Jake Peavy has a new pitch. His cable car is in the best shape of its life, and he also has a new pitch. Via Alex Pavlovic:
Buster Posey was impressed by the four-seam changeup that C.J. Wilson threw him in Sunday’s game and asked Peavy if he could throw a similar one. It was trial-and-error throughout Monday’s game against the Royals, but after skipping a bunch of them, Peavy threw a good four-seam change to strike out Lorenzo Cain and end the fifth inning.
We will probably not see this pitch a lot this season, I'll guess. The first time that four-seam changeup gets hit to the Coke bottle, it'll be buried under a pile of familiar, comfortable pitches. It's like that quote from Henrik Ibsen's Marked For Death: "Everyone want go Heaven. Nobody want dead." The idea behind a new pitch -- more deception, more variety, more ways the hitter can outthink himself -- is great. But pitching is hard, y'all. It's why the mediocre ones are paid millions and millions and millions of dollars, and the good ones bought your childhood home to store their golf clubs. It takes a lot of perseverance to stick with a new pitch when the rewards are often uncertain.
So think of Jake Peavy as the one you watched last year, not the one in the best shape of his life and/or a new pitch. Except, which Jake Peavy is that? The Giants saw two versions.
Version #1: The Kirstie Alley to Matt Cain's Shelley Long
Everyone loved Matt Cain. Then he left to work on his film career, so the Giants brought in a replacement who performed just as well as Cain at his best. Everyone was happy. Ratings are still through the roof. What a success, all around. Except for that film career. This analogy is over.
We'll get to the reason everyone forgets this, but do remember how good Peavy was for a while? The Giants lost his first three starts, but after that it was seven innings, seven innings, seven innings. One run, two runs, one run, no runs, flirting with a no-hitter. Over his last nine starts, he had a 1.35 ERA and the Giants were 8-1. He was the obvious second starter in the playoffs. Of course he was. He was on fire.
Statistical indicators suggested he was getting lucky, but it's like that quote from Chekov's Ivanov: "Statistics can prove that an elephant can hang from a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy. But use your eyes, your common sense." And the common sense told us that Peavy was going to be good for the Giants for a long time. He won Game 1 of the NLDS, you know.
Version #2: The Mark Gardner of Giants pitchers
As in, a steady innings-eater who sometimes had trouble eating innings. After his fine start in the NLDS, Peavy was awful. He looked tired and incapable of teasing the edges of the strike zone, which he will need to do until his velocity returns from sabbatical, which is probably forever. After holding hitters to a .219/.266/.325 line in September, Peavy looked like pitcher who didn't deserve the trust of a team scrambling through the postseason.
This version reminded you why the Giants could get him in the first place -- Peavy was just about the last reasonable option for a team that didn't want to trade its best prospects, mostly because he was awful for the Red Sox before the trade. Brian Sabean took an educated guess that Peavy's bloated home run numbers wouldn't be as much of a problem in AT&T and the NL West, and he was quite right. Still, Peavy sure pitched lousy for the Red Sox last season.
So now you have to pick. Do you believe in the first version, or do you believe in the second version? You have to choose between one of them, man. It's like how Curtis Mayfield sang, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
Unless there's ... I don't know ... another way to look at it?
Version #3: A combination of the two
Jake Peavy, 2013 ERA+: 100
Jake Peavy, 2014 ERA+: 100
That is, exactly league-average. This is what we should expect. Considering that the average for starting pitchers is a little bit worse, Peavy has been just a squidgen above-average for both of the last two seasons. And, yes, that's worth about what the Giants gave him.
He'll have ups and downs, quality starts and defective starts. He'll never be as good as he was for the White Sox in 2012 (even though that's what I'm secretly hoping for), but I don't think he'll be a problem for the 2015 Giants. He won't have any new pitches of note, but he'll still have his old ones. Even though the fastest of them doesn't really go more than 90 mph these days, his velocity has been remarkably consistent, and those pitches been working as long as he's been healthy.
He's not the blem discarded by the Red Sox, who resurfaced in the postseason. He's not the ace he was in the second half. He's certainly not the Cy Young winner or the rookie who once threw a 100-mph fastball. He's just a guy. Better than most. Still just a guy.
That's probably not exactly what the Giants need, but they could sure do a heckuva lot worse.
All that talk about playwrights made me want to watch what's probably Peavy's favorite play.