A fond look back at HOF candidate Jake Peavy’s Padres career

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Jake Peavy enters his first season on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. His Padres career is one worth reviewing and revering. 

Fire up Lynyrd Skynyrd’s famous twangy hit, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

By virtue of playing his last big-league inning five years ago after logging 15 seasons, Jake Peavy now has his name on the Baseball Writers’ Association Hall of Fame ballot. A player needs at least 75 percent of the vote to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Also, a player needs a minimum of five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot for the following election season.

It is more likely that Peavy struggles to get the needed five percent to stay on the ballot than him flirting with the 75 percent threshold for induction, but that doesn’t mean his career any less worthy of celebration, especially for San Diego fans.

Yes, it hurt that he ended up moving on and winning World Series rings with the Red Sox and Giants, but what he was to the Padres for several years was nothing short of the dominant, grumpy bulldog-like ace every team drools over.

For starters, Peavy was a rarity to the Padres organization outside of Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield-home grown, meaning San Diego was the team that originally drafted him. Other Padres greats like Trevor Hoffman, Adrian Gonzalez, Ken Caminiti, and yes, Fernando Tatis Jr., were not originally drafted or signed as an amateur by San Diego. Peavy was the home-grown kid.

The Friars selected the Alabama-native in the unheralded 15th round of the 1999 amateur draft. He rocketed up the minor leagues, and three years after he was drafted, he made his major league debut. His first assignment? The New York Yankees on June 22, 2002. The rookie faced a lineup that included Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Robin Ventura, and Bernie Williams and went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits.

The baseball world got a glimpse of Peavy’s bravado- he ain’t backing down from anybody.

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Over the next seven-plus seasons in San Diego, Peavy took that hard-nosed, no-nonsense, screw-you attitude to the mound each and every time he toed the rubber. It was fascinating to watch and a joy to be a Padres fan knowing you had a bona fide ace that few other teams had and every team wanted.

From 2004 to 2008, he made 150 starts for San Diego. He pitched six complete games, three of those being shutouts, while striking out 1,010 batters at a 9.4 strikeouts-per-nine-innings clip. Both of those were second in all of baseball during that timeframe. He did all that with a 2.95 ERA and 133 ERA+.

One of his most admirable traits was his durability. He made at least 27 starts in six straight seasons for the Padres.

2007, of course, is the crown jewel of Peavy’s career. Everything came together for the ace, and he has the accolades to prove it. He lead the majors in wins (19), ERA (2.54), strikeouts (240), earning himself the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown. Since World War II, only 15 pitchers in all of Major League Baseball have accomplished that feat. Only Clayton Kershaw has accomplished it in the National League, back in 2011, since Peavy’s stellar 2007 campaign.

Naturally, Peavy was named the winner of the NL Cy Young Award for the 2007 season, becoming the Padres’ first Cy Young winner since Mark Davis in 1989 and just the fourth in Padres history. He even got the honor of starting the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco.

Peavy owns the Padres record for strikeouts in a single game with 16. Amazingly, he did it twice. The first time he did, it was in 2006, against the Braves, when he shared a mound with Hall of Famer John Smoltz. He struck out 16 and needed just seven innings to do it.

Night in and night out, if you watched a start by Peavy, there was a chance it could be an electric outing more than worth the price of admission.

Over his Padres career, Peavy struck out at least a dozen batters seven times.

One of Peavy’s most iconic starts as a Padre came on August 23, 2005, against the Houston Astros. In fact, it turned out to be one of the best pitcher’s duels of the year, maybe even decade. Opposite of Peavy was seven-time Cy Young winner and 11-time All-Star Roger Clemens.

Not for one second did Peavy look out-matched against one of the game’s all-time best. The bullpens for both teams remained virtually silent the entire game as neither side used a single reliever. Peavy completed the game, and in fact, thanks to a two-run homer by Brian Giles off of The Rocket himself, the Friars hurler was credited with the victory. In those nine complete innings, Peavy fanned six while allowing just four hits. Clemens countered with seven strikeouts over eight innings, which was a complete game in the loss at Petco Park. To this day, this is maybe the greatest pitcher’s duel in the history of Petco Park.

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The game ended in one hour and 53 minutes with a 2-0 Padres win.

Peavy’s Padres career ended somewhat unceremoniously at the deadline in July of 2009. He went to the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, and Adam Russell. Ouch.

After stops in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco, Peavy never pitched in the big leagues again after 2016 and officially retired in 2019.

He is arguably the greatest starting pitcher in Padres history, as he has more strikeouts, a higher ERA+, and lower career ERA than fellow Padres great Randy Jones. He is the franchise leader in strikeouts and starting pitcher WAR.

Looking back, Peavy has reason to be extremely proud of his accomplishments. Aside from his Cy Young and Triple Crown in 2007, he garnered three All-Star selections and a Gold Glove Award as well. While induction into Cooperstown is unlikely, Peavy’s career, especially San Diego, should be revered.

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