediate future.
Dan - San Jose
Both guys have great arms, stats, etc. But it sure seems like Beckett has more rings than Peavy. Additionally, it sure seems like Beckett played a huge part in winning those rings. Therefore, I'll take Beckett.
Rob Neyer (1:12 PM)
Yeah. Mike Timlin has more rings than Trevor Hoffman. Which one you taking?
Can we choose from between Brandon Webb and Roy Oswalt instead?
Rob Neyer (1:14 PM)
Ah, finally the uncomfortable subject is broached. I'm not going to turn this whole chat into a referendum on *all* the right-handers. But let's take a few moments ... Would anyone take Webb or Oswalt ahead of Peavy? If so, please make your case in 75 words or less...
Todd (Brighton, MA)
Rob, I think this question probably depends on which team's perspective you're looking at this from. If you're a Padres fan, then you need a Peavy to get you into the playoffs. If you're a Red Sox fan, you'd rather have Beckett since the odds of getting into the postseason are better, and Beckett thus far is a better postseason pitcher.
Rob Neyer (1:15 PM)
Todd, do you think Beckett has a "special" ability to pitch in October? Or (as is more likely, if not necessarily true) is he simply an excellent pitcher who's been *particularly* excellent in the postseason.
Peavy blows up in the post season, his ERA is 12.10 in two postseason games. Plus after winning the division would you want your #1 starter breaking his ribs??
Rob Neyer (1:16 PM)
I'm okay w/giving Beckett a little bit of extra credit for what he's done in the big games, but I'm not going hold two games against Peavy.
Matt Pleasanton, CA
Peavy had a dominant season, I'll agree. But in his biggest start, against the Rockies in the one-game playoff, he choked. Beckett, on the other hand, stepped up his performance in the postseason. Is that just experience?
Rob Neyer (1:20 PM)
So every time a good player doesn't play well in an important game, he choked? Isn't it possible that he just, you know, didn't have a good game because sometimes good players have bad games? Isn't it possible that he was nursing an injury? Usually when we say an athlete has "choked" there's a better, more accurate explanation for his failure.
Arturo Hermandez, Tijuana, Mexico
I would also pick Peavy, because of the W/L ratio regarding the run support each pitcher has. I love both teams, they are my favorites in their league, but the BoSox have a ton of hitters and power guys, compared to the Padres. If these pitchers would switch teams, What would their stats look like?
Rob Neyer (1:21 PM)
Well, that would be a wonderful thing to know. Anybody have time to take a crack at it? We still have 30-some minutes here...
Rob, I can't see your argument for Peavy. If you want one guy to pitch game 6 of the WS or one guy to make 30 starts for you in the regular season, I can't see how you can make a case for Peavy, especially when Beckett has had so many dominating performances.
Rob Neyer (1:23 PM)
I'm not talking about Game 6 or 30 starts. I'm talking about one whole season, April through (we hope) October. Strip out all the league and ballpark stuff, who gives up fewer runs and win more games? That's all I want to know.
I'll make the case for both Webb and Oswalt. Both are your typical year-in and year-out 200 IP pitchers with career ERA+ rates of 140+. Beckett meanwhile has only gone over 200 in his last two seasons and has a career ERA+ of 116, while Peavy's ERA+ is 119 for his career.
Rob Neyer (1:25 PM)
Career-wise, sure. But you're including 2002 and '3 for Peavy, two seasons which tell us very little (if anything) about how good he's going to be in 2008. I think if you look at the last four seasons, he stacks up quite nicely with Webb and Oswalt. Especially if you consider his poor luck in '06.
Jordan (Moorestown, NJ)
I neutralized both of their stats to the 2000 Rockies using baseball-reference.com. For 2007, Peavy comes out with 4.01 ERA and Beckett with a 4.11 ERA.
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
Interesting. And that was Beckett's best season ever. Anybody want to poke a hole in the methodology? Does B-R.com's normalization system offend anyone's tender sensibilities?
Jordan (Moorestown, NJ)
Neutralized to a 750-run league it's Peavy with a 2.78 and Beckett with a 2.91.
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
Another country heard from...
Lets pretend I'm from Boston, heres what I would say, "Beckett, because baseball doesn't exsist outside of Beantown, GO SOX!"
Don't forget about John Smoltz. He was 30-17 with a 3.31 ERA in 437-2/3 innings the past two years, with 50 quality starts in 67 games. Peavy was 30-20 with a 3.28 ERA in 425-2/3 innings, with 50 quality starts in 66 games.
Rob Neyer (1:28 PM)
Smoltz looks good in comparisons of past seasons. But doesn't the fact that he'll be 41 this season sort of mean he loses all the tiebreakers?
I realize you are discussing a full season when comparing these pitchers and I can understand the argument for Peavy. But would you still take Peavy if you had to pick for a World Series game 7?
Rob Neyer (1:29 PM)
Considering the evidence at hand? IF I'm taking Peavy for a season, I'm also taking him for Game 7. I'm not saying every pitcher will perform the same whether it's June or October. I'm just saying we don't yet have enough innings to say much about these two guys.
I agree you have to instinctually go Peavy here b/c he's had the consistant stats here for the longest. Beckett had a breakthrough 08', pitches in a much tougher division than the NL West, clearly carried not 1 but two teams through the playoffs, and pitched lopsidedly better on the road than at home this year. I would venture a guess that Beckett's ERA+ is much better than Peavy's. Not discrediting Peavy, but when it comes down to a guy I need to go to battle with Beckett hands down, maybe over anyone on the field right now.
Rob Neyer (1:31 PM)
Actually, over the last three seasons, Peavy's ERA+ is better than Beckett's, and in fact a LOT of right-handers have better ERA+'s than Beckett. Considering only last season, Peavy's was better, 159 to 145, but that doesn't account for the difference between the leagues. I suspect if we accounted for that, Beckett would move slightly ahead.
Yeah, what was it for Beckett when he got traded? 9 DL stints in 4 years? Granted he has pitched 204.2 & 200.2 the last 2 years ,but injuries are certainly a factor here. I know some people see Peavy's violent delivery being an injury concern, but isn't it funny how 4 great starts at a great time makes everyone in New England forget you're as brittle as the ginger bread man?
Rob Neyer (1:34 PM)
Well, I know I've argued for Peavy's consistency. But just to play the Devil's Advocate for a moment, should we really be worried about Beckett's health after he's thrown 406 in two seasons? Plus 30 more last October? Seems to me if he's solved the eczema problem, full speed ahead.
Webb - Over the last three years he's pitched 70 more IP than Peavy and 115 more than Beckett. His ERA+ was 150+ in 06 and 07, which is better than Beckett's best, and hasn't been below 126, while Beckett and Peavy were both under 100 in 2006.
According to the Bill James Handbook 2008, the projected wins total for Smoltz: 17. No other pitcher in the majors was projected to win more than 16. Not Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb or Dan Haren. No one but Smoltz. All others projected to win 16 or fewer. It?s a reflection of recent performance by the old man who keeps defying skeptics.
Rob Neyer (1:39 PM)
Smoltz has been amazing, and showed absolutely no sign of decline last season. I'm one of Webb's biggest fans, and he will give you 230-235 innings every season, while pitching half of them in a great hitter's park. Oswalt's great, too. But I think the choice between right-handers comes down to Peavy, Beckett, and Webb.
How about me ?
Rob Neyer (1:40 PM)
We'll talk in two years, Rules. Well, probably not. But if everything works out the way every Yankee fan thinks it will...
Michael (Bakersfield, CA)
Are you going to do this with left handers too? Or is that a futile excericise, since Santana would win hands down?
Rob Neyer (1:41 PM)
Yeah. I mean, I'm sure somebody in Cleveland will argue for the reigning Cy Young winner. But Santana's the best pitcher in the majors and I'm not sure anybody's even close.
is it possible that beckett's innings pitched are suppressed by being on a team that is dominant and can afford to pull him out of games earlier?
Rob Neyer (1:42 PM)
It's possible, but I'm very, very leery about giving a pitcher credit for things he doesn't do.
Tom (Palm Bay, FL)
I regard Beckett's '06 numbers as anomalous -- completely a result of his avoiding the use of his best pitch (his curve) to try to stay away from blisters. In '07, the eczema treatment restored him to his full repertoire, and he dominated like never before.
Rob Neyer (1:43 PM)
True, but it's also true that he's topped 200 innings only twice in his career. Granted, those were the last two seasons. But we may still have a reasonable doubt about his longterm durability, don't you think?
You seem to be the one person who agrees with me that the idea of being clutch in the playoffs is overrated. Derek Jeter batted .176 in the playoffs this year. Peavy had two bad games, and given the chance to pitch in the playoffs every year, he'd turn it around.
Rob Neyer (1:44 PM)
Nice Cap'n Jetes reference!
We've got a relatively small sampling, but Carmona did have an ERA just over three and win 19 games last year. He receives almost no pub for his outstanding year. Just throwing him out there. I'm not arguing he's the best, but that he could be.
Rob Neyer (1:45 PM)
Well, some of us gave Carmona plenty of pub. You're right, he could be the best eventually, but we need to see a lot more than one season.
Should Danny Haren be part of this discussion?
Rob Neyer (1:48 PM)
Hmmm. Almost, I think, but not quite. Love Haren, but can we love him more than his new rotation-mate, Webb? (By the way, that's some one-two punch, huh?)
Greg (augusta maine)
no doubt that Peavy is talented, but I agree with the fact that Beckett has that big game attitude edge. So far it has been his MO. Its not fair comparing Timlin's rings to Beckett's rings and then using Hoffman as an example...Eric Gagne got a ring this year too...be serious
Rob Neyer (1:52 PM)
My point is that comparing rings is silly and doesn't tell us anything. Performance? Fine. Beckett's 1.73 ERA in 73 postseason innings ranks as one of the great achievements. But we have little basis for comparison, as Peavy has pitched in only two postseason games, and in one of those he had a cracked rib. Beckett deserves an immense amount of credit for that 1.73 ERA. I'm just not sure how much it tells us about 2008.
are both future hall of famers?
Rob Neyer (1:53 PM)
The odds are against either of them making it, and *greatly* against both of them. Too many bad things can happen between here and 250 wins.
Let Kyle from MN know that people from Boston don't say "Beantown." Just like New Yorkers don't say "Big Apple."
Rob Neyer (1:54 PM)
True. But people from Portland say PDX. I don't know why.
Rob, since we are bringing up other righties, I'll throw Verlander out there. Since the question is for 2008, I think a very good case could be made for him. He looks like he is playing catch, yet throws 99. His curve is a true hammer, and that changeup keeps getting better. It wouldn't suprise me at all if he was the best righty in the game in '08; would it surprise you?
Rob Neyer (1:56 PM)
Sure, it would surprise me a little, if only because there's so much competition. Would I be shocked? No. One analyst says of him, "Poised for another step up." Which is scary.
Stevie (Vancouver, Canada)
If you determine the better pitcher based on the strikeout number, i wouldn't be so confident about the prediction. In NL, Pevy gets to face picther batter 3-4 times a game. Let's say that he strikes out 2/4 for each game he starts, that's 2x32=64 strike out already. 215(average strike out a year) - 64 = 151. So who is a better pitcher now? I wonder how Pevy will hold up if he has to face all those "super-powerful" DH like David Ortiz in AL.
Rob Neyer (1:59 PM)
Stevie, your math's way off. My guess -- and somebody please feel free to check -- is that Peavy faced a pitcher roughly twice per game; 2.1 or 2.2 times per game, whatever. Sometimes the pitcher bunts. Sometimes the pitcher strikes out, but No. 9 hitters strike out in the other league sometimes, too. And don't forget interleague play. My guess: Peavy picks up an extra 20-30 K's per year in the NL.
I guess it is a testimony to the sore state of pitching that we are debating whether a guy with a 3.74 career ERA, a 4.18 ERA at home last year, and has won more than 16 games only once is the best righthander in the game...
Rob Neyer (2:03 PM)
Or a testimony to our love for all things New England! That's a joke, mostly. I do think if you surveyed all 30 MLB general managers, their top two righties would be Peavy and Beckett. Who comes out on top? Probably Beckett, because of what he did last October. But I'm sticking with Peavy, and I think I'd have Webb No. 2. But I'm big on sure things. Doesn't mean I'd win. This was fun, thanks for showing up.