As we continue our series of Hall of Fame ballot previews with the MLB on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have once again run out of great candidates from an incoming class, but there are more players in the 2022 class that deserve a mention even if they won’t be getting enshrined in Cooperstown. Today we’re looking at Jake Peavy, the top starting pitcher that will be coming to the ballot in 2022.
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Why is he on the ballot?
Peavy is on the ballot for his great peak with the Padres. From 2004-’08, his ERA+ of 133 ranked 10th among pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched, and he won two ERA titles, in 2004 and ’07. Yet he didn’t receive a single Cy Young vote in ’04 as his 166 innings (he only made 27 starts) was viewed as too few to even get significant consideration. In 2007, he won the pitching triple crown by leading the NL in wins (19), ERA (2.54, best in the majors), and strikeouts (240, also best in the majors) and won the Cy Young Award. He had a rebound year in 2012 with the White Sox, with a 126 ERA+ as he made his third and final All-Star game and won a Gold Glove. He won a majority of his decisions in his career and had a 3.63 ERA.
Why won’t he make the Hall of Fame?
After that five-year peak, Peavy had a 100 ERA+ over eight more seasons before retiring at age 35. He was on back-to-back World Series rosters, winning with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Giants in 2014, but had a -0.85 career win probability added in the playoffs thanks to a 7.98 playoff ERA. Peavy played in a relative down period for offense between the steroid era and the launch angle revolution, and spending most of his career in pitcher-friendly ballparks in San Diego, Boston and San Francisco (though his five years with the White Sox gave him a hitter-friendly home for a while) led to his 3.63 ERA being good for just a 110 ERA+. That’s worse than all but 10 Hall of Fame pitchers, all of whom logged at least 3,200 innings in their career, and many included playoff heroics (Jack Morris, Catfish Hunter). To be fair, Nolan Ryan had a 112 ERA+ for his career and earned 98.8% of the vote on his first ballot to get to Cooperstown. That’s because people glossed over the bad (modern era single-season and career record for walks) for the good (modern era single-season and career record for strikeouts, seven no-hitters) with Ryan. That and Ryan threw over 5,000 innings in his career. Peavy threw 2,377.
Injuries kept Peavy from having as good of a career as he likely would have if healthy. From 2009-2011, Peavy made 16, 17 and 18 starts due to repeated injuries that robbed him of more peak years between his 2004-’08 peak and his 2012 bounce-back when he was able to make 32 starts for the White Sox. Ultimately, Peavy only topped 30 starts in a season six times in his career while he had two other seasons with an ERA+ over 130 but minor injuries kept him to 27 starts (2004, ’08). That caused him to produce just 39.2 WAR in his career and his 35.0 JAWS score ranks 202nd all-time for starting pitchers. When healthy, Jake Peavy was a joy to watch. He just wasn’t healthy enough.
Up next: Joe Nathan.
Stats and info courtesy of Baseball-Reference.