Does Jake Peavy succumb to the pressure?

Sometimes “Clutch” is way overrated by those who watch sports.  Trust me, it is.  “Clutch” of course in the sense that “Baseball Between the Numbers” suggested it to be, by one actually “elevating his performance” when the game is on the line. 

But sometimes I think that we dismiss it a little too quick at this point, after the statisticians basically dismissed it altogether once they came out with their studies. 

I mean, I definitely lean toward a players performance in Clutch situations pretty much being what their performance is in non-clutch situations.  But I think there are probably exceptions here and there. 

Is Jake Peavy one of those exceptions? 

Peavy’s postseason numbers have been atrocious, period.

Sample size, sample size, sample size.  I know all about the “lost art” of actually letting a player play enough so that there is enough of a sample for it to actually matter. 

But Peavy has started two games in the postseason, both against the Cardinals.  He allowed eight runs in four and a third, and he allowed five runs in five and a third. Peavy combined in those two games, struck out five batters in just an out short of 10 innings, which is definitely below his normal K rate. 

Peavy also started a game in 2007, which happened to be a one-game playoff.  The Rockies “rocked” him.  Six earned in six and a third.

And then in the WBC not too long ago, Peavy sucked again.  Allowing six runs in two innings.

Now, I know, that is only a total of four starts.  And should the WBC game really be included?  Probably not.  But it is a game in which I am sure that Peavy felt like he needed to at least give his team a chance to win.  And yet again, he failed to do so. 

Jake Peavy is a good pitcher, but there is no doubt that his home park of Petco has helped him.  A 2.77 ERA at home over his career, and a 3.80 ERA on the road. 

And of course, failing to pitch well in four games in particular, three which mattered greatly, and one that, how much it matters is up in the air.  All lead to skepticism from this writer about how well he can handle a “Big Game.” 

If Jake the Snake gets a chance in his career to pitch in the postseason, lets say with the Yankees.  Then, maybe he does well, maybe his good pitching leads analysts to say that it was only a matter of sample size.

But maybe they are wrong.  Maybe it would be a matter of Peavy learning how to keep his emotions calm enough to perform well at the biggest stage.  Maybe as he ages, the pressure won’t get to him as much, therefore allowing him to “execute” his pitches.

Or maybe Peavy doesn’t feel the pressure.  It might actually BE a lack of a strong sampling. 

But when a pitcher gets rocked every time he takes the mound in a playoff game, there might just be something more to it, than a lack of “Games Played.”   

10 Comments

He hasn’t exactly been clutch in the WBC!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

The only thing about the WBC is that he may not be in the shape he should be (and who knows how much he cares about winning this). So I don’t know how much we should hold that against him. The other poor performances should definitely be held against him though.

I think we need to rule out the WBC. C.C. was terrible against the Red Sox in two playoff games – what was his ERA something like 10? How would he rate?

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

I think it was 2005 when he pitched in the playoffs with a bruised rib, incurred during the team dogpile after they clinched the division. So you’ve really got a sample size of one playoff game during which he was healthy.

http://houston.mlblogs.com

And the one game playoff, too.

The one game playoff was in Colorado, which could make any pitcher look bad, so you need to give him a free pass for that. He pitched into the 7th and threw 118 pitches. The playoff game in which he was healthy he gave up 5 runs – 2 of them came on a HR to Pujols. He didn’t pitch well, but it was only one game (and really one inning that did him in). The Ks were interesting in that game. He struck out two of the first three batters – one of them Pujols – and didn’t get another strikeout the rest of the way. Maybe the pressure got to him as he went through the game. I’m not sure what to make of the WBC, and it may be that he doesn’t handle pressure well, but I’d like to see him make a few more postseason starts before I pass judgement on him.

I would also like a bigger sample size. But this is all we have right now. And I can’t give him a free pass simply because he pitched that one game in Colorado. Six earned runs in six innings is terrible anywhere…

I just think it’s way too soon to write him off as a big game pitcher, though I understand that that’s not really what you’re doing. Still, it’s just so soon, and he’s only pitched at the lowest playoff levels. I look at a guy like Roger Clemens, whose ERA and WHIP get progressively smaller when he goes from LDS (4.61/1.43) to the LCS (3.87/1.18) to the WS (2.37/.99). In his first playoff series, the 1986 ALCS, Clemens gave up 22 hits and 11 earned runs in 22.2 innings. He did manage to get a little better with time. ;)

There’s just no way to know – and isn’t likely to be any way to know – if Peavy’s that kind of pitcher.

http://houston.mlblogs.com

Peavy gets pretty riled up sometimes. I recall him yelling at a batter to “get back in the box” a few years back. Despite his playoff record, I’d still feel good with him starting a Game 7. Perhaps, he needs to be rested a bit towards the end of the season so he can be ready.

In 16 September starts combined from 2005 through 2007 – the three years of Peavy’s career that the Pads were seriously in contention – Peavy pitched 106 2/3 innings with a 2.62 ERA. Now, I know that ERA is not the end-all and be-all stat, but many of these games were “big” games and his September #’s during these 3 years do compare favorably to his career #’s. It is possible that Peavy’s poor post-season numbers are the result of his heavy workloads in the Septembers when the Padres were in contention.

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