Would it be the solid pitcher, who went 11-14 last season with a 4.09 ERA? Or would it be the legitimate ace, who posted a 2.27 ERA in 2004 and a 2.88 ERA in 2005, winning 28 games combined in those two years and earning a reputation as one of the best starters in all of baseball?
Fortunately for the Padres, it's been the latter. Not only that, Peavy has taken his previous ace form to an even higher level, going 7-1 with a National League-leading 1.68 ERA. He leads the NL in ERA, strikeouts (92), and WHIP (0.98) while ranking second in wins.
And in May, he put together the best month of his career. Peavy went 4-0 with an incredible 0.79 ERA, allowing only three earned runs in five starts. More impressively, his team won all five of those starts and was tied for first place in the NL West entering Monday.
As a result, the right-hander was an obvious selection Monday for May's NL Pitcher of the Month.
"When I go back and watch video of last year, it wasn't the Jake Peavy of 2004 and 2005," Peavy said earlier this year. "I can see myself trying different things to get comfortable on the mound. It wasn't fun. When I'm healthy, I should make pitches."
He's done just that this season, and becomes the first San Diego pitcher to win the award, since Chris Young claimed it in June 2006. Peavy credits much of his recent success to an increased emphasis on location, a focus that came in part because of a conversation he had with Greg Maddux in Spring Training.
"Location is everything; you can go out there with great stuff and if you don't locate, you are going to get hit," Peavy said in May about his conversation. "I still have to be aggressive and myself. But I'm never going to lose the fact that I need to locate. It's OK to throw a ball as hard as you can ... as long as you locate it."
Other pitchers receiving votes were Peavy's teammates Chris Young (4-1, 1.13 ERA, 39 SO) and Trevor Hoffman (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 11 saves); Atlanta's John Smoltz (4-1, 1.66 ERA, 35 SO); Philadelphia's Cole Hamels (5-1, 4.14 ERA 49 KO); and Milwaukee's Francisco Cordero (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 9 saves).
Ben DuBose is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.