Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jake Peavy - The best story of 2012 so far

Jake Peavy has always been a favorite here. For one, his name has Maine roots. A peavy is a logging tool used to separate logs in the river or millponds. It was invented and named after a Peavy that lived right up here in northern Maine. Who knows if the pitcher from the Chicago White Sox has any ancestral connection to the inventor, but it is fun to speculate. Anyway, our man, Peavy, is the story of the young 2012 thus far. Of course, his story is rivaled by the starts of Jeter and Furcal, who currently lead the shortstop leaderboard. But Peavy, like Berkman last year, is a revival so unexpected, that it becomes its own category.

In some ways, Peavy's success shouldn't be that much of a surprise. He was one of the game's best pitchers in 2007 when he won a Cy Young Award while playing for the Padres. He led the National League in strikeouts twice and in ERA just as many times. But after all the injuries, the radical surgery, the lack of meaningful innings over the past couple of seasons make what he is doing now sort of breathtaking.

Peavy has made four starts. He has won three of them and is 3-0. His WHIP is a sick 0.733. He is walking people at a rate of 1.3 walks per nine innings while only allowing 5.3 hits in those same nine innings. His 6.5 strikeout to walk ratio is the best of his career and hearkens back to 2004 except his control is better now. His ERA is impressive at 1.88 but so is his FIP at 2.09.

It would be easy to say that, well, yes, he was brilliant last night in his complete game shutout because it was the Oakland Athletics, a team that can't hit. But he has also pitched well against the Rangers, Tigers and Orioles before this. All three of those teams have very good offensive lineups. This does not have any feel of competition bias or a fluke. This feels much more like a great pitcher who is finally healthy enough to compete again every fifth day.

But of course, that is the fear too. Some Twitter savant said last night that after the game, the White Sox wrapped Peavy in bubble wrap and carried him back to the clubhouse. It was a comical statement, but does have a kernel of truth to it. His health is the biggest concern here. Can he keep going? Will his shoulder weaken and cause the need to shut him down?

But those fears lessen with every start. He made 19 starts last year. 25 to 30 seem reachable. He has gained a MPH on his fastball over a year ago. He has thrown over 100 pitches in his last two outings. This doesn't seem like a guy the White Sox are babying.

Are there any red flags to his season start? Well, his BABIP is insanely low at .219. His home run to fly ball rate is insanely low, especially to his career norms. Batters are hitting an inordinate number of infield pop ups against him. Some of those things do not seem to be sustainable. His swing percentage is low (48 percent) considering how many strikes he is throwing. Expect batters to get more aggressive against him, especially early in the count. But that could work in his favor too to keep his pitch count down.

The bottom line is that Jake Peavy is 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.733 WHIP after four starts. Time will tell if he can keep pitching this well and stay healthy. But as of right now, it is one heck of a nice story.

No comments: