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.

Preview: White Sox try to sweep Phillies tonight on CSN

Preview: White Sox try to sweep Phillies tonight on CSN

The White Sox take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Wednesday’s starting pitching matchup: James Shields vs. Jerad Eickhoff

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White Sox reward Carlos Rodon's outstanding start with win over Phillies

White Sox reward Carlos Rodon's outstanding start with win over Phillies

Carlos Rodon has once again found the kind of groove that makes the White Sox hopeful about the direction in which he’s trending.

The left-hander continued a strong August on Tuesday night with his best start of the season.

The 2014 first-rounder pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox crushed the Philadelphia Phillies 9-1 in front of 18,843 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rodon — who has a 1.46 ERA in 24 2/3 innings this month — won for the second time in four starts and Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau homered as the White Sox were victorious a third straight time.

“If (Rodon) keeps running like that, he’s going to be a superstar,” said rookie catcher Omar Narvaez.

Rodon’s second season has begun to shape up much like his rookie campaign.

He pitched better through his first 14 starts of 2016 than he did a year ago, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 10 of those turns. But Rodon didn’t have much to show for it as he surrendered leads or pitched with a razor thin margin of error because of lackluster run support.

Same as last season, Rodon has turned it on in August. Over his final eight starts in 2015, Rodon went 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA.

With some help from Narvaez and an overpowering fastball, Rodon looked strong throughout a 109-pitch effort.

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He worked around a first-inning jam and took off.  Rodon struck out Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp after he allowed a pair of one-out singles, which began a stretch where he retired 14 of 15 batters. Rodon also worked around a leadoff double in the sixth inning as he lowered his ERA to 4.02.

One key to the effort was finding a different way to make his slider more effective. Narvaez said he and Rodon began to use it as a backdoor slider after he struggled early with command and hitters laid off it.

“The slider wasn’t working too good down and in, they’d take it, so Omar set up a tad outside and just brought it back in,” Rodon said. “It was nice. It was huge. Had something to gauge off of to get that slider off the outside corner and it worked out well.

“Just comfortable, got on a roll and everything worked out.”

Rodon allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four. He has struck out 20 and walked only six batters in his last 24 2/3 innings.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Rodon’s effort has been in large part to improved power pitching. Rodon averaged 95.6 mph with his fastball on Tuesday, according to brooksbaseball.net.

“He’s made some strides from where he was before,” Ventura said. “He was trying to pick. When he’s like that he’s not that guy. Everything he does has effort, and its strength. When he has it going on it looks really good. He doesn’t need to get away from his strength and physicality is one of them. When he picks around and throws soft stuff he’s not as effective.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: First-rounder Zack Collins headed to Arizona Fall League]

Rodon’s offense rewarded him handsomely.

Adam Eaton tripled and scored on Tim Anderson’s RBI groundout in the first inning. Anderson then tripled in Eaton in the third to make it a 2-0 game. Abreu, who blasted a two-run homer in the fifth, singled in a run in the third and Todd Frazier had a sac fly to put the White Sox ahead by four runs.

Morneau’s solo shot in the fifth followed Abreu’s two-run homer off Jake Thompson to put the White Sox ahead 7-0. Carlos Sanchez also had an RBI single and Melky Cabrera had an RBI double.

Rodon was victorious for only the fourth time in 12 decisions this season. Prior to the start of the second half, Rodon said he needed to throw out his rough first half and start over.

The way he has pitched of late has him confident in himself once again. The next step is putting it together from the start of the season, he said.

“When you’re in a zone you just try to stay in it, to be honest,” Rodon said. “Hopefully in the future you have a complete year instead of just doing it in the second half.

“It’s all a process, what Coop says. It’s building up to it and trying to get like Q and Sale. Those guys are very good, top of the line starters, left-handers in the game, probably the very best. I’d love to be like that.”

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins headed to Arizona Fall League

White Sox first-rounder Zack Collins headed to Arizona Fall League

Zack Collins’ first pro season just got a little longer.

The White Sox’ first-round pick will head to Arizona in October to participate in instructional camp and in the Fall League, player development director Nick Capra said Tuesday.

Taken with the 10th pick in the June draft, Collins has a .794 OPS in 110 plate appearances at Single-A Winston-Salem. Though the plan calls for him to be a catcher, the White Sox have limited how much playing time Collins has had behind the plate this season. Of his 29 professional starts, 11 have come as a designated hitter.

“He’s had a long season,” Capra said. “He caught almost every day in Miami. He looks like he’s beat up a little bit, but he’s been fine. We are kind of taking care of him a little bit. He’s not catching every day. He’s DHing sometime. He looks good.”

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Collins appeared in 62 games for the Miami Hurricanes this season. He received the Johnny Bench Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate catcher.

The 21-year-old has nine extra-base hits at Winston-Salem this season, including four homers. He has walked 17 times and struck out 30. Collins would only make a brief appearance for instructs before AFL play.

“Looks good,” Capra said. “Catching well. He’s swinging the bat well.

“We just want to get him out there and see him play.

“He looks like he can swing the bat. We are happy with his progress.”