Jake Peavy entered Wednesday's game with an 8.61 ERA. He left it with a 9.00 ERA. In practical terms, there isn't a lot of difference between the two marks. Which means what we just watched is just about what we should expect from a pitcher who allows a run every inning on average.
Here are some numbers to confirm what you already knew:
- Giants record in games started by the top three starters: 12-6
- Giants record in games started by the bottom two starters: 3-8
My argument for keeping Peavy in the rotation at the start of the year was that he was pretty okay last season. He couldn't pitch into the seventh inning, sure, but he was a steady six-inning pitcher who kept the Giants from relying on a minor leaguer who wasn't ready. He started the season slowly last year, too, but he came around.
The difference in this game -- this season -- is that he's so very hittable. You don't look at his high batting average on balls in play and surmise that he's been unlucky. The BABIP makes sense when you watch him pitch, when you watch the balls miss the corners and sail over the plate, when you watch bad hitters take good hacks, when you watch good hitters take great hacks.
The only way Peavy can get hitters out is with perfect command, and we're not talking about limiting walks. We're talking about the 2011-2012 Vogelsong command, where if he misses, he misses out of the strike zone. That's why Vogelsong would have games in which he looked like a warlock, and it's why he would also have boring, interminable, effective games where it felt like every hitter had a 3-2 count. It's why Peavy's pitch count last year usually kept him out of the seventh inning. Not giving in means being willing to throw seven or eight pitches to every batter.
Peavy doesn't have that command now. He's trying, man, but those baseballs are going right over the plate, and they're being punished for their transgressions. So are we! But the baseballs probably hurt more. Peavy is already halfway to last year's home run total in about 90 fewer innings.
Now it's time to make a case for why we should expect things to get better. His age? Dude's 35. Advanced stats? Even if you think these home runs are a fluke and use xFIP, that's at 4.70 after Wednesday. Upside? His upside is what he did last year, which is to get the Giants into the sixth inning without falling out of a window.
The only reason to stick with Peavy right now -- and it's sadly compelling -- is that there aren't a lot of great internal options. If you assume that anyone at Double-A and above is available as a replacement, everything is still a mess. The only pitcher preventing runs in Triple-A is Albert Suarez. That's not the prospect, Andrew Suarez, it's the 27-year-old minor league free agent who has a long, long history of allowing minor leaguers to make contact.
The only pitchers preventing runs in Double-A are Tyler Beede (kind of), who is still a work in progress, and Joan Gregorio, who has never thrown more than 90⅓ innings in a season for his career. I could see one of them making an emergency start, but neither of them should be the solution.
That's why this suddenly isn't ridiculous:
Lincecum is in the best possible spot now, and according to his dad, he is ready. The curveball’s been "as good as it’s been in years," the changeup’s "always nasty," and he’s getting good sink on the fastball
And my writing is as good as it's been in years according to my dad, too, which probably isn't a review you should trust. Still, that is a solution that isn't too far-fetched. It's not crossing your fingers and hoping that Peavy's command gets fixed. It's not hoping that Chris Stratton or Clayton Blackburn is secretly better than their disappointing starts in Triple-A. It's not hoping that a prospect can skip a level and pitch better than their experience might suggest.
It's hoping that a formerly great pitcher who was physically broken wasn't just broken permanently, but that he was broken in a way that medical science could repair.
It still seems unlikely and overly charitable, considering that Lincecum was one of baseball's worst starting pitchers in each of the last three seasons, but the Giants' lack of starting depth is leading us into some strange thought experiments. It's not Heston's struggles that have ruined everything, it's the mystery of what happened to Blackburn, at least for me.
There will be no decision before Peavy's next start, I'm guessing. There will not be a transaction bolt that comes down from the sky, shattering everything we thought we knew. He'll get another start. Maybe two.
For now, though, Jake Peavy has thrown 29 innings this season. He has allowed 29 earned runs, 47 hits, 15 doubles, and six homers. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
You have already.