Can Jake Peavy Bounce Back?

Jake Peavy has an ADP of 45 and is the sixth-highest rated starting pitcher by this ranking. On first glance, that seems a tad optimistic for a guy who saw his win total drop by nine and his ERA shoot up 31 points last season. But Peavy’s numbers in 2008 were hurt by a mid-season bout with elbow trouble and the Padres’ anemic offense.

Peavy missed a month last year due to a sore elbow, but he got back on the field without surgery and in his first start back pitched six scoreless innings. Peavy took his regular turn the rest of the season, missing only a September start so that he could be with his wife for the birth of their son.

In 14 of his 27 starts last year, the Padres scored three runs or less for Peavy, which helps explain how he was a .500 pitcher with a 2.85 ERA.

But there are some troubling signs from Peavy last year. His SO% fell and his BB% rose. His 2.81 K/BB ratio was the lowest of his career since his second season back in 2003. Peavy was also fortunate in his LOB%. His strand rate of 82.2 percent was the second-lowest mark in the majors. Peavy’s FIP was 3.60, significantly higher than his ERA, although he has beaten his FIP in five of the past six seasons.

All pitchers are risky and Peavy is no different than most. But he seemingly had no lingering issues with his elbow and he does get to pitch half of his games in Petco. Last year in home games, Peavy had a 1.74 ERA.

There have been rumors that Peavy is on the trading block. First he seemed destined for Atlanta and then he was linked with Chicago and the Cubs. If a trade does go through, Peavy would probably suffer in ERA and WHIP but would also be the beneficiary of more offensive support, which could lead to more wins.

Wherever he winds up, Peavy should continue to be one of the top pitchers in baseball. If nothing else, he should give fantasy players more strikeouts once he gets back to the 200-IP level he posted the three previous seasons. One of the top 10 fantasy pitchers available, Peavy is a reasonable person to target for those who like to grab at least one starting pitcher in the first four rounds.

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14 Responses to “Can Jake Peavy Bounce Back?”

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  1. Jim says:

    You don’t think his elbow or huge innings count at such a young age is cause for concern?

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  2. Brian Joura says:

    His ERA last year before hitting the DL was 2.91. After coming back it was 2.82 in 18 games and 115 IP. There was no trouble during the season and no talk about it during the off-season that I have heard.

    As for his IP totals, since becoming a full-time SP in 2003, Peavy ranks 17th in innings pitched, which doesn’t seem excessive. Furthermore, nine of the 16 pitchers ahead of him in IP started the 2003 season at age 25 or younger, including Sabathia and Zambrano (both 22) and Garland (23).

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  3. Mike says:

    I want to point out that people may be overrating the effect of Peavy pitching half of his games at Petco. While it would be insane to argue that spacious Petco has no impact, his splits show that the impact may not be as great as people make it out to be. Looking at his home/road splits, in 2008, 2006, and 2003 he was significantly worse on the road than he was at home, but in 2004, 2004, and 2007 he was just as good on the road than he was at home. As a result, I think predicting a huge jump in Peavy’s ratios if he is traded might be a bit premature.

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  4. Mitch says:

    I don’t see Peavy as a huge injury risk, but his 4-year decline in K/BB is troubling from a fantasy perspective. A couple years ago he mentioned in a pre-season interview [can't find the link, sorry] that he was going to try to reduce his pitch counts and pitch later into games, implying that he would prefer a 5K complete game over 12Ks in 6 2/3 IP. Smart, but not so good for fantasy owners.

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  5. Jim says:

    Still, he has pitched an awful lot of innings. Zambrano is already on the decline, and I would venture a guess that Zito is also on that leaderboard, and he flamed out before the age of 30.

    What were his before/after FIP? That would convince me more than ERA.

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    • Brian Joura says:

      Yes, Zito is on the list at #6. But Webb is #3 and Santana is #4 so I’m not sure we can draw any conclusions other than that are a number of pitchers who have thrown as many or more IP than Peavy.

      You asked for pre and post-elbow FIP data. Using just BB (no HBP or IW) and a 3.2 league factor, I get a 3.51 FIP before the DL stint and a 3.62 FIP after he came back.

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      • Jim says:

        So he definitely didn’t get better after hihs time off. The last time his FIP was that high was when he supposedly had the wrong prescription contacts and couldn’t see right. And it was’t even that high then. His fastball velocity wasn’t down last year, but his slider, cutter and curve were all down 2-3 MPH. Is this a strategy thing or could it be because of the elbow? It seems kind of odd, because they were all incredibly consistent the 3 years before 2008.

        Also, the more pitchers you mention, the more it makes me wonder. Santana has also showed signs that his innings load may be getting to him. Take this Peter Bendix article that I found:

        his velocity has been down, his K rate has been down, and his BB rate has gone up ever so slightly. His FIP’s the past 2 years have been considerably higher than any other time in his career.

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  6. Jim says:

    Webb was never a power pitcher, so I would expect the innings to have quite the same effect on him.

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  7. Gregg says:

    I’ve had Peavy in a keeper league since 2005 and his numbers last year concern me. Away from Petco he’s way mortal and if he’s traded pretty much anywhere else, all numbers except for Ws should get worse.

    Question, I have both Peavy and Beckett and we’re expanding our keeper league. If I have to choose which of the two to protect, who should it be? On the face of it, you might say Peavy, but Beckett’s underlying stats (esp. K/BB) were really superb last year.

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  8. Jim says:

    It depends on what your priorities are. If wins are important to you, Beckett may be the way to go. If ERA and WHIP, Peavy. Both are good for strikeouts. Beckett is more of an overt injury risk, but I am a little worried about Peavy’s sore elbow. I would probably keep Peavy regardless, because if the elbow is really healed, he is one of the game’s top pitchers.

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  9. Andy says:

    I know it may seem rather superficial but does anyone have any concerns about Peavy pitching in the WBC? Last time he pitched in the classic his ERA for the season was over 4. Coincidence? Bad luck? Any opinions?

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  10. Jesus says:

    Well written Mr. Joura. I never would have expected Peavy’s strikeouts to increase as his innings increase to the 200IP level. Jesus forgives for your stating of the obvious.

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