Back in May, one of the hottest topics in baseball was the Padres’ desire to deal stud SP Jake Peavy and the revelation that they had agreed to a deal in principle with the White Sox. The Cubs had long been rumored to be atop the list of likely landing spots for Peavy, so the report of Peavy’s imminent deal to the Sox surprised many.
I was strongly in favor of the deal at the time, even going so far as to start an online petition in hopes of helping Peavy overcome his reluctance to come to the South Side by showing him an outpouring of a support from White Sox fans. (10 supporters! Whoo-hoo! I guess not everything goes viral online…)
Holding full no-trade rights, however, Peavy was in possession of all the cards and in the end he decided to nix the deal to stay in San Diego. I, along with many other White Sox fans, was disappointed. Hanging onto Aaron Poreda was certainly a silver lining, but man was the thought of a Peavy-Buehrle lefty-righty combo atop the rotation enticing.
Who would have thought that, in retrospect, Peavy’s refusal to the accept the trade would look more and more like a positive for the White Sox with each passing week.
First, there is Peavy himself. He has made only four starts since the announcement of the deal-in-principle and is currently on the DL with a strained tendon in his right ankle. And the four starts he made were not exactly stellar (perhaps because of the injury though, to be fair). Only two were quality starts and his ERA rose from 3.48 to 3.97.
Plus, a deeper look at Peavy’s career numbers perhaps shows one of the main reasons why he is so reluctant to leave San Diego, and why clowns like myself were perhaps a little too anxious to get him into the summer bandbox that is U.S. Cellular Field. Look at Peavy’s home/road splits this season:
- Home: 4-4, 3.58 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .217 BAA, 62:17 K/BB
- Road: 2-2, 4.60 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .246 BAA, 30:11 K/BB
And for his career:
- Home: 45-31, 2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .219 BAA, 779:212 K/BB
- Road: 47-37, 3.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .246 BAA, 569:223 K/BB
So this year’s numbers are to be expected based on his track record. And it’s not like I and others excited about the possibility of a Peavy trade didn’t realize this, but I know that I didn’t really consider it with the weight that I probably should have.
PetcoPark, as has been well documented, is a severe pitcher’s park. So I would assume that most San Diego pitchers have similar splits. Thus, I would expect stats like BAA and HRs against to be up on the road. What concerns me looking deeper at the stats is the vastly different K rate. For his career, Peavy’s K/BB ratio is 3.67:1 at home but drops to 2.55:1 on the road. I realize different ballparks dictate pitching guys differently and can have other subtle effects, but Peavy’s numbers specifically seem like a pretty jarring difference for a stat that takes into account what happens when the ball is not in play and is thus not affected by park dimensions or climate factors that affect ball flight.
Maybe it’s a confidence thing, maybe it’s a certain oneness with his home mound, maybe it’s just a comfort level thing of strapping on his stirrups in the home locker room. But for whatever reason, Jake Peavy is dominant at home and much more ordinary on the road. You can’t really consider his home stats when considering what kind of impact Peavy might have made in Chicago. So maybe this deal wasn’t the slam dunk that I thought it was at the time.
To be fair to myself, part of the reason for my excitement was desperation. On May 21st, the White Sox were 17-22 and our non-Buehrle pitchers had not been good or capable of any semblance of consistency. In the six weeks since then, we’ve gone 27-18 and moved to two games within first place Detroit. For a team starved for solid pitching at the time, I thought Peavy would be a great shot in the arm. It turns out that we got a great shot in the arm, it was just an internal one. Look at the numbers:
- John Danks on May 21st: 4.60 ERA | John Danks now: 3.76 ERA
- Gavin Floyd on May 21st: 7.71 ERA | Gavin Floyd now: 4.33 ERA
- Jose Conreras on May 21st: 8.19 ERA | Jose Contreras now: 4.54 ERA
Even with their terrible early season numbers still part of the whole, all three of our 2-3-4 starters have better cumulative ERAs than what Peavy has put up in starts outside of San Diego this season. And Clayton Richard’s ERA on the season is 4.75, which is only slightly worse than what Peavy has done on the road this year.
I’m not saying that Danks, Floyd, Contreras, and Richard are individually better than Jake Peavy. He’s been one of the better pitchers in baseball for the last half decade. But the resurgence of our pitching staff over the last six weeks has certainly made me far, far less regrettable about the trade not going through. And looking at Peavy’s inability to dominate away from home certainly makes me question just how disappointed we might have been had he come to the South Side in a deal for two of our top pitching prospects and threw a 3.9+ ERA up there over the balance of the season.
In the end, I think the Peavy to Chicago deal-that-almost-was ended up working out in the best interests of each party involved (except for the Padres of course, who desperately wanted to get rid of his contract and are now stuck because of his injury). Jake Peavy gets to stay in San Diego and pitch where he is most comfortable once he gets healthy, and the White Sox have been able to enjoy the fruits of the Danks/Floyd combo regaining their 2008 rhythm and Jose “The Phoenix” Contreras rediscovering his supreme badassness. Plus, we still have Aaron Poreda, who has now become a valuable member of one of the league’s best bullpens.
Kudos to Ken Williams for being proactive and putting the White Sox in a position to make a big splash in filling what, at the time, was a pretty glaring area of need. In retrospect though, Jake Peavy’s refusal to the accept the trade was probably a blessing in disguise for the Good Guys.
* – John Danks/Gavin Floyd photo credit: AP via USA Today