It’s happening. After a year off from baseball, Jake Peavy has announced that he is making a comeback.
He last pitched in 2016 with the San Francisco Giants, throwing 118.2 innings and recording a 5.54 ERA to go along with a 1.43 WHIP, 7.74 K/9, and a 2.73 BB/9. Those aren’t very pretty numbers, but with a year off from baseball and letting his arm rest, Peavy should be motivated to perform. He is looking for a one-year deal with a team who would give him a chance to compete for a rotation spot.
Enter the San Diego Padres. They lost Jhoulys Chacin to free agency and have a few spots open in the rotation. With Clayton Richard, Dinelson Lamet, and Luis Perdomo looking like early favorites to occupy a spot, there are two spots remaining. With the Padres looking to bring in a few pitchers, it would not hurt to bring back the old fan favorite Peavy. He was dynamite when he pitched for the Padres and, while he may not put up the same numbers as he did in his Cy Young award-winning 2007 season, he would still be much more serviceable than Jered Weaver was and probably has enough in the tank for one last ride with San Diego.
Many fans remember Jake “The Snake” Peavy as an anchor in the rotation and a master of the strikeout, punching out 1,133 batters in his tenure with the Padres. His best strikeout season came in 2007, where he struck out a career-high 240 batters and maintained a 9.7 K/9 with a 2.7 BB/9. That season also saw him not only set a Padres single-game record by striking out 16 Diamondbacks on April 25, but take the National League Cy Young award home with him.
Peavy’s strikeout rates have gone down, yes, but he has been able to maintain them. His 7.7 K/9 ratio in 2017 was his highest since 2013 when he split the season between the White Sox and the Red Sox. He only struck out 102 batters, yet he also walked 36 batters for a 2.73 BB/9. Peavy also had a swinging strike of 10.5%, which was his best since 2008. While the walk rate is high, the strikeout numbers are still there for Peavy, and his average velocity for the fastball sat at 88.9, much better than Weaver’s 84.3 fastball velocity.
Advanced metrics are on his side as well. While the numbers aren’t all that appealing, Peavy’s FIP(4.36), xFIP (4.70), and SIERA (4.41) all suggest that his performance in 2016 was on par with other seasons before. FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) measures a pitcher’s performance that takes out luck, defense, and sequencing, instead focusing on outcomes that can be controlled directly by the pitcher: walks, strikeouts, hit by pitches, and home runs. Peavy’s FIP is influenced by his marginally low HBP’s (2) and a 1.4 HR/9. His high ERA can be blamed not on the Giants’ defense (who led the league in 2016 with a .988 fielding percentage), but on his career-worst hard-contact rate of 37.1% and a low strand rate of 65.1%. This led to a bloated .320 BABIP and the high ERA, but his secondary metrics are much more kind to him.
The mere presence of Peavy in the major league rotation would be enough for Padres fans to buy tickets, even if it’s just to his games, so they could feel the nostalgia of seeing him back on the mound at Petco Park. Plus, he is a two-time World Series champion with a wealth of knowledge, which would benefit a young hurler like Lamet, who is himself a strikeout machine in the works. His bulldog attitude would certainly help a rebuilding Padres club, and pairing him with the work ethic of Richard (ironically one of the four acquired in the 2009 trade for Peavy) would be advantageous to the younger Padres pitchers, while some work with pitching coach Darren Balsley, who has previously helped the careers of Aaron Harang, Jon Garland, and Tyson Ross, would be extremely beneficial for the 36-year-old hurler.
That, however, is the main problem with Peavy. He is simply on the wrong side of 30, and he’ll be 37 come May. A player’s prime usually comes in his early-to-mid 20’s and peaks at the early 30’s. This rings true for Peavy, as some of his best years came from when he was 23-28, capturing the Cy Young award at age 26. He had his struggles with the White Sox, but won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2013. He rebounded with a return to the N.L., but his glory days are far past.
There are also many other younger options for the Padres to choose from. Matt Strahm, Robbie Erlin, and Colin Rea are all expected to be healthy come spring training, and the trio have shown flashes of excellence in the past. Travis Wood is another option in the rotation. Peavy would be occupying a spot that could go to one of those three or four. Not to mention the wealth of prospects in the minors, as Andrew Lockett remains in Triple-A and the quartet of Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, and Jacob Nix burned through the minor leagues and are expected to push for the majors sooner rather than later.
This would leave Peavy with some stiff competition to earn a rotation spot, but he has the experience and stuff to earn one. The San Diego Padres would do themselves a service to sign Peavy to an incentive-laden one-year deal, or at the very least, a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. With a year off to rest his body and arm, signing Jake Peavy would give him the opportunity to have one last ride with the team that drafted him and bring a nice end to a fruitful career.