With the slew of injuries Jake Peavy has suffered and the solid pitching of Clayton Richard in San Diego, is it fair to say the White Sox made a mistake in dealing for Peavy? (AP photo)
It's been over a year and a half since the White Sox sent Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell and Dexter Carter to the San Diego Padres for a then-injured Jake Peavy. The move—like the Alex Rios waiver acquisition made less than two weeks later—was made more for 2010 than 2009, with the idea that Peavy could stop in as an ace in the Sox rotation for the next few seasons.
But since that trade, Peavy has accrued just 1.5 WAR, exactly 1.0 WAR below Richard's total with San Diego. There's not much argument there: since July 31, 2009, Clayton Richard has been a more valuable pitcher than Jake Peavy.
Unfortunately for the Padres, Richard has been the only player sent to southern California to pan out. Aaron Poreda, the hard-throwing left-hander who had the biggest upside at the time of the deal, has walked 101 while striking out just 77 between Triple-A Portland and Double-A San Antonio in the Padres' system. That's a cringe-worthy 0.76 strikeout-to-walk ratio, for those keeping score at home.
Russell has been who we thought he was—a decent Triple-A reliever and a mediore major-league one. And Carter has completely flamed out after dominating Single-A with the White Sox alongside Dan Hudson in 2009. The 23-year-old went from a 143/32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 118.0 innings with Single-A Kannapolis in 2009 to 106/57 in 119.0 innings between San Diego's Single-A affiliates.
Nobody should be pining for Poreda, Russell or Carter at this point. But Richard is a different story. The 27-year-old left-hander threw 201.2 innings for San Diego in 2010 with a 3.81 FIP (3.75 ERA), leading to 2.3 WAR. Richard posted FIPs of 4.10 and 4.50 in 2008 and 2009 with the White Sox, though—so was his improvement due to moving from a bandbox to a cavern? Below is a graphic showing Richard's spray chart from his starts at Petco Park in 2010 projected on to U.S. Cellular Field:
Graphic courtesy of the incomparable Chris Spurlock. Check out all his work at Beyond the Box Score. Note: Katron's data shows where the ball was fielded, so in the case of doubles, just because the data shows the ball is over the fence at U.S. Cellular Field doesn't mean it actually would've gone for a home run.
There are only two, maybe three fly balls hit at Petco which resulted in outs that would've resulted in a home run at U.S. Cellular Field. If we consider one of those doubles to be good for a home run, that's three more home runs allowed for Richard, upping his 2010 total from 16 to 19 and his home runs per nine innings rate from 0.71 to 0.85. That still would be a below-average home run rate, though, as pitchers in 2010 averaged 0.96 home runs allowed per nine innings.
Of course, Richard's competition needs to be taken into account. While there isn't a major difference in team wOBAs between the NL West and AL Central, there is a difference: .333 (Colorado), .324 (Arizona), .318 (San Francisco), .308 (Dodgers) vs. .334 (Minnesota), .329 (Detroit), .324 (Kansas City) and .312 (Cleveland).
What this data tells us is something we probably already knew: Richard was helped by pitching at Petco Park in a worse division and worse offensive league. But it wasn't a big difference, in fact, the difference was fairly minor.
Plus, Richard pitched to his 2.3 WAR while making a little over $400,000 in 2010, giving the Padres about $8.5 million in surplus value according to FanGraphs. He's been green-lighted by Will Carroll despite a significant increase in innings from 2009-2010 and seems to be a pretty safe bet to repeat, if not build, upon his 2010 campaign. And that likely would be the case if he were still in Chicago.
So should the White Sox have buyer's remorse on Peavy, especially in the face of a solid No. 3 starter in Richard developing in San Diego?
Peavy has and likely will continue to be injury-prone over the next two seasons. If the White Sox decline his $22 million option for 2013, he'll be owed $37 million in his final two seasons with the team. When healthy, Peavy hasn't pitched like a $16 million or $17 million pitcher. And when he's not healthy, Peavy's in a different area code in terms of earning his contract.
But Peavy's contract hasn't served to financially hamstring the Sox just yet, and if it's a financial burden, it'll only be for one year (2012). Plus, Peavy does have at least two more full seasons to reverse this bad momentum of the last two years.
And while Richard has been better, it's not like the White Sox gave up Brandon McCarthy for John Danks. Richard's 2.3 WAR from 2010 was just a hair above an average value (2.0 WAR is generally considered an average player). Maybe he'll improve, but if he doesn't, the White Sox will have ultimately parted with just an average pitcher along with three youngsters who didn't pan out.
Is that really that bad a package to take a gamble on a former Cy Young winner? I think not.