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Big Time Matchup Factor: Jake Peavy vs. Cubs

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Real Jake Peavy takes exception to his imaginary counterpart's Boutonesque approach.
Real Jake Peavy takes exception to his imaginary counterpart's Boutonesque approach.

Welcome back to Big Time Matchup Factor, where we've never heard of a seamless segue.  Jake Peavy is back on the bump again tonight against the hated Northsiders after yet another stint on the DL.  As much as everyone else will presumably be caught up in the Across Town Oil Cup, it's watching Peavy out there that makes those of us here at Big Time Matchup Factor most concerned.  Outside of his one truly great start--the complete game, 8 K Wundergeworfen against the Indians--he's consistently bothered BTMF producers and key grips alike with a lack of strikeouts.

See the thing that really made Peavy great over the course of his career had been the lack of contact batters made with his pitches.  That's to the tune of nearly 9 K's per 9 innings since he first took to the mound as a major leaguer.  His control has always been there too, but the ability to get whiffs made him special.  Worryingly, his K rate has really fallen off since leaving San Diego.  From just about 8 in '09 to just below 8 in '10 to now not even cracking 7 strikeouts every 9 innings so far in '11, he's shown the kind of decline that suggests a real change in stuff from his days as an ace.

Troubling indeed for White Sox partisans, whether behind the mic or out there in Chicagoland.  Here hopefully to raise our spirits and give us the low down in today's Attack Zone Interview Challenge is Fake Jake Peavy.

BTMF: Glad to have you here today, Fake Jake.

FJP: Glad to be here at Big Time Matchup Factor in the Attack Zone.

BTMF: Thoughts on your performance so far in 2011?

FJP: Well it goes without saying I'm disappointed with the way things have gone so far this season, both as a team and an individual.  I really expected to be able to bulldog and hard nose my way through this season with nary a consideration for my long term health coming back from a totally novel and unprecedented injury.  

BTMF: And it seems that the White Sox have been similarly surprised that your Achilles' heel has been every last bone, muscle and tendon in your body.

FJP: I don't think that's fair to my coccyx.

BTMF: Granted.  I should say that though your relative lack of stuff has been somewhat disheartening to behold, you do seem to have a good grasp on what it takes to be a successful pitcher as a junkballer.

FJP: To succeed in this league without a dominant fastball you'd better be able to spot it.  I've never been a guy who made his living throwing 93-94.  I've got a lot of pitches, all of which I'm comfortable throwing anywhere in any count.

BTMF: So what's the deal with the falling K rate then?

FJP: Y'know I was going a little overboard there with that bulldog and hard nosing stuff.  I've been pushing myself, but I still don't totally trust my arm.  I'm only 30, my velocity isn't going to just evaporate.  Trusting your body when it's falling down around you is a challenge itself and eventually the Sox staff and I will find the groove.  We're obviously not there yet.

BTMF: So concerned BMTFers may be indulging their neuroses somewhat in worrying about your lack of strikeouts?

FJP: Maybe not?  $17M a year is a lot of money and I'm more than worth it one of two ways.  Option the first I'm not as good as I was in San Diego, but Herm keeps me healthier.  Possibility two, I'm as good as I was in San Diego but with various health issues.  Either way, that gets me in the 3.5+ WAR range.  In that case, I'll be in the neighborhood of what I was worth in 2009.  Meaning my contract plus a bunch of pitching prospects.

BTMF:  That's awfully adroit for a ballplayer self-assessment.

FJP: Half-assed parody opens a lot of doors.

BTMF: <coughs>...So thoughts on how you'll approach batters in your reduced capacity?

FJP: Against right handed batters, I'm still very much a fastball-slider pitcher.  And in the past, I've had a good enough heater with excellent location and a put-away slider.  Get up early and get the whiff on 0-2/1-2/2-2 with the slider low and away.  Against lefties, it was more of a use-what-works approach.  Between the change, cutter, curve, slider and a fastball that i move in and and out, I could usually put an unexpected pitch in an unexpected location.

BTMF: But now?

FJP: But now I'm struggling to put hitters away even when I get up early in the count.  Even against lefties, I throw my slider a lot and I'm used to getting very good results with it.  But now the bite is really not there in the same way so it's a lot more mix-and-match to both sides of the plate.  I can still get a lot of weak contact, but before I would get whiffs and weak contact.  I'm a lot more dependent on location and so far so good.  But there will be days when my location isn't there and you'll wonder what exactly the difference between me and Phil Humber is.

BTMF: What can you buy with 17 million dollars anyway?

FJP: Adam Dunn?

BTMF: Never heard of him.  Any thoughts on your opposite number starting for the Cubs tonight?

FJP: Doug Davis is kind of a poor man's Mark Buehrle.  He's got the same repertoire but nibbles a lot more and doesn't have the pinpoint control.  So he's had a few more K's over his career and a ton more walks.  Whereas Mark has outperformed his peripherals his entire career despite pitching in homer-happy US Cellular, Davis is what his FIP says he is.  He's turning 36 this year and his fastball sits 84-86 mph.  He moves the ball in and out and tries to keep hitters off-balance, but it's not that hard to sit on a location.  Because he's a nibbler with less than stellar command, he'll put you on base if you let him.  He'll also come to your spot if you're patient enough.  A good number of our hitters are capable junk-handlers.  Look middle in and you just might get it.

BTMF: And Cubs hitters?

FJP:  You read don't you?  U-God already gave us the 411. For me, the worry is lefty power hitters.  It's true that either handed batters can take me yard, but I'm a lot more comfortable moving in when necessary against righties.  Against lefties, that spot up and in is tough to hit for most pitchers.  If you've got a strikeout pitch, it's no big deal, but that's not me right now.  If you see me throwing good strikes with the fastball, that's as much as I can do right now.

BTMF: 411?

FJP: It's your fantasy, man.


That's all the time we have with Fake Jake Peavy.  Tune in next time to Big Time Matchup Factor and our special guest in the Attack Zone, Fake Adam Dunn's Escaped Appendix!