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Jake Peavy Trade Could Be Giants' Latest Reclamation Success Story

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Jake Peavy Trade Could Be Giants' Latest Reclamation Success Story
Bob DeChlara/USA Today

The San Francisco Giants have this special trick that they like to perform on seemingly over-the-hill veterans that involves turning them into, well, not over-the-hill veterans.

And now Jake Peavy could be next.

If you're just joining us, the Giants acquired the veteran right-hander from the Boston Red Sox early Saturday in return for left-handed prospect Edwin Escobar and right-handed prospect Heath Hembree, per MLB.com's Chris Haft. Peavy is already slated to start for the Giants on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Be it Peavy or whoever, the Giants definitely needed to make a trade for a starting pitcher. Their rotation has been shaky outside of Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner all season, and the club recently put Matt Cain on the 15-day disabled list with a cranky right elbow that may take some time to stop being cranky.

As for what the Giants are getting, let's go ahead and say it: On the surface, it doesn't look good.

In 20 starts with the Red Sox, Peavy racked up a 1-9 record with a 4.72 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP and a league-high 20 home runs. Bad numbers, those.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/Associated Press
Make no mistake: The struggle has been quite real for Jake Peavy in 2013.

And the numbers beneath the numbers aren't so good either. We can go to FanGraphs and consult metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA for estimates of what Peavy's ERA should be, and they all agree that he indeed deserves an ERA well over 4.00.

From there, we can note that Peavy's strikeout rate is trending nowhere but down, that his walk rate is trending nowhere but up and that his average fastball velocity has fallen to just 89.9 miles per hour.

In so many words: Rather than the guy who won the National League Cy Young in 2007, yeah, Peavy looks like a 33-year-old with a lot of miles on his right arm. So why should anyone bother getting his hopes up?

Well, there's the Giants' track record when it comes to that trick they like to perform, for one.

Just in the last few years, they've performed it on the likes of Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Ryan Vogelsong, Marco Scutaro and, most recently, Hudson. And even after listing all those names, it feels like I'm missing a guy or two.

But more importantly, there's how Peavy is going to a much better place for his talents than the place he's leaving.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

There's the obvious, and that's that Peavy will now get to pitch in the National League again. And obvious though that may be, his splits between the two leagues say this is no small bonus.

Via Baseball-Reference.com:

Jake Peavy's Career AL/NL Splits
League GS IP WHIP HR/9 FIP ERA
NL 212 1342.2 1.19 0.9 3.47 3.29
AL 113 726.1 1.20 1.1 3.90 4.13

Baseball-Reference.com

Granted, one thing about the NL numbers is that they were compiled when the former San Diego Padre was much younger and had much, much (seriously, much) better stuff. Unless there's a fountain of youth somewhere on the Embarcadero, he's not getting that stuff back.

There is, however, one thing that hasn't changed about Peavy since his youth. He's still a fly-ball pitcher, with FanGraphs putting his fly-ball percentage for 2014 at a par-for-the-course 42.2 percent.

That's a bad habit to have in the company of American League hitters and a dangerous habit to have at a stadium like Fenway Park. At AT&T Park, on the other hand, being a fly-ball pitcher might as well be recommended.

According to ESPN.com's Park Factors, AT&T Park has a ho-hum rating as the worst park in the majors for home runs. That's the park's huge dimensions at work, and said dimensions are a big reason why Giants pitchers are allowing just a .422 slugging percentage on fly balls.

That's compared to .499 for Red Sox pitchers and .536 for Peavy specifically. So yeah.

But hey, if you're still not convinced that the move to AT&T Park will be good for Peavy's super-fly-ball style, FanGraphs' Tony Blengino would urge you to consider this:

If you took all of Peavy’s 2013 fly balls allowed, and put half of them in Fenway Park, he would have allowed a .310 AVG-.870 SLG, 130 production relative to the MLB average. Put those same fly balls into AT&T Park, and it drops to .286 AVG-.777 SLG. This is not an insignificant difference.

There. You should be convinced now.

But Peavy's comfort level in San Francisco could be helped by something besides the NL surroundings and AT&T Park's dimensions. He'll also be reuniting with his old San Diego skipper in Bruce Bochy.

Which, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, was actually a driving force for the Giants to make the deal:

Here's guessing that Bochy himself might have had a hand in influencing Giants general manager Brian Sabean, as he told this to Janie McCauley of The Associated Press:

The excitement is more than likely mutual, as Steve Kroner of the San Francisco Chronicle recalled that Peavy called it a "sad, sad day" for the Padres organization when Bochy left for San Francisco in 2007.

Goodness knows what sort of difference, if any, reuniting with Bochy is going to have on Peavy. It could certainly make no difference at all.

But you never know. In situations like these, it's not unheard of for the right voice to make an impact. We saw a pretty good example play out in the place Peavy is leaving just last year, as reuniting with John Farrell seemed to help Red Sox ace lefty Jon Lester bounce back from a horrid 2012 season.

So despite Peavy's lousy numbers, his age and his diminished stuff, there are reasons to be optimistic about what he could do for the Giants the rest of the way. From a league, ballpark and managerial standpoint, the change of scenery is a good one for him.

It might be asking a lot of Peavy to help drastically increase the Giants' half-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. But if he can at least help them hold on to it, it'll be another successful reclamation trick in the books.

 

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.

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