Jake Peavy's Career Resurrection

This article originally appeared on on May 2nd, but as an opportunity to branch out, I have decided to post it here to get a few thoughts on it.

On April 23rd, in just his 4th start of the 2012 season, Jake Peavy threw a 3 hit shutout versus the Oakland Athletics. Such a promising game, for a pitcher once labeled “the best pitcher on the planet.” Various injuries, including a detached latissimus dorsi muscle, derailed the former CY Young winner. But could we be witnessing the resurrection of the former ace?

The Rise

In 1999, despite being named the Alabama high school pitcher of the year, Peavy wasn’t a highly touted prospect entering the 1999 Rule 4 draft. It wasn’t until the 15th round, 472nd overall, that Peavy was drafted. The San Diego Padres took Peavy, and wooed him away from a commitment to Auburn University. He moved quickly through the minors, reaching double-A by 2001. Peavy was called up in June of 2002, and proceeded to allow just one run over six innings against the Yankees. He ended up starting 17 games in 2002 and producing a 1.4 fWAR (Fangraph’s version of Wins Above Replacement). In 2003, Peavy started 32 games, but struggled for most of the season. Despite just a .255 BABIP, he had a career high walk rate of 3.79. He also allowed a career high 33 home runs. 2003 proved to be a learning season, as Peavy improved greatly in 2004. Despite spending some time on the DL, he went 15-6, with a 9.36 k/9 and a 2.27 ERA. His 2.27 ERA led the league, and he became the youngest pitcher since Doc Gooden in 1985 to do so. His walk rate and HR rate improved greatly and he posted a 3.8 fWAR. Following the season, Peavy signed a 4 year, 14.5 million dollar contract extension with the Padres.

He proved 2004 was not a fluke, as Peavy put together a monster 2005 campaign. He topped 200 innings for the first time, led the NL with 216 strikeouts, and made his first all-star team. He had a WHIP of just 1.04, and had a solid 5.1 fWAR. Peavy suffered a broken rib in a NLDS loss to the Cardinals. He was also named as the captain of team USA in the first World Baseball Classic. He took a slight step back in 2006, but still was worth 4 wins. His ERA climbed, but his strikeout rate remained the same. It was all a set up, to what would be an outstanding 2007 campaign.

On Top of the Mountain

The 2007 season was a magical one for Jake Peavy. He recorded his 1000th career strikeout, he was named the starting pitcher of the all-star team, but one thing he did stood out the most. Peavy joined a club of just 10 (now 12 with Verlander and Kershaw last year) that included the likes of Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton, Bob Feller, and Roger Clemens. He became just the 10th pitcher since 1940 to win the pitching triple crown. He led the National League in Wins(19), ERA(2.54), and strikeouts(240). He also had a career best 2.84 FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching, a metric that gives a more accurate version of ERA by accounting for performance on balls in play. His strikeout rate climbed, and he put up a career best 6.1 fWAR.

On November 15th, 2007, it was announced that Peavy had won the NL CY Young Award. He became just the 15th pitcher to unanimously win the award since it’s creation in 1956.

The Trade

Following his monstrous 2007 season, Peavy had a “down” year in 2008. He suffered through some injury troubles to make a total of 27 starts. He still put up a 3.85 ERA and was worth nearly 3 wins. Following the season, there were numerous reports saying the Padres wanted to deal Peavy. The Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves emerged as the favorites to get Peavy, but no deal was able to get completed before the start of the 2009 season.

On July 31st, 2009, the Padres sent Peavy to the Chicago White Sox in a last-minute deal at the trade deadline. The Padres sent Peavy to Chicago in exchange for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter. White Sox GM, Kenny Williams, had been interested in Peavy for quite a while, and the deal was applauded for the White Sox.

“The ultimate decision was when the team you’re playing for actively keeps telling you they need to move you, and one team comes after you like Chicago did, you’re excited to play for a team where you know you’re wanted,” Peavy said at a news conference in San Diego following the deal.

At the time of the trade, Peavy had posted a 3.97 ERA through 13 starts with the Padres, before landing on the DL with a strained tendon in his ankle. Peavy returned late in the season to make 3 starts and go 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA for his new team.

The Injury

Through the first half of 2010, Peavy was having an off-year. His strikeout rate had declined by nearly 2 full strikeouts per 9 innings, and his home run rate had risen.

Then on July 6, 2011, he made a start against the Angels. In the 2nd inning he felt pain in his right arm, and left the game. It turned out he had a detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his back. It required surgery, and forced Peavy to miss the rest of the season. It was a rare injury, and nobody knew how well Peavy would be coming back in 2011.

It turns out he had the worst season of his career in 2011. His ERA rose to 4.92 and his strikeout rate dipped once again. Peavy made just 18 starts, as he suffered through various injuries and fatigue. He looked like a completely different pitcher. Peavy’s ability to strike people out was what made him so special, but he appeared to have lost it. That leads us up to today.

A New Beginning

So far in 2012, Peavy is 3-1, with a 1.67 ERA through 5 starts. His strikeout rate is still slightly down, but he is finding new ways to get outs. He is using his slider much less than he used to, and he is throwing his fastball slightly more than he has over the past few seasons. I’ve also noticed Peavy is throwing inside at a similar rate to his 2007 season. He is becoming somewhat more of a finesse pitcher, as he is throwing an overwhelming majority of his pitches for strikes. Here is a look at how he has fared so far in 2012:

Fourseam (FA) 196 38.27% 17.86% 43.88% 12.24% 14.80%
Sinker (SI) 81 20.99% 20.99% 56.79% 9.88% 20.99%
Cutter (FC) 4 50.00% 25.00% 25.00%
Slider (SL) 162 30.86% 22.84% 46.30% 10.49% 20.99%
Curveball (CU) 28 39.29% 10.71% 50.00% 14.29% 21.43%
Changeup (CH) 41 36.59% 4.88% 56.10% 24.39% 24.39%

So what can we expect moving forward? I think Peavy has remade himself, and he should be a solid innings eater, number 3 type starter for at least a few more years. I wouldn’t expect him to put up the high strikeout totals like he did in San Diego, but he could be a useful commodity for the White Sox.

You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Comment below to join the discussion.

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