Before the season started I predicted Brad Peacock would be the Astros best starting pitcher. That is starting to look like one of the worst predictions I’ve ever made. (Right up there with Daryle Ward will be a better player than Lance Berkman)
But I wasn’t alone. A quick look at one of our preseason polls shows at least a few Astros fans thought Peacock would be able to build on the success he experienced in the second half of last season. (Not to get too far off track but notice how the team’s most effective pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, wasn’t even on our radar back in early March.)
Peacock started the 2013 season in the Astros rotation but was exiled to the bullpen after posting an ERA of 8.44 and failing to last more than five innings in any of his first five starts. After five uninspiring relief appearances the Astros decided to send Brad to AAA to work on his game.
While he was in Oklahoma City, something incredibly positive happened. Somehow, Peacock was able to significantly reduce his walk rate. Brad had regained his confidence. I chalked it up to coaching. Working as a starter, Peacock went 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.1 WHIP while at OKC. He was recalled by the Astros on August 4th and posted three straight quality starts. With three more quality starts in the month of September, Peacock picked up four victories and posted a 3.64 ERA in 54 & 1/3 innings down the stretch.
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Fast-forward to 2014 and the road starts to get bumpy again. Unable to cement his spot in the Astros starting rotation, Peacock begins the year in the bullpen. When he eventually gets a chance to start, inconsistency gets the best of him. In 15 starts Peacock goes 2-6 with a 4.61 ERA. The last two starts were so bad, Peacock was once again demoted to AAA.
One week and one AAA start later, Peacock is summoned back to the big leagues. His first start is just as bad as the last two (8 R, 7 H & 4 BB in 5 IP). But his second is a little better (2 R, 7 H & 1 BB in 5 IP). Peacock goes back to the mound today attempting to build on what little success he had the last time out. We’re all pulling for Brad but I think we’ve also tempered our expectations.
New pitching coach Brent Strom has had a tremendous impact on the Astros starting rotation — especially left-handers Dallas Keuchel and Brett Oberholtzer. But it appears as though Strom, the first lefty to ever undergo Tommy John surgery, has had trouble getting through to Peacock. At 26 years of age, the time is now for Peacock. If he can’t get his game together over the last 39 games of this season, his time in Houston could come to an end.
With Peacock on the hill, the bullpen will be on high alert today. Left-hander Kevin Chapman, the newest addition to the ‘pen, will be looking to make only his second big league appearance since April. Much like Peacock, Chapman has been outstanding at the AAA level but has struggled against major league hitters. My guess is we will see number 66 on the Fenway Park mound at some point tonight.
Chapman was recalled before last night’s game to fill in for fellow lefty Darin Downs. Sidelined with a strained right oblique, Downs is still on the active roster but is expected to be out for at least a couple more days. Jose Veras and Tony Sipp were both asked to work in multiple innings last night and may not be available today. But everyone else should be ready, thanks in part to the outstanding 7-inning effort turned in by Keuchel last night.