9:41 AM CDT, July 27, 2011
Jake Peavy wasn’t good enough. Ozzie Guillen was worse.
I don’t often write that paragraph. I think Guillen is a good manager who almost always handles a pitching staff well enough to put his team in position to win.
But not against Detroit on Tuesday night.
Peavy brings some magic numbers to the mound these days. He has an ERA of 11-point-something-awful in the sixth inning. He has given up more hits in the sixth than any other inning. Opponents have a batting average over .400 and a ridiculous on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1-point-omigod.
But what’s simpler and just as telling is Peavy’s pitch-count collapse. Once he gets past 75 pitches, Peavy gives up more than twice as many hits and allows twice the OPS as he does in any previous 25-pitch segment -- pitch Nos. 1-25, 26-50, 51-75. The stats say that once Peavy gets to pitch 76 and beyond, you either need to yank him from the game or set up triage.
All we’ve heard from Peavy lately is how he needs rest and how his arm doesn’t feel the best, and blah, blah, blah, weak, weak, weak. What that means is Peavy is highly likely to spontaneously combust once he reaches just 70 pitches, no matter the inning.
And right on cue Tuesday, as he hit the sixth inning and 70 pitches, Peavy gave up four straight singles to start the inning, then a sacrifice fly, and just like that, another blown lead and eventual loss.
“Right now, I go by innings more than pitches,’’ said Guillen, and that’s where he blew it, and that’s where he will continue to blow it if he refuses to count Peavy’s pitches.
The magic number is 70. That’s when Peavy has collapsed. That’s when he will continue to collapse. There’s no reason to think he can be anything more than a 70-pitch starter the rest of this season, not after begging for extra days recently and not after getting them and losing anyway.
On Tuesday, Peavy was pitching on six days’ rest and blew a 2-0 first-inning lead, the same first-inning lead he blew in his previous start with eight days’ rest, all after throwing more pitches than he should legally be allowed to throw for a team that claims to be all in. Connect the dots, Ozzie.
If you’re refusing to count pitches, then fine, don’t you dare let Peavy start the sixth inning. You have a big, strong bullpen. Use it. Give your team a chance, especially in a game where you get an early lead against Justin Freakin’ Verlander on a home run by Adam Dunn.
I’m not a math nut when it comes to baseball. In fact, I became a writer because I thought there was no math involved. But Bill James ruined that. He made decimal points the crack cocaine of baseball, and now those people --- we all know those people --- are inventing stats to group together stats they previously invented because we obviously don’t have enough stats if we’re still able to actually watch baseball games.
And for what it’s worth, when you watch baseball games, you can watch players. On Tuesday night, for instance, you could’ve seen Peavy’s slider flatten out and seen his changeup stay up and seen everything get hit.
I’m sure the manager could’ve seen this, too.
Or he could’ve counted Peavy’s pitches instead of his innings.
Whatever, I wish Guillen had done something, anything, except cost his team a win in an alleged divisional race.
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