Monday, April 15, 2013

Jake Peavy acts as stopper for White Sox

Ever since Jake Peavy was acquired by the White Sox in 2009, I've never felt he's gotten a fair shake from the fans.

He was injured at the time the San Diego Padres traded him to Chicago. He wasn't able to pitch, and therefore he wasn't earning the hefty contract that followed him to the White Sox.

So, the fans got pissed at him. He made 17 mostly mediocre starts in 2010 before suffering a detached lat. He underwent a surgery no pitcher had undergone before. He returned to make another 19 mostly mediocre starts in 2011, finishing 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA.

Where was the Peavy that won the Cy Young Award as a member of the Padres in 2007? Well, that was a career year for Peavy, one he will probably never duplicate. However, that doesn't mean the guy can't pitch anymore.

In 2011, expectations for Peavy were simply too high. He was coming off a never-been-tried before surgery, and it's always been my belief that pitchers never regain their form the year after they've gone under the knife. It's usually the second year back when a pitcher finds his stuff.

That was the case for Peavy in 2012. His record was only 11-12 because he got lousy run support, but his peripheral numbers were right where you would want them to be: a 3.37 ERA, a staff-high 219 innings pitched, a 1.096 WHIP, 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

You look at the numbers and you'll see that Peavy was right in line with his career norms in 2012. He had an excellent season. He earned his money. The Sox rewarded him with a two-year contract and rightfully so.

Yet you still heard Sox fans saying, "Peavy needs to shut up and pitch." Yes, Peavy talks a big game in the media. So what? He's a confident guy. He can say what he wants, and contrary to popular belief, throughout last season he was backing up his talk. His production met expectations and maybe even exceeded them.

Peavy is off to a decent start again here in 2013. He has won two of his first three starts, including Sunday's 3-1 victory in Cleveland. He gave up a home run to Michael Bourn on his first pitch of the game, but after that, the Indians had little chance to score. Peavy found his command in the second inning and never lost it. He struck out 11 men over seven innings and was the key factor in the Sox ending a five-game losing streak.

Among the Sox starters, Peavy is the guy I'm most confident in at this point in time. I feel there's a lot of predictability in what he's going to give the Sox. Hopefully I'm not jinxing him by saying that. The injury bug is always a threat, but it's a threat for every pitcher in professional baseball.

I don't know that Sox fans will ever embrace Peavy because he got off to such a rocky start his first couple years in Chicago. But over the last year plus three starts, he's been as reliable as any player on the South Side roster. I give him full credit for that.

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