There are 108 stitches on a baseball. A pitcher manipulates those stitches to make the ball do certain things, he will use 4 seams to make a ball go fast and straight (ish). He will use two seams to cut the ball a bit. He will use torque to make it curve. Pitching is the most unnatural athletic feat in all of sports. It’s hell on your arm, it destroys ligaments in your elbow, it shreds your rotator cuff, it gives you pain like no other the morning after, but when you are able to master the artistry of pitching, I argue that nothing is more rewarding.

Jake Peavy mastered the art, but his body has betrayed him. It has led to an identity crisis that derailed a once promising career. Peavy was a great pitcher at the height of his powers. He was overwhelming at one point. Plus movement on all his pitches, command of the strike zone and a mentality that screamed “Ace.”

It’s a funny word, “Ace.” It’s a heavy word that sounds ultimately silly. How often would you take a man named Ace seriously? Almost never. In the baseball lexicon, home of the silly moniker, Ace is the ultimate compliment a pitcher can be paid. It means so many things because it has no set parameters. An Ace can be like Greg Maddux or Roger Clemens. He can be Pedro Martinez or Tom Glavine. To be an Ace is to be both a competitor and a sublime talent.

Jake was either an Ace, or on his way to being an Ace. He was simply outstanding from 2005-2007. He was a 20-something year old phenom with the mentality of a pitbull. He increased his repertoire in 2005, mixing in a cutter to go along with his standard power pitcher’s array of fastball, slider, curve and changeup.

As you can see, he experimented with the pitch in 2004 and threw it with increased volume from there. Peavy’s health has always stood in his way to continuing to build on the success that he established in 2005. In this chart you’ll note that since joining the White Sox he is throwing his fastball less and less, bottoming out at 49% in 2011. This can be due to a couple of factors. Peavy has moved to a more difficult league that employs a DH. Pitchers usually get a steady diet of fastballs. Perhaps the more important reason is that he’s lost confidence in his fastball, which is an issue. Peavy’s fastball used to sit in the 94-96 range. However:

vFA and vFT are his fastball velocity values. That’s a fairly precipitous drop. He’s becoming more of a junkballer and less of a fireballer. Reputation is a hard thing to overcome, and Peavy’s was that of a gamer. It still is. He famously volunteered to throw a 4 inning relief stint when his team desperately needed it last year, but after that outing he was hardly effective. More alarming is the in-between area he occupies as a pitcher. Consider the following:

He gets hit the first time around, which kind of puts a damper on the whole theory that you could put him in the pen, and he gets pounded after pitch #75. If he could somehow exist as a 2-3 inning reliever every 2-3 games, I feel that his effectiveness would be high. It’s clear that arm fatigue take miles away from his fastball, and that he has lost confidence in the pitch. What isn’t clear is what the Sox plan to do to fix it, if anything. Peavy is penciled in as a starter on this squad entering the 2012 season. He’ll need to perform in order for the Sox to have a chance at competing this year. I don’t see him gaining a few MPH’s on his fastball, so that cutter/change combination he’s grown fond of will have to be his bread and butter when he navigates through the improved lineups of the AL Central. If’s are big with Peavy, and it’s no guarantee that if he stays healthy he’ll be effective. Detroit is no joke and the Royals will have a solid lineup this year. Peavy has a long road ahead of him if he wants to stay relevant in the Sox rotation this year.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s