Jake Peavy And The White Sox: Better Than You Thought

Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy throws a pitch during the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

The White Sox said they were rebuilding in the offseason, which means that a veteran pitcher having a renaissance season would be a good trade chip, right? About that ...

Almost a year ago today, the news was that Jake Peavy was pitching at all. Here's a completely real quote from the surgeon who worked on Peavy's shoulder:

"I'm honored that (Peavy) trusted me that way," Romeo said.

That makes it sound like a just-so-crazy-it-might-work surgery. Which it was. I'm not a surgeon, but I did see Empire Strikes Back, so I have a pretty good idea of what's going on in there. Levers. Pins. Blinking lights. Pitchers don't always heal when they undergo the shoulder surgeries that have been around for decades. Orthopedic surgeons are adolescent boys, and shoulders are bra straps. Lots of jimmying. Lots of hope. Little understanding.

But it fixed Peavy, at least in the short term. Where once there was a 30-year-old pitcher about to exit before his time, now there's a formerly great pitcher reminding you of what he was. And Peavy was unquestionably great:

Year Tm ERA IP HR BB SO ERA+
2007 SDP 2.54 223.1 13 68 240 158


That was Peavy's Cy Young season. It was also his last healthy season -- after missing four or five starts in 2008, the White Sox traded for Peavy. Kenny Williams didn't want to hear a bunch of noise about shoulder injuries -- what's the worst that could happen? I mean, except for the part where the pitcher with a huge contract doesn't pitch.

Now Peavy is having a renaissance season:

Year ERA IP HR BB SO ERA+
2012 2.39 64.0 4 11 55 172


The strikeouts are down compared to his Cy Young season, but you'd expect that with a move from Petco Park and NL batters to US Cellular Field and AL batters. You'd also expect it from a pitcher who's lost three full miles off his fastball. But he's still keeping the ball in the park, and he's still keeping runners off the bases. It looks like Peavy is one of the better pitchers in the league again.

That makes him the perfect White Sock. A reminder of the team's advertising campaign this year:

The 2012 Chicago White Sox: Wait, What In The Hell Are We Supposed To Do Now?

Which is to say, this is a confusing, confusing team. The GM used the word "rebuilding" when he traded his young, cost-controlled closer and decided against re-signing fan favorite Mark Buehrle. Then Williams signed John Danks to a long-term extension, right before trading away Carlos Quentin. The offseason was more about giving young players like Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo, and Gordon Beckham a worry-free, no-pressure shot at playing time than it was about building a team ready to compete in 2012.

And so, so much has gone wrong for the White Sox. Those three young players have been awful. One of the veteran known quantities, Alexei Ramirez, is in a tailspin. Danks' strikeouts have disappeared at the same time his walks have spiked -- a horrible omen.

Yet there they are. A .500 team. Close enough to the top of a weak AL Central to start thinking October thoughts. And leading the way is a pitcher whose best-case scenario in the offseason was that he'd stay healthy long enough to trick another team into taking on some of his salary. He's been better than that. He's been good enough to make another team give up a real, honest-to-goodness prospect for him. The White Sox, whose farm system ranks 31 out of 30 teams, could sure use the injection of talent.

Except they might be contending. Especially with the second wild card in play.

Except they shouldn't be contending. Not with all of those offensive lowlights up there.

Except they might be contending. It doesn't seem like the Indians or Tigers are in a great spot to run away with the division.

Except they shouldn't be contending. Not when the infield is 75 percent guys who can't outhit Mark Buehrle.

Peavy is the face of the team, then: unexpected success that muddles the lines between rebuilding and contending even more. He might be so good that he helps keep the White Sox in the race, which means that the White Sox won't trade him to a contender, which is almost certainly what they were hoping for in the offseason. I sure as heck don't know what the White Sox should do. There's a great chance that they won't know by July 31, either.

Either way, the White Sox are getting more out of Peavy than they could have expected. And that's a good thing. For all of the things that have gone wrong for the team this year, a couple of things have gone very, very right. Welcome back to the land of the living, Jake Peavy. Just keep pitching well, and the White Sox will figure out what to do around you. Maybe.

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