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.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."