I wonder if, buried way, way down in his subconscious, there's a teeny tiny part of Jake Peavy that's slightly annoyed with Matt Cain right now. Whereas the Giants used to have two struggling starting pitchers, throwing one right after the other, absorbing all of the criticism together, now they have one. All eyes on Jake Peavy, struggling Giants pitcher.
"I don’t have a leash on him right now, so I don’t know how long," Bochy replied. "Jake, he’s going to be fine. He had a hiccup in his last start. He’s had a couple of good ones, too."
Before you start grumbling or applauding, remember the General Theory of Managerial Quotes. Here's something Bruce Bochy will never say about one of his pitchers:
"Yeah, (pitcher) is pretty awful right now. Just a steaming can of garbage. Even though we don't have a great alternative right now, you can be sure that one's coming soon. (Pitcher) is finished, but he has to make his next start, so don't tell him that I said all this."
There is absolutely no advantage to Bochy being honest in that situation. Even if he's saying nice things about Peavy in the press, he still might be having closed-door meetings with Bobby Evans, Dick Tidrow, and the ghost of Christy Mathewson, where it's being made abundantly clear that the Giants need to explore alternatives.
But we can look at the assertion made, which is that Peavy is coming around. Peavy started last season slowly, too, making two poor starts before spending months on the DL. He finished the season with an ERA under 4.00 and solid overall numbers. He also started 2014 miserably, which is why the Giants were able to acquire him so cheaply. So it's possible that he can bounce back this year, right?
Probably not. That line of thinking severely underestimates just how bad Peavy has been this year, and last year's early struggles were a sneeze in comparison. Of his nine starts this season, two have been quality starts. He's pitched into the seventh inning once, and the recent good start that Bochy referenced was a six-inning outing that led to four other Giants pitchers getting into the game. And that's the positive outing.
By the time Peavy reached his 10th start last year, he had already recorded five quality starts. He was pitching six innings regularly, and he had turned his season around by this start last year. This year's model is leaving way too many pitches in the middle of the plate, and his increasing walk rate suggests that he's having troubles putting his pitches where he wants them, both in and out of the strike zone. His strikeout rate looks like it's going in the right direction if you go by strikeouts per nine innings, but that's only because he's facing so many batters in every inning. His strikeout rate is steady and still slightly below average.
The more I look, the harder it is to find anything encouraging in the stats. Peavy has had 48 situations where a double play was possible this season, but he's picked up only three double plays, which is far fewer than the average pitcher should expect. So that's one in his favor. He's giving up a ton of home runs for every fly balls he allows, which some evaluators think can be a sign of poor luck, so that's another bone you can throw him.
Except for every stat where you can squint and kinda/sorta explain some of it away, there are 30 more that make you cringe. The fly balls turning into home runs isn't so hard to believe once you realize that Peavy is among the league leaders in allowing 100-mph line drives. His velocity is down, even by his post-surgery standards. Even when he gets ahead of hitters, 0-1, they're still hitting .309/.343/.591 in those at-bats. He's 35 years old, which might be the most damning stat of all.
And, of course, the eyeballs confirm all of the bad news. Peavy looks like a pitcher who is afraid to throw strikes, which is a problem if everyone stops swinging at the balls. And when he does get in the strike zone, he's hit. Hard.
You didn't need this many words to confirm that Peavy was struggling, but now that I've written them, you might as well take them. The Giants are publicly standing by Peavy because there's no reason to make the move in the papers before a replacement is ready. But I'm not really buying the idea that the Giants aren't exploring their options. They know what a struggling pitcher looks like, and they're also not fools when it comes to the odds of a 35-year-old pitcher coming back from a hiccup like this.
My guess is that we'll see Clayton Blackburn again if Peavy has another miserable start or two (or Joan Gregorio, or Adalberto Mejia, or ...) But for right now, the official company line is that everything is fine. I don't buy it, but your distrust of the Giants' trust in veterans may vary.