"Oh, Bird..." Peacock's Pitching Prowess Hard To Predict From The AAA Numbers

Welcome to "Small Sample Theatre," where we take a two-month sample and break it into even smaller bits. Fun! Brad Peacock has been a bit of an enigma so far at AAA, and the more you go "inside the numbers" the more there is to disagree about.

First of all, in the Pacific Coast League there are several "bandboxes" and "mile high stadiums" that tend to inflate hitting numbers and mess with pitching lines. Sacramento, however, is not of them so it's not surprising that a Rivercats pitcher might fare better at home than on the road -- kind of like pitching for Oakland.

But what makes evaluation so difficult on paper is that there are so many peripheral stats you can peruse, some of which may contradict one another or some of which may be argued as "incredibly important" or "not that essential". And when you're looking at samples of 5-6 starts and 28-30 innings, at the very least you need to acknowledge the volatility of the numbers you are viewing, as they may fluctuate quite a bit by season's end.

That all being said, when I looked at the data on Peacock's body of work at AAA so far this season, if nothing else I found many aspects of it both fascinating and also a bit befuddling -- befuddling as in "What should I make of this?"

On the road, Peacock has simply not been successful, with a 7.39 ERA in 28 IP. In those 28 IP, Peacock has been rocked for 38 hits, including 3 HRs, and he has also walked 15, striking out 25.

At home, however, Peacock has been very solid, with a 2.40 ERA in 30 IP. In those 30 IP, Peacock has allowed 25 hits, 0 HRs, walking just 8 and striking out 29.

Quite a contrast, making one wonder, "Is he doing great, and just getting punished by pitcher-unfriendly conditions on the road, or do his struggles on the road suggest that he still has work to do in order to succeed anywhere, not just in a good situation?" Because pitchers who are "too good for AAA" are the ones who will succeed in the big leagues, and those pitchers usually have the means to thrive anywhere -- perhaps they will do better in friendly confines than in adverse conditions, but they will still more than hold their own anywhere.

So I was set to chew on just this question, when I noticed one more peripheral stat. At home, the place where Peacock has had success, he currently sports a GO/AO (ground ball out to air out) ratio of 0.25. That is incredibly low. It means that for every ground ball out Peacock has gotten, he has gotten 4 outs in the air. That is a tough way to sustain a living. On the road, it's actually better at 0.60, though this is still a ratio lower than you'd want. But it's a lot less dramatic than 0.25.

Again, these numbers are "noisy," i.e., volatile, because they reflect just 28-30 IP, but what I get, on paper, from all this is that:

- Peacock is getting hit legitimately hard in ballparks that are good hitters parks.

- Peacock is pitching well and getting tons of fly ball outs at home, all of which are staying in the park.

How would all this translate to Oakland right now? Well for starters, if you're going to need to survive on allowing tons fly balls that stay in the yard, you could do a lot worse than to pitch half your games at the Coliseum. And if your success depends on getting lots of fly balls that don't leave the park, you are going to have a tough time pitching in the big leagues in general.

I still see Peacock, long-term, as a "AAAA pitcher until he adds a fastball with movement," though I do think he could be a solid major league starter if he is able to make that addition -- which so far as I know he has not yet done. But I'm not entirely sure if the 2012 stats support this assessment or not. What do you make of Brad Peacock right now, and which data do you think tell the most important tale -- or is it tail -- of how he is doing?

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