Breaking down Peavy's success

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Breaking down Peavy's success

Jake Peavy's repeated it over and over. He's healthy, and he's ready to finally be the pitcher the Sox thought they were getting at the trade deadline in 2009.

But any skepticism regarding the 31-year-old coming into the season was warranted. He hasn't thrown more than 112 innings since coming to the White Sox, and he hasn't made 30 starts since he won the NL Cy Young in 2007. Along the way, he's shown flashes of his old self, but those have quickly been drowned out by injuries or ineffectiveness.

It'd be easy to simply say Peavy's first five start of 2012 are a return to his pre-2008 form. They're not. They're the beginning of the post-2011 Peavy.

Five years ago, Peavy was a blow-it-by-you pitcher with electric stuff. He averaged over nine strikeouts per nine innings from 2004-2007, featuring a fastball with an average velocity that crept into the mid-90's.

But a spate of injuries took some life off Peavy's fastball. His average velocity on that pitch dipped to 90.7 mph in 2011, which was the first year in which Peavy started to make a change in the way he pitched.

With his days of averaging a strikeout per inning gone, Peavy became extremely stingy with walks. He averaged just 1.93 walks per nine innings last season, a career best. Unfortunately, Peavy struggled with command, and a dead arm period didn't help. His ERA after 111 23 innings last year was 4.92.

But so far in 2012, it looks like Peavy has figured out how to be a different pitcher. His strikeout rate has remained consistent (7.66 K9 to 7.88 K9) while his walk rate has dipped a bit (1.93 BB9, 1.19 BB9) and he's doing an outstanding job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

That Peavy's only allowed seven runs all year is a pretty good indicator that he's keeping the opposition off-balance, utilizing his repertoire to its fullest. Interestingly enough, Peavy's pitch selection isn't too far off from what he did in 2007, per FanGraphs:

YearFBSLCTCBCH200757.423.29.32.57.4201254.520.411.45.08.7
But Peavy's been hitting his spots and mixing these pitches better than he has since he joined the White Sox. His stuff isn't as good as it was five years ago, but he's adapted to it and, despite the same arsenal of offerings, become a different pitcher.

On the flip side...

Not everything is looking up for Peavy, though. He hasn't kept the ball on the ground, as 57 percent of the balls he's allowed to be put into play have been in the air. Only about 2 percent of those fly balls have gone for home runs, which isn't sustainable. If Peavy keeps allowing so many fly balls, eventually his luck will turn and more of them will go over the fence.

The good news is that Peavy's allowed one ground ball for every fly ball over the course of his career, so his high fly ball rate through five starts probably won't persist. But eventually, he will have to do something different, less he risk giving up quite a few home runs as the season goes on.

That's really the only real point of concern regarding Peavy's performance going forward. He's not going to sustain a 1.67 ERA, but a mark in the low-3.00 range is hardly out of the question.

Of course, if he stays healthy. That's going to be the issue for Peavy all season. He's proven, so far, that he can pitch like an ace. But, unfortunately, his injury-riddled past four seasons mean there always will be concern about a trip to the disabled list.

If Peavy can stay off the shelf, though, he looks primed for a fantastic season.

White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

White Sox: No timeframe for Zach Putnam, surgery an option

Zach Putnam is weighing his options after he had a second opinion on Friday and surgery is one of them.

The White Sox reliever went on the disabled list Tuesday with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Putnam, who has a 2.30 ERA in 25 games this season, last pitched on Sunday in Cleveland.

“(Surgery is) possible,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “But again, we are exploring all the options. We want to make sure we have all the possibilities laid out before us. It’s just one of the things we are considering.”

“Still parceling through the options and at this point we don’t have a specific timeframe for him.”

The White Sox bullpen already is short-handed after losing Jake Petricka to potentially season-ending hip surgery earlier this month. Daniel Webb is out for the season after he had reconstructive elbow surgery earlier this month.

The White Sox bullpen currently features three rookies as result of those injuries and manager Robin Ventura doesn’t see any way of avoiding using them in key spots. Michael Ynoa and Chris Beck both got in and out of trouble and earned holds in Boston.

“We’re gonna have to find a way to get nine innings in and they’re gonna get tested,” Ventura said. “I thought Michael did a nice job the other day. I think even Beck after the first hitter, it could have been a mess. I thought he really showed what he’s made of by coming back. He gave up the sac fly and that was it.”

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

The White Sox held Jose Abreu out of the lineup on Friday and they’re hopeful it will be enough time for his sore leg to heal.

Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu -- who has a .997 OPS in June with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 89 plate appearances -- has experienced tightness in the back of his right leg, “but his left leg is the one that’s really sore,” he said. While Abreu could be used as a pinch hitter, Ventura said the absence is mandatory.

“He definitely needs (a day off) today -- he needs to be able to stay off it and not even DH,” Ventura said. “He’s a big guy. That’s part of the some of the stuff we’ve done the last couple of years is to get him a day here and there and in this one, he just needs it. He’s been on base quite a bit and as sore as his leg feels, it also looks not too good, either.”

Abreu agrees with Ventura’s call as he sees it geared toward the big picture. The first baseman could be seen limping some during Thursday’s contest, one day after he was hit in the leg by a pitch.

“Sometimes your legs are getting tired and your hamstring is getting tight and you need a break,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Today is a break for me. I came early, I did all my treatments. So far, so good for now. But, yes, I needed this day off.

“You always want to play, but sometimes you also have to realize that the best thing you can do is just to take a break thinking of the future.”

Todd Frazier started at first base for the White Sox and Tyler Saladino was at third with Abreu out of the lineup for only the second time all season.

James Shields takes step in right direction, but White Sox still need more

James Shields takes step in right direction, but White Sox still need more

BOSTON — James Shields took a step toward turning his season around, though there’s still plenty of room to improve. 

The 34-year-old right-hander, who entered the day with a 21.81 ERA in three starts since being acquired from the San Diego Padres, allowed three runs over five innings in the White Sox 8-7 extra-innings loss to the Boston Red Sox Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park. 

While it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster like his previous starts against the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, Shields only lasted five innings and issued more walks (four) than he had strikeouts (three). Still, he was able to keep the White Sox in the game — and left with a lead — which represents a step in the right direction. 

“Obviously my last three outings weren’t very good, so it’s definitely a positive,” Shields said. “I’ve been around the game a while, I’ve got a lot more in the tank. Body feels great, so we’ll move forward.”

Shields’ abbreviated outing, though, forced the White Sox to burn relievers Matt Albers (who hit a batter and gave up two hits) and Dan Jennings (who threw a scoreless inning) early. And with those two guys used, and reliable right-handers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam on the disabled list, manager Robin Ventura turned to rookie Chris Beck in the seventh. 

Beck avoided a meltdown but allowed a run. While Nate Jones ultimately gave up the game-tying run in the eighth, having to cover a dozen outs proved to be a difficult task. 

“We were getting a little short today,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We didn’t have (Zach) Duke out there to be able to come in. We were trying to patch it together. These guys have been used a lot, so we knew we couldn’t necessarily go four outs with Jonesy or (David) Robertson. We were a little thin.”

Shields was generally better at getting ahead in the count, and held Boston scoreless through his first four innings. But after striking out Christian Vasquez and getting Marco Hernandez to ground out to begin the fifth, the Red Sox lineup turned over to face Shields for the third time. Mookie Betts’ single was followed by a Dustin Pedroia RBI double, though Xander Bogaerts popped out to end the inning. 

Shields issued walks to David Ortiz — he thought his 1-2 slow curveball was a strike, though — and Ryan LaMarre before being pulled with no outs in the sixth. 

“He was playing more in the strike zone early on in the at-bat than in previous starts,” Avila said. “Throughout the innings that he pitched there were times where he kinda got out of himself a little bit and rushed a little bit but he was able to make the adjustment much quicker than he did in his previous outings. A good start for him, pitched well, used everything. Was able to go both sides of the plate with a good mix of his pitches. Those are the types of starts that I’ve seen quite a bit of him make and would expect to make.”

Anything better than a figurative fireworks show would’ve been an improvement, and while Thursday wasn’t vintage Shields, it did represent a step in the right direction. 

“Overall it was just me trying to relax and not trying to do too much for my new team,” Shields said. “I felt okay today. But there’s always room for improvement and I’m going to try to get better next time.”