This isn’t going to come as stunning news to anyone who has watched him pitch, but Jake Peavy just isn’t right. After last night’s implosion, he has allowed 19 runs in 22 innings, and it’s not bad luck. He’s just pitching terribly.
He’s walked as many batters (15) as he’s struck out. His groundball rate is just 33.3%, down from his career average of 41.6 percent, but he’s not giving up more flyballs – instead, those grounders have turned into screaming line drives. Batters are making contact with 84.4 percent of the pitches he throws, and his swinging strike rate is half of what it was in his prime.
Add it all up, and you get a 5.94 xFIP, which is below replacement level. Through four trips to the mound, Peavy has pitched worse than you’d expect from waiver bait.
Unless he’s hurt (a distinct possibility, given his history), he’ll improve. Even with the transition to the American League and having to pitch in a park that favors hitters for the first time in his career, the changes in context aren’t enough to take him from good pitcher to complete bum. But how optimistic can White Sox fans be about their pseudo-ace?
His pre-season ZIPS had him posting a 3.86 FIP, and the updated rest-of-season ZIPS (which takes into account his first four games of 2010) has him projected for a 3.87 FIP. Clearly, the projection systems aren’t going to panic over a 22 inning sample. However, ZIPS doesn’t know that Peavy’s lost a couple of MPH off his fastball over the last few years or that he’s battled elbow problems the last few years.
It’s not time to panic, but there is certainly cause for concern. Command has been the hallmark of Peavy’s success in the big leagues, and a sudden inability to throw strikes can often be a sign of a more serious problem.
Given all the extra things we know, I’d take the over on that 3.87 rest of season FIP. Chicago fans should be concerned.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.