Articles by Jason Collette

A listing of all the articles written by Jason Collette for the RotoWire Blog.

Man Can Live on Fastball Alone

One is young, one is old. One throws lefty, one throws righty. One is skinny, one us far from it. One uses his delivery to hide the ball from batters and the other uses his girth. One consistently pounds the strike zone while the other approaches it with shotgun aim. Despite their differences, they have very similar results across the board.

Most would guess that the younger Cingrani throws the harder fastball, and they would be right. Cingrani had an average fastball velocity of 91.8 mph last season, topping out at 96.3. Colon was further down the list at 89.9 mph, but he would occasionally dot 96 on the radar gun as well. The bigger difference shows up in how each pitcher used the fastball to achieve similar results.

Pitcher Pitches Miss|PERCENT| Strike|PERCENT| Called Str|PERCENT| In Play|PERCENT| GB|PERCENT| FB|PERCENT|
Colon 2367 12.5|PERCENT| 69.2|PERCENT| 39.7|PERCENT| 46.6|PERCENT| 42.5|PERCENT| 38.8|PERCENT|
Cingrani 1483 24.3|PERCENT| 66.5|PERCENT| 35.0|PERCENT| 31.4|PERCENT| 33.6|PERCENT| 49.6|PERCENT|

Despite the fact batters made more contact with Colon’s fastball and put a much higher percentage of them in play, Colon had the lower opponents’ OPS of the two pitchers while opponents’ batting average against Cingrai’s fastball was 62 points lower. The larger difference came in how each limited their overall damage.

Colon faced 769 batters and allowed just 29 free passes to those batters while allowing 14 home runs. Cingrani also permitted 14 home runs, but did so facing just 420 batters and walked 43. Colon’s 3.8|PERCENT| walk rate was one of the best in baseball while Cingrani’s 10.2|PERCENT| was below the league average for starting pitchers. That helped Colon post the better ERA by 0.27 points last season despite the lower LOB|PERCENT|.

If your goal is to get a pitcher that is going to help you in all four starting pitching categories, Cingrani is the clear winner simply because of the strikeout dominance. That said, the combination of a high walk rate and a very high LOB|PERCENT| for a starting pitcher are worrysome. The gap between his 2.92 ERA and 3.78 FIP last season give you a caution flag to stare at. Additionally, the fact he lost velocity as the season went on is another caution flag for the young hurler. 

If you are later in your draft and are looking for help with your ratios while letting the Win Gods do what they do, consider letting the big fat one (as Matthew Berry would declare in each Tout Wars auction) waddle his way on your roster.

My MLB.com Fantasy411 Mock Draft Team

1.06 – Clayton Kershaw (current ADP: 6, taken 6th) – After you get through the first three picks, I would challenge you to find two identical mock drafts with even the same top seven guys in the same order. The long-stated mantra of never taking pitchers in the first round needs to die in 2014. Kershaw should not even slide out of the top ten in any draft. If he does, and you do not take him, you’re making a mistake.

2.10 – Shin Soo Choo (current ADP: 42, taken 25th) – Clearly, I am a bigger fan than most, but I like the park, I like the lineup, and I like Ron Washington giving him a green light to run on the bases.

3.06Yu Darvish (current ADP 17: taken 36th) – He was not supposed to be here at this stage in the draft and I did not enter the draft with the intention to take a second pitcher in three rounds, but it’s Yu freaking Darvish. Three rounds into the draft, I have 550+ strikeouts, potentially 40 wins, and strong ratios so I can ignore pitching for a bit and fill out the offense.

4.10 – Josh Donaldson (current ADP 70, taken 55th) – I was beating the Donaldson drum coming into the season last year and rostered him everywhere. So far, I’m doing so again as I am a believer in his offensive consistency.

5.06 – Carlos Santana (current ADP 66, taken 66th) – Less time behind the plate and more time out in the field makes me very much pro-Santana for 2014. Should be able to hold up better throughout the season and help you max out counting categories at a weak position.

6.10 – Carlos Beltran (current ADP 96, taken 85th) – It’s all about the ballpark with Beltran. Yankee Stadium is tailor-made for his swing. Being able to DH will help keep him fresh throughout the season.

7.06 – Jose Altuve (current ADP 90, taken 96th) – This was a pick made for the speed. I needed it as I only had one 20+ steal guy on the roster after six picks, which is the penalty to pay when you take two pitchers early.

8.10 – Brandon Belt (current ADP 138, taken 115th) – I was hoping that Hisashi Iwakuma or Alex Cobb, my two darlings from 2013 drafts, would fall here but both fell a few picks ahead of me. I shifted over to first base with my favorite remaining option at the position.

9.06 – Addison Reed (current ADP 138, taken 126th) – This is where I tend to take my first closer in non-NFBC drafts. Reed showed skills growth last season and moves to a nice situation in Arizona for him.

10.10 – Shane Victorino (current ADP 124th, taken 145th) – I felt an outfielder run was about to commence in the draft and went with the guy who gave me both speed and power. I was wrong because nobody took an outfielder before my next pick.

11.06Tony Cingrani (current ADP 150th, taken 156th) – Finally took a third starting pitcher and went with more strikeouts…because I’m a fascist. I still want Cingrani to get another pitch, but he’s done very well throwing >80|PERCENT| fastballs.

12.10 – Grant Balfour (current ADP 187, taken 175th) – This happened the day Balfour signed with the Rays. It would not have mattered as I would have taken him here anyhow. Skills have been very good over the past three seasons and Maddon has already used the “c-word (his phrase, not mine)” with Balfour – and he NEVER used that with Rodney.

13.06 – Brad Miller (current ADP 188, taken 186th) – This is my Josh Donaldson of 2014. I think Miller has double-digit potential for homers and steals at shortstop. It doesn’t hurt he’s an Orlando guy like myself.

14.10 – A.J. Griffin (current ADP 229, taken 205) – I really wanted Marco Estrada here, but he went to Cory Schwartz at 197. I went to the next guy on my list who had some unfortunate HR/FB issues last season and reminds me of James Shields before his breakout in 2008/2009. Love that breaking ball.

15.06 – Khris Davis (current ADP 202, taken 216th – I liked what he did as Braun’s replacement last season. Was happy to get a 20+ homer bat in the 15th round that won’t tank my batting average.

16.10 – Alcides Escobar (current ADP 241, taken 235th) – I needed more team speed and Escobar will run as often as he can get on base under Ned Yost’s lead foot. He is 25 steals in the bank with 30 steal upside.

17.06 – Rick Porcello (current ADP 298, taken 246th) – Went 12-6 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.23 WHIP after May 1 last season. More importantly, K/9 jumped to 7.7 while walk rate was just 2.1. With the new and improved infield defense in Detroit, this has the potential to be fun in 2014.

18.10 – Chris Johnson (current ADP 258, taken 265th) – The guy has a .360 BABIP over the past four seasons so his baseline for regression is slightly higher than the norm. He’s not a pull hitter, so the overshift that helps accelerate regression isn’t present. His BABIP over the past four seasons is second only to Joey Votto.

19.06 – Ryan Hanigan (current ADP 497, taken 276th) – I passed on both Pinto and Conger during the last round because I figured at least one of them would make it back to me on the short turnaround. Oops. I’ll go with Hanigan as he should see 110 games this season, and is better than he was last year at the plate.

20.10 – Wily Peralta (current ADP 383, taken 295th) – I liked several options at this point, but Peralta had the best upside and he posted a 3.15 ERA in the second half along with a 7.7 K/9 and a 1.23 WHIP.

21.06 – Tommy Hunter (current ADP 341, taken 306th) – Saves are saves are saves. I have zero faith that Hunter holds this job all season as he is extremely ineffective against lefties, but the job is clearly his until he gives Showalter a reason to hand the ball off to the next guy (Ryan Webb?)

22.10 – Kelly Johnson (current ADP 312, taken 325th) – He will have eligibility at three positions a week into the season and could hit 20 homers in that park and could even steal 10 bases. This is assuming his defense at third base isn’t completely awful.

23.06 – Robbie Grossman (current ADP 462, taken 336th) – Wanted more late speed, and Grossman impressed after his final recall last season. He was fitted with new contacts while in the minors, and came back up showing more ability to drive the baseball and do things with the bat. Hit .322/.351/.466 after his recall.

 

Collette Calls Mailbag


If you would like to have your fantasy baseball question responded to in this format, drop Jason a line. He’ll publish his mailbag twice a week.

I am in a 10 team keeper league. No budgets.  The only restriction is that I can keep 7 people.   It is a 5×5 league that makes use of OBP instead of AVG. I’ve sort of narrowed the possible keepers down to this:  Obviously the top 3 are excellent keepers.  What would you do for the last 4 spots if you were me?

Votto

Miguel Cabrera
McCutchen

Puig
Cespedes

Matt Adams

Mauer

Profar

 

Strasburg
Matt Moore

Iwakuma

Kimbrel

We are a one-catcher league with 9 pitching spots and five bench spots.

Thanks so much!
-Jon
 

First off, sweet top 3 keeper list for a 10 team league with no budgets! To have three of the top 10 players on the same team is rather awesome. In a small keeper league like that, I am loading up on offense because there will be plenty of pitching to go around. I would keep Puig, Mauer, Profar, and Strasburg as my last four guys. Tough to give up the other guys, but that allows you to continue playing for the present ant the future. If the present is more important to you, let Profar walk and retain Kimbrel. Good luck!

Just joined an AL only league, standard 5×5 roto $260, where the team was dissolved last year, but brought back. I know flags fly forever, but I get to pick my "keepers" before the auction after every other team can keep 11, including minor leaguers. Wondering if I should forgo the play to win mentality, and grab as much young talent as possible, or even grab 2-3 studs to trade mid-season for more prospects. Thanks for the great analysis.

Shane

I’m guessing if the guy left the team, it wasn’t that good to begin with. Are you allowed to pick just players that were on the team or can you somehow expand your pool? When I’ve gone into new leagues, that first year I would target the high-priced & good talent and then use those guys to trade for the players I coveted on the other teams. If you go all youth out of the gate, it could take a few years to build up that team into a competitor because immediately out of the gate, you’re going to be buying overpriced players in the auction. Good luck!

 

First, the basic, non-unique stuff: it’s an auction dynasty that is expanding this year from 12 to 14 teams. 5×5 with OBP instead of AVG and we’re moving to QS instead of W.

 

Here’s the thing: the stated goal of the league is to mimic owning, being the GM of, and managing a real baseball team as much as humanly possible. This has led us to a 3 particularly unique aspects, all of which are what make it so great:

 

1. Daily Scoring. Every day, my team has a game against another team, after which I get a flat "W" or "L." We use head-to-head roto scoring, but instead of getting a "6-4" or "3-7" each day (or whatever), like I said, I just get a W or L. We do that because that’s how real baseball works: my Dodgers don’t accumulate 3 runs to tack on to some runs total at the end of the year when we lose 7-3 because Josh Beckett pitched and Donnie B sac bunted 4 times. We just get a loss.

 

From a fantasy perspective, this makes every day incredibly fun and really exciting.

 

2. Instead of a Buy-In and a $260 Fake Money Allowance, Each Team Pays What it Wants. I love this aspect of the league. Instead of everyone chipping in, say, $100 of real money, then getting a fake $260 for an auction, each team pays what it wants for it’s team (just like real baseball). We’ve toyed with eliminating a salary cap altogether, but we have some friendships we want to protect, and we don’t want anyone dropping more money on their team than they should and then storming out of the league/friendships at the end of the year. But no cap would work well.

 

Here’s what we do instead: we have a $200 soft salary cap and a $300 hard cap. From $200-$300, there is a 3-1 luxury tax, so that conceivably, the most money you could spend on your salary is $600 ($300 in actual salary, plus $300 in luxury tax). That’s a financial scale that works well for the life stages/income levels of the guys in our league.

 

This has all kinds of awesome implications. My little brother is a college student who has almost no income, and last year he spent a little over $100 on his team, while piling up top tier minor leaguers. Another guy spent the full amount. I was right around $200. I won the league in 2012 (our first year) without going over the cap, while the last place team was right at the top limit. Again: just like real baseball.

 

3. Multi-Year Contracts. We just changed this for this year, so we’ll see if it really works, but we really wanted to do multi-year deals. The contract’s AAV is the trump card at the auction (i.e. $25 for 1 year of Justin Upton will beat $24/yr on a 2 year deal for him), and we have some buyout clauses built in to save people from hating their teams forever (you can cut the guy with remaining years, but it will cost a percentage of his remaining contract depending on how many years remain on the deal). Also, like in real baseball, minor league call-ups have extended team control: every rookie will get $2/yr for 3 yrs, then $5, $10, and $15 for years 4, 5, and 6 respectively, with the option to cut him in any of those years without financial punishment.

 

I never want to go back to doing fantasy baseball another way, and I bet there are others who would love it also. I didn’t really know who else to send this too in the fantasy baseball world, so maybe it’ll be some interest.

 

That is certainly an interesting league setup. I have heard of other leagues that have the second and third features you describe, but not a combination of all three. Personally, I am not a fan of the head-to-head or daily scoring format as I find it to be an unfortunate side effect of fantasy football. Fantasy baseball is a marathon – 26 weeks/26.2 miles is no coincidence. I like to spend my week looking at everything else but the daily results because there’s too much emotion tied up in what a guy does in short spurts. That said, I’m for whatever keeps more people playing fantasy baseball and keeps the interest growing. I just don’t see myself playing anything but standard roto scoring moving forward. I tried the scoresheet format, but it didn’t hold my interest and I know I’m in the minority with that one.

 

Votto Should Hit 2nd

If one were to simply Google-search the phrase “Votto hitting 2nd” there would be 3,850,000 results for the find. The topic has been hotly debated for quite some time as Dusty Baker insisted on batting the putting weak batters in the 2nd spot in the Reds lineup. Those that from that spot hit .228 with a .281 on base percentage last season. Baker, instead of changing the lineup, allowed his hitters in the two-hole to bunt ten times before the fourth inning last season. TEN.

The latest entry into the debate comes from Steve Mancuso from Redleg Nation. Mancuso sites several bits of information from Tom Tango’s The Book, and also quotes Joe Maddon, which is always a positive in my book. The strongest point was made here:

Hamilton scores from first like clockwork on Votto’s doubles. And, if you’re worried about the opponent simply walking Votto after Hamilton steals second, understand they’d be less likely to do that with #19 batting second and no outs then if he’s batting third with one down. And if Votto does walk you’ve got runners at first and second with no outs instead of one. Either way, it’s better to have Votto’s AB occur right after Hamilton gets on.

 

If opponents continued to pitch Votto out of the zone with Hamilton on base, either at 1st base or at 2nd base after stealing, they could potentially be digging themselves a huge hole. The run expectancy for runners on 1st and 2nd with 0 outs is 0.643 whereas using the two-hole batter to bunt the batter over creates a run expectancy of 0.418.

 

Last season, when Votto came to the plate with either nobody on base or a runner on 1st, he hit .303/.418/.485, walking 16.3|PERCENT| of the time and seeing 47.3|PERCENT| of his pitches in the strikezone. When he came to the plate with runners in scoring position, he hit .291/.477/.455, walking 26.3|PERCENT| of the time and seeing just 42.3|PERCENT| of his pitches in the strikezone. That is a big reason why Brandon Phillips drove in 103 runs last season; he often came to bat with both Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto on base.

The reason I would like to see Votto hit second has more to do with just RBI opportunities, because I feel it enhances the value of Billy Hamilton. Hamilton should benefit from Votto hitting second primarly because an extra base hit is going to score him with his blazing speed. It should also benefit him because with a left-handed batter in the batter’s box, the catcher is going to have to make an extra movement to get a clean throw off to second base. As it is, catchers are having a tough time throwing him out on pickoffs, and every tenth of a second counts when you are trying to make the perfect throw to get the speedster.

Additionally, Votto is an ideal hit and run candidate because he makes excellent contact and is very willing to hit the ball the other way. If Hamilton is in motion, the shortstop is going to come cover the bag, that opens up a huge hole for Votto to hit the ball through setting up even more advantageous run scoring situations for Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips to drive in.

Dusty Baker’s old school approach to lineup construction is gone. More importantly, Shin-Soo Choo’s high OBP at the top of the lineup is now gone. The Reds need to create runs as Votto is the only returning batter in the lineup with an above average on base percentage last season. A Hamilton/Votto/Bruce/Phillips quartet at the top of the lineup has the potential to do a lot of damage in 2014.

All BABIPs Are Not Alike

One of the things that becomes rather habitual in fantasy player analysis is to find the players at the extreme end of certain statistics and say they’ll regress or bounce back. Last season, that player was Jeff Keppinger. Keppinger did what all one-year free agents seemingly do when they go to Tampa Bay in that he had a career year posting both full-season highs in batting average and batting average on balls in play of .325 and .332 respectively.

One reason why Keppinger hit so well in 2012 was that he hit right-handed pitching better than he had in previous seasons. His batting average was 20 points higher than his previous full-season best while his BABIP was 27 points higher. Overall, his .325 batting average was 37 points higher than his efforts from 2009 to 2011 while his BABIP was 34 points higher. A lot of that was due to the fact he had a career-best .857 BABIP on line drives in 2012, which was over 100 points better than his previous best and over 100 points better than the league average. That, plus the fact he had historically had issues putting together back to back strong seasons at the plate were enough reasons to be suspicious of a repeat.

The odds were stacked against Keppinger because he puts so many balls in play. He does not walk that frequently, nor does he strike out frequently. Given the fact he is not blessed with the best of foot speed, Keppinger is heavily dependent upon his batting balls finding spots where defenders are not. In 2012, that happened. In 2013, it rarely did. While the two players vary greatly in foot speed, Juan Pierre is in the same boat. Because Pierre walks and strikes out so infrequently, his BABIP has fluctuated 63 points over the past five seasons and 59 points just over the past two.

That is why I’m bothered by the fact so many are panning Chris Johnson this offseason. Here are three examples from the 2014 Fantasy Baseball Guide (a magazine I help contribute to):

I recently made the case for why Johnson is draftable in mixed league formats behind the paywall, but let’s address some of the issues listed in the above picture.

“Out of this world .394 BABIP” – Yes, that is an impossible number to repeat for a batter without excellent foot speed and a lot of luck. That said, Johnson has posted a BABIP of at least .350 in three of the past four seasons and had a .387 BABIP over 362 plate appearances in 2010. Yes, that did drop 70 points the following season, but his five-year BABIP is still .361. Only Joey Votto’s is higher during that time.

“His 27|PERCENT| line drive rate will regress” – Johnson’s line drive percentages over the past four seasons – 24|PERCENT|, 23.2|PERCENT|, 25.6|PERCENT|, 27.0|PERCENT|. Line drive rate has a stabilization point of 600 balls in play; his line drive rate over the past two seasons is 26.3|PERCENT|. While it is likely to regress, it appears to have a rather high ceiling.

“So a steep batting average correction in 2014 is a virtual certainty.” – Is it? One of the biggest suppressors of batting averages and BABIP is the defensive shift. Players that have extreme pull tendencies are their own worst enemy; Johnson is not such a player. One of the reasons why Johnson and Votto have such high BABIP’s in this shifty day and age is that they use all parts of the field and hit the ball hard.

He is currently the 19th third baseman off the board in NFBC mock drafts with a ADP of 265. While there is a lot of depth at the hot corner in 2014, his current ADP presents a lot of value for those that can pick him up at that point in the draft behind other players with much less of a track record. Chris Johnson is not Jeff Keppinger as they have very little in common other than neither player is very fleet of foot.

Shiny New Toy Syndrome

Look, I get it. It is tough not to watch video like this and begin drooling over Danny Salazar‘s potential.After all, it isn’t often you make the best hitter in baseball look this bad three times in a row in a single game.



Last season, in 145 innings of work between Double-A, Triple-A, and the big leagues, he permitted 105 hits, 39 walks, while striking out 194 batters. Apparently, the 26 NFBC mock drafts that have been conducted this offseason contain owners who are convinced this kid is a legitimate stud because he has a current overall ADP of 144 and is ranked 32nd on the starting pitcher ADP list. This is what the list looks like behind him:

Pitcher ADP Highest Lowest
Danny Salazar 143 101 196
Tony Cingrani 149 106 190
Hyun-jin Ryu 151 115 201
Andrew Cashner 155 106 186
Francisco Liriano 162 106 227
Patrick Corbin 172 118 218
Jon Lester 172 132 212
Doug Fister 173 121 230
Jeff Samardzija 174 141 217
C.J. Wilson 175 135 230
Johnny Cueto 190 144 226
Clay Buchholz 198 109 248
Justin Masterson 207 136 267
Zack Wheeler 217 153 257

My immediate reaction to that?

At a minimum, I would roster Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano before picking Salazar. I could easily expand that list to included Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Johnny Cueto, and Andrew Cashner. Each of them has what Salazar lacks, major league experience and previous workloads.

Salazar turned 24 this offseason, and is coming off a season where his workload spiked from 88 innings of work to 145. He is also a converted position player, who has already had Tommy John surgery, and has worked more than 100 innings just twice in his six seasons of professional baseball. Many teams are reticent to spike the workloads of pitchers at this age more than 20 innings in a season. If Cleveland follows suit, that would put Salazar at potentially 170-175 innings for 2014. He would have to excel in those innings to justify where he is currently being taken over guys with proven track records of working more innings.

The other issue Salazar lacks is pitchability. To date, he is a guy that works with his fastball to set up his devastating changeup and his breaking ball. If he doesn’t get ahead, he simply throws more fastballs. In fact, he has yet to throw anything but a fastball when behind in a count 2-0. He was in that count 86 times in 2013, and threw fastballs each time. He attacks righties with a fastball/breaking ball approach while saving the changeup as his secondary weapon against lefties. Simply put, there is more work to do here.

He is ranked 198th in the latest RotoWire Top 200, which feels much more appropriate than 144th. There is as much upside as there is risk associated with Salazar, and reaching for him feels quite unnecessary with the number of known quantities that are currently being taken after him in mock drafts thus far.

Ready to Spread His Feathers

Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. One could certainly define the first nine games Houston’s Brad Peacock made last season for the Astros in such a way.

In those nine games, Peacock started five times while working four out of the bullpen. He pitched just 29 innings, allowing 53 baserunners, 26 runs, and 8 home runs. Opponents had a .286/.384/.613 slash line against him, despite a rather normal .296 BABIP. His 8.07 ERA was a harsh reminder of what can happen when a pitcher struggles with command and pitches from behind in the count. A big part of those struggles was his inability to handle left-handed batters. The 75 left-handed batters he faced in those first nine outings hit .344/.467/.770 against him while the 63 right-handed batters had a rather reasonable .224/.286/.448 slash line

He went down to the minor leagues in need of both confidence and a change in approach because his approach was simply not getting the desired results. One thing he did to adjust his process was to add a new pitch. As Peacock later said ,”I knew I needed another pitch, and I was struggling when I came up here,” he said. “I wanted to try something different. I got a slider, so I just rolled with it.”

Roll with it, he did.

Peacock made 10 appearances in Triple-A Oklahoma City while working on his slider, and limited batters to a .228/.276/.354 stat line over 57.2 innings. He permitted 12 earned runs and allowed just 5 home runs during that time while throwing strikes 63|PERCENT| of the time, compared to the 56|PERCENT| rate he had at the major league level. It was quite the improvement from a guy who allowed batters to hit .275/.357/.470 in the same league one year prior. His improvements did not go unnoticed.

Brad Peacock has put together five straight strong starts for?OKC… looking good! JeffLuhnow(@jluhnow)July 5, 2013

He was recalled to Houston in early August and it did not take Bo Porter long to notice the changes the pitcher had made.

He’s much improved from the other stints in which he was up here,…Again, when you come up and go down and you’re given certain information of things you need to do to pitch at this level. These guys are taking heed to the information. They’re going down and working on the things in which they need to work on. Our Triple-A staff is doing a tremendous job and they’re coming down here ready to play.

His catcher, Jason Castro, also took quick notice of the differences in Peacock’s approach to his craft.

He looks good…He’s been real aggressive with his fastball, and I think that’s kind of what he needed to work on. His (velocity) is definitely back to where it was. He’s attacking, getting ahead with his fastball and that is setting up his other stuff. He also developed a slider, which has been a big pitch for him. He threw a lot of those tonight. It’s his swing-and-miss pitch. I was really impressed when he came back that he was able to kind of get a feel for it that quickly. He’s done a good job.

His final nine outings of the 2013 season were all starts. Over 54.1 innings of work, he struck out 54 batters and limited batters to a .216/.288/.363 slash line, a .261 BABIP, and his 3.64 ERA was a far cry from the first half of the season. The gap between his results against lefties and righties still existed, but it was much less drastic. With the slider in his repertoire, Peacock limited righties to a .157/.220/.277 slash line and lefties to a .256/.333/.421 line. He threw 144 sliders in that time allowing just 7 hits – all singles. With both a curveball and a slider in play, Peacock was able to generate more swings and misses and his rate upon his return from the minors was in the top 15th percentile in the league. Previously, his rate was in the bottom 15th percentile in the league.

By season’s end, Peacock was looking like the pitcher the Astros wanted when they dealt Jed Lowrie to Oakland last season. Nearly two years ago, Kevin Goldstein(now the Astros Pro Scouting Director) projected him as a good third starter. In the 2012 Minor League Analyst, the BaseballHQ prospect team gave Peacock a grade of 8D. Peacock certainly made strides in the second half of 2013 to get closer to those projections after looking rather disastrous up to that point.

Any time a pitcher shows gains within a season, it gets our attention. The problem is, many of these improvements fly under the radar when they involve players on bad teams and the improvements come in the second half of the season. The fact that Peacock’s K/9 rating jumped from 7.1 before the break to 8.9 after it is important to note. What is more important to know is WHY that change happened.

Sometimes it is a very soft strength of schedule, which was the case when David Price returned off the disabled list last season. Sometimes, it is a matter of a pitcher gaining velocity due to mechanical tweaks, such as Dane De La Rosa did?with the Angels in the second half of last season. Sometimes, a pitcher goes through a complete mechanical overhaul, as Ervin Santana did beginning in late 2012. Other times, as in the case of Peacock, they take to coaching and instruction and are able to add a new weapon to their arsenal and give batters something else to think about.

These are the types of things that do not show up in number crunching and stat-tracking; they show up by doing the leg work. Read tirelessly, make MLB.tv your best friend, and be inquisitive with those in the know or fans who have more time to follow those teams than you do. That’s how you can blend the statistics and the scouting to make your own evaluation.