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Free the Pea: Let Him Start

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Brad Peacock has earned another shot at the rotation.

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays
Brad Peacock has surprised many this season with quality relief work and one outstanding spot start
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Peacock should replace Mike Fiers in the starting rotation. Brad Peacock has been very good this year and Mike Fiers has been very bad. Listen further to see why this is not as much of a hot take as it may sound.

Many have taken up the “Free the Pea” slogan the last couple years to express their desire for the Astros to release Peacock and open up a roster spot for someone else. Well, I’m re-branding the “Free the Pea” slogan and pounding the table for him to be freed from the bullpen and put into the starting rotation.

History of Peacock as an Astro

Let me start off with a brief history of Brad Peacock’s time with the Astros. I sent the following email to the other TCB staff writers during Spring Training:

I'm not going to lose sleep if Peacock gets released, but part of me is nervous that Peacock will be the Dan Straily of 2017. Just hear me out on this:

-2014 was really the last time that Peacock got to be in the MLB starting rotation. At first glance, he wasn't good (4.72 ERA over 24 starts and 28 appearances), but recall that late in the season it was discovered that Peacock had been giving away signs somehow. So he made a change, and ended up with a 2.33 ERA over his final 19.1 IP in 2014.

-He was injured for almost all of 2015

-In 2016, he did an impressive job filling in due to the Keuchel/McCullers injuries. His final 2016 ERA was 3.69, but that is heavily influenced by his last start of the season on 9/30, when he surrendered 5 ER in 4.2 IP against the Angels. If we remove that start, then Peacock would have had a 2.67 ERA over 9 appearances (4 starts) in 2016.

Call me crazy, but I still think Peacock can be an effective MLB pitcher.

I think we have a tendency to associate Peacock with the pre-2015 Astros teams who gave us very little to cheer about, and so we want to erase as many memories from that time period as possible (except guys like Altuve, Keuchel, and Springer).

But as I said in my email, part of Peacock’s struggles in 2014 could be attributed to him tipping off his pitches. After all, he did improve quite a bit late in 2014 and impressed last year when he filled in for injured starters.

HSBC Women's Champions - Round Three
Brad Peacock should get a chance to show off his beautiful plumage, just as this peacock is doing
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

So far in 2017, Peacock HAS AN ERA UNDER 1.00!! His numbers so far are 0.87 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 3.26 xFIP. He has made 12 appearances, and one spot start in place of Keuchel. That start came on Monday and Peacock allowed no runs, 1 hit, and 2 walks in 4.1 innings while striking out 8 batters.

History of Fiers as an Astro

The Astros acquired Mike Fiers at the trade deadline in 2015 from the Milwaukee Brewers along with Carlos Gomez. Fiers impressed in 2015, with a 3.32 ERA after joining the Astros and, oh yeah, HE THREW A NO-HITTER AGAINST THE DODGERS!

He was unable to continue that success in 2016 though, ending that year with a 4.48 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 4.12 xFIP. Now, those numbers aren’t terrible, especially if you view Fiers as a #5 starter.

So Fiers has been the #5 starter this year, but has actually done even worse than he did in 2016 (5.40 ERA, 7.57 FIP, 4.69 xFIP). He has given up more home runs than any other pitcher in the majors and has averaged barely more than 5 innings per start.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros
Mike Fiers has disappointed so far in 2017
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Those who defend Fiers will point to his 31.0% HR/FB ratio as unsustainable. While it likely is unsustainable, it doesn’t mean that it will go way down. There can be reasons why certain pitchers will have higher or lower than average HR/FB ratio other than “luck”.

Furthermore, Fiers actually hasn’t been hurt by the HR as much as he could have this season. Of his 18 HRs allowed, 15 have been solo shots and the other 3 have been 2-run HRs. Maybe he will allow fewer HRs going forward, but those fewer HRs may cause just as much damage if more men are on base when they’re hit.

Reasons for the Switch

The first reason to make this switch is basically everything I’ve just said. Brad Peacock has been amazing so far in 2017 and Mike Fiers has been bad.

The second reason is that it causes minimal roster disruption. In fact, no roster moves are needed to make this switch. Keep both men on the 25-man roster and move Fiers to the bullpen while Peacock gets another couple starts to see if he can do better.

Arguments against the Switch

Some may say that Peacock isn’t stretched out and so wouldn’t be able to go as deep in games as Fiers. As I mentioned above, Fiers has only averaged just over 5 innings per start. Peacock went 4.1 innings in his spot start on Monday, so I’d think that he could go at least 5 were he to make another start. Eventually, he would get stretched out to eat typical starter innings.

Additionally, some might argue that Peacock’s 2017 numbers are only better because his stuff plays up in the bullpen where he can reach back for more velocity, and hitters only see him once or twice. Again, Peacock was stellar through 4.1 innings on Monday, but yeah, it was only 4.1 innings.

So maybe Peacock would only be able to give you 5-ish good innings per start. Well again, let’s compare to what the Astros have been getting from Fiers. I’d rather get 5 good innings than 5 bad innings from my #5 starter.

Free the Pea!!