Jake Peavy has always talked like an ace, but after stopping a three-game losing streak with seven outstanding innings against the Baltimore Orioles, he's finally pitching like one. Now that it looks like he's positioned to walk the talk for an extended period of time, it might be possible to actually enjoy having him around.
Peavy stressed during the spring that he was 100 percent healthy, and even though injuries diminished his peak potential, he still had enough to compete. He's figured out ways to compensate, changing speeds and planes on his breaking stuff to the extent that PITCHf/x counted six different pitches on Wednesday, used at least 10 times apiece.
We're also getting an idea of what Peavy could have looked like last year had he not had such problems pitching from the stretch. Opponents are hitting .267 against Peavy with runners in scoring position, which would be unremarkable if it weren't 100 points lower than the average he allowed last year in such situations. And for what it's worth, his release point plots this season don't have that horizontal spread that characterized many of his outings last year.
(I was going to take this one step further and say that 2011 Peavy might not have been able to pitch around Brent Morel's error ... but looking at the stats, Peavy hasn't allowed a single unearned run during his White Sox career. All 124 runs allowed are earned runs. That's kind of incredible.)
What's especially interesting is that Peavy has thrown two high-quality starts in a row, and A.J. Pierzynski has caught both of them. Tyler Flowers was supposed to be something like a personal catcher for Peavy, but they had problems getting on the same page during his outing against Texas. With Pierzynski behind the plate, it's been quite a bit smoother.
That's not great news for Flowers, but it's good news for the Sox, because it allows Robin Ventura to choose catchers based on pitcher handedness and the day/night setup, and not in pursuit of an idea of comfort that may or may not be reflected in the actual results.
Also, Pierzynski is hitting the crap out of the ball right now, and the Sox should get the most out of this unprecedented tear. After nine games, here's where he's positioned on the AL offensive leaderboards:
- Batting average: .400 (2nd)
- Home runs: 4 (t-2nd)
- RBI: 13 (t-1st)
- Slugging percentage: .829 (1st).
- OPS: 1.234 (2nd)
This power trip isn't quite unprecedented for Pierzynski, as the research done by James at White Sox Observer shows:
In 2009, from April 29th to May 11th, Pierzynski homered three times, doubled twice, and added a triple to accumulate 28 total bases in a 36 plate appearance stretch. He had a .441/.472/.824 line over that time. One could make the argument that this was just as good, if not better than the streak A.J. is on right now.
But it might be a bigger surprise, considering he's three years older. And, most relevant to current events, all of this production is absolutely necessary. If Pierzynski's contract drive began like his last one, the Sox would be in a pretty big mess. As it stands, the Sox are 6-5.
The most shocking development regarding Pierzynski is his newfound ability to hold up his end of the bargain controlling the running game. He threw out Adam Jones to complete the Sox's second strike-him-out-throw-him-out of the season (already matching their totals from 2010 and 2011), and the throw beat Jones to the bag with time to spare.
Pierzynski is now 2-for-3 against basestealers, and the successful steal can be placed on Chris Sale's tab. Flowers is 2-for-2, meaning that when the pitchers have given their catchers a chance, the catchers haven't screwed up. And Mark Buehrle isn't even on the team anymore.
This is a surprising development. The Sox talked about working on holding runners during the spring, but I figured old dogs couldn't learn this particular trick this dramatically, so I hope the relevant parties are asked about what the hell is going on. For the moment, I'm going to assume Mark Parent is some kind of sorcerer.
And speaking of wizardry, Alexei Ramirez, everybody:
Boy, did he take Pierzynski's throw over the bag.