By R.J. Anderson //
Four starts into his 2010 season, Jake Peavy continues to experience some issues. He’s lasted beyond the fifth inning just once in four starts, and his usually solid K/BB ratio is down to a morbid 1:1. For perspective, Peavy’s previous career low in that statistic was 1.90 and that came in his first full season in the majors. Peavy is only striking out six batters per nine (also walking six) and he’s allowed three homers already; he allowed eight in 101.2 innings last season.
One of the problems has been Peavy’s inability to miss bats. FanGraphs has batters whiffing at Peavy’s pitches 10% to 12% of the time throughout his career. His swinging strike rate this season is a disconcerting 6.4%. Why is that important? Because swinging strikes correlate extremely well with strikeouts. Which makes sense on a basic level — i.e. the better the stuff, the more swings and misses, and the higher likelihood of at-bats ending in strikeouts. Despite a static velocity reading on his fastball and a presumably healthy elbow, Peavy’s results — in a small sample of four starts, anyway — suggest his stuff has been subpar and extremely hittable.
It should be noted that Peavy’s increased gopherball tendencies are expected. As with any pitcher who moves from the National League to the American League, Peavy’s numbers are going to look rougher. Combine the improved level of competition as well as facing the designated hitter instead of a pitcher and you’ve got a recipe for a rising ERA. Peavy’s numbers are going to experience a double whammy though, since he’s moving from perhaps the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball in Petco Park to a the homer haven that is U.S. Cellular Field. About 10% of Peavy’s flyballs are going for home runs; the reality is that number is closer to the projected total than his previous seasons in Petco suggest.
Another thing to keep in mind about Peavy’s performance is his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). About 32% of the balls being put into play against him are turning into hits, which is high, but not absurdly so. Chicago’s so-so defense features iffy defenders like Carlos Quentin, so don’t expect Peavy’s BABIP to see much positive regression, barring a big streak of luck. That leaves Peavy as a pitcher who, right now, is throwing less than his best stuff and having it hammered around and out of the park. Not quite the pitcher who led the majors in strikeouts during the 2007 season.
It might be too early to drop Peavy in standard mixed leagues, and he holds little trade value at this point. That means the best option could be placing him on the bench and waiting.
For more on Jake Peavy and other struggling starting pitchers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.