April 02, 2009
Jake Peavy's perfect spring, plus the Padres bereft offense, leads me to one conclusion:
Unless he's traded to a contender by the deadline, Jake 'n' Bake will lead the league in ERA and losses.
It would be quite a distinction, because such a statistical perfect storm has happened only once in the history of Major League Baseball since the American League established in 1901. I looked it up (thank you, Baseball-Reference.com).
In 1910, "Big" Ed Walsh christened Comiskey Park by going 18-20 with a 1.27 ERA in 45 appearances (36 starts) for the White Sox.
How does a pitcher find himself at the top of both leaderboards? Extreme run support, or lack thereof. Ed probably was lucky to win 18, considering the Sox scored 2.93 runs per game.
But that was the dead ball era. Different time, different game. It can't possibly happen nowadays.
As a teenager preparing for my first fantasy baseball draft the following year, I wondered how Astros right-hander Nolan Ryan could go 8-16 and win the league's ERA title at 2.76.
It helped that the '87 'Stros didn't score many runs for Ryan. In 16 of his 34 starts, they scored two or fewer runs. Only three times did Ryan allow more than three earned runs.
If Bob Knepper, the Express' teammate, hadn't done his worst to lose 17 games, Ryan would have given Big Ed some company.
Two things work in Peavy's favor of not joining Walsh. One, it would take a remarkable set of circumstances for Peavy to go, say, 11-17 with a 2.65 ERA. But he's led the league in ERA twice before (he was third in 2008 — with a 10-11 record) and the Padres aren't going to be much more prolific on offense this season.
The other factor in Peavy's favor: those endless trade stories in the off-season — he was going to the
Padres Braves, then the Cubs, then the Cubs, then the Cubs — and maybe one of them will come true this summer.
That should keep him out of the record book.