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AL SP Risk: Comeback in ChiTown?

After finishing my last post on the potential return to the majors for Brandon Webb, I was inspired to continue down the path of the walking wounded and talk about another AL starting pitcher I  met along the way.  He’s also coming back from major surgery, is on schedule to make his team’s Opening Day roster and a first week start, and for me, remains a high risk candidate in which to invest.  So when it comes to draft day, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk?

My name is Howard Bender and I’m a former Jake Peavy owner.  I first scored me some Peavy back in 2007 and thought I was pretty cool having picked him up in my draft for less than expected due to his poor showing and mechanics issue the year before.  I was the envy of the league, rejecting trade offer after trade offer, en route to a Triple Crown season, the ultimate rush.

I was consumed.  I had to have more Peavy and fortunately it was a keeper league so I latched on with a white-knuckled grip so strong, nothing was taking him away from me.  But I got greedy; crazy in some respects.  I rejected some pretty solid trade offers and when the powers that be started accusing him of doctoring the ball, I lashed out at the world.  Was it justified anger or simple denial?

Then the wheels really started to fall off the wagon.  There was an elbow issue, a trip to the DL, and numerous trade rumors.  Our game was being thrown off.  The ratios increased, the strikeouts plummeted, and things just weren’t the same.  People weren’t coming around with trade offers as often and the ones I did receive were lowball ones at best.  I should have known then that I was heading down a slippery slope, but I ignored the signs.  I was in too deep.  I thought Peavy could pull us out of this, so I held him again.  Sadly, I couldn’t see the forest through the tress.

Things started to fall near rock-bottom as the season started off in horrible fashion.  There were so  many baserunners circling Peavy in April that I thought I had protected Sidney Ponson by mistake.  He got me a false high the next month but quickly followed it up with a nightmarish outing and a rolled ankle that landed him on the DL for the next two months.  I started to sober and realized that it was now always going to be something with him.  The elbow, the ankle (although more of a fluke, really), his impending departure from pitcher friendly Petco…I was finally starting the see the handwriting on the wall.  When he headed to the launching pad at U.S. Cellular, I was done.  I had enough and benched him.

He tried to lure me back in but, despite 2 1/2 decent outings, I was clean.  I wasn’t going back.  The season ended, I let him go back into the player pool, and didn’t even consider drafting him the following year.  Ok, that was a lie.  I considered it, but stayed strong.  He had no hold on me anymore.

When I watched him struggle to start the year last year, I was relieved that I had kicked my Peavy habit.  And when I saw him start to right the ship in June, I knew it was just a way to lure in another sucker.  Something ominous was coming.  As someone who was neck deep in it before, I could sense it.  Lo and behold, he was diagnosed with a detached latissimus dorsi muscle and his season was over.  Surgery was required, a lengthy rehab was needed, and it was yet another injury to add to the laundry list we were starting to compile.

Report on Peavy’s return have all been pretty positive this spring.  He went from going at 60-70% before camp to easy bullpen sessions with good command of his fastball and changeup to tossing BP to appearing in his first spring game and touching 92 mph on the radar gun in just over 2 weeks.  Things were looking great and suddenly the hopes to making the roster soon became expectations.  I was getting that jazzed up feeling again.

But then came the report of some “general soreness”, a rather casual mention of a tight hamstring, and Peavy’s next outing finished up after 4 innings of 6 hits, 3 runs, a walk and a home run.  You’d be willing to give it a pass, but then suddenly he was held out of a workout, sent home from camp due to “illness” and was questionable for his start today.  Supposedly he’s going to make it anyway, though.

Now call me paranoid, call me a conspiracy theorist, whatever, but it all seems a little suspicious to me.  Maybe it’s just a genuine stomach bug or maybe his constant reports of feeling fine weren’t 100% accurate.  But is that the risk you want to take with your fantasy rotation this year?  His LOB% is dropping significantly the last two seasons, his FB% is increasing while calling a home run friendly park home, and we’ve now seen significant injuries to the elbow, the ankle and the back.  Call me crazy, but that’s just too many red flags for me.

So when you hear his name get nominated in your auction or when you see him creeping up near the top of the draft board in the 10th round or so, remember these warning signs and just say no to Peavy.