Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pulling Jake

Jake Peavy didn't come out for the eighth inning of yesterday's Padres-Diamondbacks game despite racking up 16 strikeouts in the first seven innings, including nine in a row.

If you're feeling a sense of deja vu, it's because this has happened to Jake before. As with last year's 16 K performance, Peavy's pitch count (117) and the Padres' stellar bullpen were more than enough to justify the call to the bullpen. Taking Peavy out of the game had two direct benefits:

- It improved the chances of the Padres winning the game, since their excellent bullpen is more effective than a tired Peavy
- It helped Peavy's long-term health

Alas, the bullpen lost the game 3-2 on a Stephen Drew walk-off homer, which only adds fuel to the critics' fire. Not only will Bud Black be flamed for not letting Peavy chase the record, but also for denying him the chance to close the game out for the Padres.

I don't think any rational person can argue that Peavy had enough left in the tank to outperform the Padres bullpen, which employs one of the top closers of all time, perhaps the best set-up man in the majors, a guy whose ERA the past two years is under 1.00, and someone who may have the best peripherals of them all. Results be damned, the Padres improved their win expectancy by turning the game over to the pen.

As for the record chase, Peavy has the right to be upset that he wasn't given the chance to challenge the all-time mark of 20 Ks in a game, much like a child is upset when his parents discipline him. As with the child, however, the decision is in Peavy's (and the Padres') own best interests in mind. Research has shown that pitching while tired is a common and preventable cause of future injuries and ineffectiveness. Peavy's pitch count was near a dangerous tipping point, and all the strikeouts indicate he wasn't likely to be conserving his energy on the mound. Peavy won't realize it, but he owes the Padres a chunk of his first free agent contract for keeping him healthy this long.

Of course, if Padres fans are really that upset and want a manager who will leave Peavy in the next time they're in this spot, I hear there's one available.

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