Things are still coming preposterously hard for the Chicago White Sox; to the point where it's no longer unreasonable to start hoping out loud for a 22 year-old with negligible plate discipline to save the offense, and every baserunner seems like a lock to run into an out.
But if the definition of the arbitrary concept of an "ace" is to be able to transcend the struggles of his team with a virtuoso start, then Peavy did a lot of demonstrating of how he got that label in the first place.
Jake took on the best offense in baseball--albeit minus Hafner, Sizemore, and the suddenly productive Matt LaPorta--and threw a complete game shutout that was every bit as impressive and dominant as 'complete game shutout' sounds. He allowed just three hits,--all singles--walked none, and struck out eight.
For me, the most impressive part of that is the no walks. After
watching the post-horrific shoulder injury version of Freddy Garcia be
reduced to nibbling around the zone, to see Jake Peavy live in the
strike zone with his heater shows just how confident he is with his body
PitchFX rated out all of Peavy's offerings (4-seamer, 2-seamer, cutter,
slider, changeup) as above-average on the night, included his
traditional out-pitch, the slider. While he got three swinging strikes
from his slider in 18 attempts, Jake controlled this game with his
2-seam fastball. He threw it 52 times and relied on it extensively down
the stretch both to get ahead and to draw swings and misses. He topped
out at around 94 mph, and worked in his typical low 90's comfort zone
For all I know, 2007 Jake Peavy was dead and buried before the trade
ever occurred, there just isn't the data to know if that level is still
in him on a consistent basis. But if he does reach that level of
success again, it doesn't look like it'll be because he had to
re-invent himself. His strength and tools are in place.
Peavy's post-game comments glowed with that realization:
"Personally, it means the world; I feel so blessed to have
opportunity, once again, to go out there," Peavy said. "For your stuff
to come back, especially on a night like tonight when you have the
first-place team coming in, and win 1-0 against a guy [Justin Masterson]
who really has had our number, obviously it's personally gratifying."
"It's fun. I threw a complete game shutout in Washington last year, but
this was a completely different feeling," Peavy said. "To be healthy and
know you have what it takes to say, 'Hey, this is my game, let me
finish it. To go out there and have that closer's mentality, you get
that experience like a closer, and when it's your game [to win], it's
even more gratifying."
Personally, I never minded Peavy's "bulldog" attitude. It probably
didn't make for the most cautious rehab process, but the criticism
levied upon him never seemed like anything more than linking his most
noticeable trait with his biggest product with the Sox (DL time). It's
times like these--after an absolutely bananas performance--where it just
seems impossible to divorce this personality trait from his major
league success. Jake's aggressive--in the strike zone, in the workload
he assumes, in his mound language, and yes, in his rehab.
Now that he's healthy, the Sox can finally benefit from it, and do a little less managing around it.