Peavy's not going to the bullpen, thank goodness


I’m not backing down from my point, but I’ll admit that this looks weird // Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune

When do pitchers become relievers?  When they fail unequivocally!  Duh!

That’s a oversimplification, but what I mean to say is that when a pitcher gets relegated to bullpen work–whether it occurs in the minors or majors–it’s typically because they’re judged to not have adequate secondary stuff (whether due to poor command or pitch quality), sufficient control, or just the plain old consistency to get through an opposing batter order multiple times in a row.

It’s pretty rare for a reliever to make the switch back to starting unless he’s particularly excellent, his team is desperate, his team is foolish, or in the case of the 2003 Cincinnati Reds–desperate and foolish (Seriously?  Danny Graves?  What in bloody cripes screamed “this should work” about that?  I hope you enjoyed your 169 innings of replacement-level work, dorkopotamuses…sorry, random beef.  Moving on.)

Point being, the distinction between the two camps of hurlers is pretty
severe.  Pitchers that can succeed in a starting role are pretty
special, and those that become frustrated with Peavy’s health and push
for a move to relief may be overlooking that just a bit.  Thankfully, it appears the White Sox are not.

I refer to this Brooks Baseball breakdown from Peavy’s May 18th shutout of the Cleveland Indians.

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 90.98 92.5 -5.39 9.32 10 9 / 90.00% 0 / 0.00% -0.8085 0.417
CH (Changeup) 83.40 86.1 -9.13 4.39 15 9 / 60.00% 1 / 6.67% -0.5975 0.455
SL (Slider) 82.44 83.7 1.52 2.85 19 16 / 84.21% 3 / 15.79% -1.5622 0.457
FC (Cutter) 88.12 89.9 -0.51 6.39 14 8 / 57.14% 0 / 0.00% -0.2409 0.429
FT (TwoSeam Fastball) 91.27 93.7 -9.27 9.47 52 36 / 69.23% 7 / 13.46% -2.6783 0.419

That’s Jake Peavy utilizing four separate above-average pitches (5 if you want to differentiate the four-seamer and two-seamer).  This is not a
particularly common ability, and certainly not a skill that’s being
maximized in a short-inning role, where the fact that Peavy can throw
the kitchen sink at hitters over the course of a night is neutralized.

For contrast, here’s a highly-effective Sergio Santos’ outing from May 8th where he struck out three in two innings

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 95.33 96.9 -3.56 6.16 14 12 / 85.71% 1 / 7.14% -0.9438 0.397
CH (Changeup) 89.10 89.1 -7.77 3.11 1 0 / 0.00% 0 / 0.00% 0.0978 0.429
SL (Slider) 85.93 86.6 6.51 -1.55 6 4 / 66.67% 3 / 50.00% -0.5855 0.444
FT (TwoSeam Fastball) 89.25 89.6 -9.09 1.42 2 1 / 50.00% 0 / 0.00% 0.0369 0.426

He tinkers a bit, but eventually settles to just pounding his fastball
and using his slider for a wipeout.  That’s all he has a feel for, but
he also only faces 7 batters, so that’s all he needs.

For hilarious contrast, here’s a highly-effective Matt Thornton outing from May 7th of 2010

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 97.07 98.4 1.77 11.18 22 16 / 72.73% 7 / 31.82% -1.7391 0.391

He faced 6 batters, and struck out five throwing all heaters.  Awesome,
but take my word for it that his effectiveness with this approach might
wane over 8 innings.

It’s not that Peavy wouldn’t be good in such a role–he’s a Cy Young
Award winner, he can probably find a way to consistently get three
outs–it’s that it would likely be a waste of his wide range of

Of course, the assumption behind moving Peavy to the bullpen is that his
proclivity toward breaking himself makes that the only way to mine
value from him, which might not even be that true from a straight value


He’s probably always going to look like he just tore his groin. // Jose M. Osorio, Chicago Tribune

Peavy has had two injury-riddled seasons the past two years, made just
33 starts (a season’s worth) and stunk for the first half of 2010.  Matt
Thornton was as dominant as a reliever could be during that time, and
appeared in 131 games, averaging about an inning a time.  Despite that,
Thornton has out-WARed Peavy by just 0.3 (according to FanGraphs) for
those two seasons.

Even if Peavy were cursed with pestilence, that’s a negligible
difference between him as a troubled starter and the best-case scenario
of him as a reliever.  And it’s way too soon to make that kind of
conclusion about someone being cursed with pestilence. 

While the perception that Peavy wears down with too much work is
certainly mounting, none of his three injuries in the past three seasons
have been related, his current ailment is relatively minor, and he’s
been one of the five best starters on the team when he’s played. 
Undercutting his value when there are still plenty of starts to go
around is premature.

There’s a chance Peavy is operating out of the bullpen at the end of the
season as the White Sox prepare to go to war in the post-season with
their other, less stress-inducing starters, and if so, they’ll probably
need to prepare him in that capacity a few times.  But with the season
less than half over, and Peavy’s value and ability as a starter, it’s
too soon to pull the plug just because Jake’s groin had one bad week.

Follow White Sox Observer on Twitter @ JRFegan and on Facebook

Leave a comment