In the way baseball goes, the road to success often has forks in the road. Brad Peacock got his first opportunity with the Washington Nationals in 2011 and was traded to the Oakland A’s in a blockbuster deal months later for Gio Gonzalez in a package that included A.J. Cole, Derek Norris, and Tommy Milone.
Peacock would never pitch for the Oakland A’s and was traded to the Houston Astros where he toiled for years and battled injuries. His fork in the road was learning a new way to throw his slider to go with his fastball, change-up and his curveball. It sounds like what we have been saying for years with Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler, and other pitchers who needed to add some new tricks to their repertoire.
Peacock set an AL pitcher's record for the longest save in World Series history. 3 2/3 innings.
— TALK NATS ⚾ (@TalkNats2) October 28, 2017
“To tell you the truth, the past couple of years what I was doing really wasn’t working too well so I had to change some stuff last year,” Brad Peacock said. “I did it at the All-Star Break in Triple-A. I changed my arm angle and learned a new [slider] from one of my buddies and just practiced it down there and brought it to the season.”
That buddy was minor leaguer Jordan Jankowski. Now Brad Peacock throws that newly born slider 37% of the time and has a batting average against of .187 this season against the slider. It made Peacock’s four-seamer and change-up more effective also as he would throw the fastball high in the zone and the change-up was disguised to look like the fastball. All three pitches kept hitters below “Mendoza” in 2017 and Peacock flourished as a starter finishing with a 3.00 ERA.
“I used to have a slider that was really hard and it was getting hit pretty well down there in Triple-A so I was going, ‘I need like a sweeper slider,'” Peacock said. “So [Jankowski] had a good one on the team and he showed me how he threw it and how he holds it and I just ran with it.”
Peacock struggled in the ALDS and the ALCS, but manager A.J. Hinch stuck by him. That paid off in his two appearances in the World Series. Peacock now has 4.0 scoreless innings and a huge high leverage save last night going 3 2/3 innings.
The road to greatness does sometimes come on the biggest stage. Peacock will turn 30-years-old in February, and he has never earned much more than league minimum in his career. To go from a 41st round draft pick of the Washington Nationals to the pitching mound of the World Series has some vindication for Peacock who was told many times that he was getting demoted which happened every year in his career from 2012 to 2016. This season was the first-time Peacock stayed with the big club the entire season. The Astros are appreciative to Jankowski as the teacher.
“Peacock’s there because he was the right guy at the right spot against that part of the order,’’ Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch said of his reasoning for bringing in Peacock. “We felt like his strengths matched up against some places we want to exploit in the strike zone. And why keep him in is if we all watched the game, it was pretty obvious, he was cruising. Their swings weren’t good. His fastball was playing, his slider was playing. This postseason, I’ve really enjoyed bringing back the three-inning save. That’s cool. There’s no reason to take him out. He was in complete control of every at-bat. So why not leave him in?’’
Hinch moved Peacock to the bullpen for the post-season from his normal role as the team’s number three starter. Peacock has never had an ego. Astros closer Ken Giles never even warmed up in the game last night. Luke Gregerson and Chris Devenski both watched Peacock do what only Madison Bumgarner once was able to do in a longer save which could have been awarded as a 5.0 inning win by the official scorer. Peacock now holds the AL record for the longest save in the World Series. Peacock took this post-season role of hybrid long-man to a level never achieved by Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen in the World Series.