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April 24, 2012

What You Need to Know

Tuesday, April 24

by Daniel Rathman

The Monday Takeaway
If you had to bet on a team’s starting rotation to deliver a double-digit strikeout performance, a perfect game, and a shutout in separate outings within one turn, you might have gone with the Phillies, or the Angels, or the Rays. But the White Sox—with a rotation of John Danks, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, Chris Sale, and Philip Humber? No way.

Yet, in the four games spanning Friday to Monday, the South Siders’ starting five did precisely that. Sale kicked things off by fanning 11 Mariners on Friday. Humber tossed the perfecto at Safeco Field on Saturday. And Peavy—who hadn’t thrown a complete game, much less a shutout, since blanking the Indians on May 18 of last year—checked that off the list last night.

I wrote back on February 27 that a strong start to the season could make Peavy an attractive trade chip for general manager Kenny Williams this summer. Peavy is owed $17 million this year and has a dubious $22 million club option (with a $4 million buyout) for 2013. He can veto trades to eight teams.

The 30-year-old righty has done more than start strong. Monday night’s shutout against the A’s dropped his ERA to 1.88, and it’s backed by a stellar 26-to-4 K/BB ratio. Peavy has also allowed only one home run in 28 2/3 innings of work. He’s done that thanks in part to an altered pitch mix, which has thus far involved a much greater reliance on his slider than we have seen in the past. Nearly 35 percent of Peavy’s pitches this year have been sliders, compared to a 15 percent clip for his career. 

Peavy’s extraordinary start is not entirely sustainable, and it has been buoyed by the fact that he has faced the Orioles and Athletics in his last two outings. But he also did well at Rangers Ballpark and in a home matchup with the Tigers, and if his shoulder stays together, Peavy could well be at least a three-win pitcher. The big question, health aside, will be durability, and it’s unclear how many innings Peavy will be able to handle just 21 months removed from his unique surgery.

Only time will tell us the answer to that question. For now, Peavy’s outstanding start is one of the most pleasant surprises of the young season.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • The Royals came home to Kauffman Stadium after a respectable 3-3 road trip… and then proceeded to lose all 10 games on their 10-game homestand. Tonight (7:05 p.m. ET), they’ll meet Derek Lowe, who set the tone for that dreadful homestand by beating the Royals in the opener, and who recently lost something entirely different. The Royals are bound to win sometime soon, and Lowe is bound to endure a severe regression, considering that he’s recorded just three strikeouts in 18 innings to date. Might those two birds be killed with one stone tonight?
  • Hiroki Kuroda is set to duel with Yu Darvish in the middle match of the three-game series between the Yankees and Rangers (8:05 p.m. ET). Barring a last-minute change, this will mark the seventh-ever matchup of Japanese-born starting pitchers in the majors.
  • After Friday night’s loss to the Rockies, Ryan Braun was sitting on a .245/.316/.388 triple slash. Since then, he went 2-for-4 with a triple and a homer on Saturday, drew two walks on Sunday, and logged a 3-for-4 effort with a double and a homer on Monday, boosting his OPS 218 points over four days. It’s up to Bud Norris—against whom Braun is 6-for-20 with two home runs—to quell that meteoric rise (8:10 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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