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The Jake Peavy Possibilities

It's only three starts, and we've seen him pitch well before, but White Sox starter Jake Peavy has been giving some very real reasons to believe that he can help Chicago in a big way this season.

April 07, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy (44) during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE
April 07, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy (44) during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE

Coming into this season, I'm willing to expect pretty much anything from White Sox starter Jake Peavy. He's a total wild card.

I mean, mostly I'm expecting his arm to fall off eventually, at which point he'll pick it up, stick it in his knapsack and saunter off to the disabled list like he's done so many times. But damn, have these early starts given a multitude of reasons for hope.

In the past, Peavy has usually pitched well when he's been on the mound, so the larger issue has been simply getting to the point where doctors aren't tugging at their collars as the pitcher insists he's good to go. But in his third season pitching for Chicago*, Peavy has looked different. He's looked really, really good, too.

*How the hell has Jake Peavy already been pitching in Chicago for nearly three years? I feel like Alex Rios is to blame for this all somehow.

To be clear, Peavy isn't the same pitcher he was during his peak in San Diego. He no longer sits around 92.5 MPH with his fastball, averaging 91.3 MPH in his first three starts of 2012. With that decline in velocity, Peavy has turned to his off-speed stuff more frequently, leading to more strikeouts so far but an unfortunate decrease in groundballs.

Considering that Peavy never exactly got a ton of grounders in the first place, you'd have to admit that he's walking a tightrope right now by letting 52 percent of his batted balls allowed go into the air. He's going to give up more home runs soon if this equation doesn't change soon.

But so far, he's fixing one variable that had increasingly been an issue with him over his White Sox career: allowing contact. In his peak, Peavy was allowing hitters to make contact around 75 percent of the time while swinging the bat. During his first two years in Chicago, that figure sat around 81-82%, but this season it's back down to 74 percent.

To put that 74 percent mark into perspective, it would've been the very best mark among all starting pitchers in baseball last season. So beyond the fact that Peavy is getting a ton of strikeouts so far this season (9.6 K/9), he's doing so by getting the swing-and-misses that are so integral to doing it consistently.

And what it all leads to is the specter of possibility. The idea that after two-plus seasons of dumping money into the Jake Peavy Money Hole, the White Sox might actually get something useful out of their final season before taking the family station wagon to a new location (the Adam Dunn Money Dump).

Yeah, Peavy needs to stop giving up so many fly balls, because eventually some of them are going to travel far enough to do some real damage. And there's a decent chance that he won't miss so many bats once that happens. But right now, he could trade some K's for grounders and be perfectly fine.

Maybe they'll get 200-plus high-quality innings out of Peavy, stumbling their way into a surprisingly tolerable season with him and Chris Sale leading the rotation. Or even better, maybe Peavy will become intriguing enough that some desperate contender will flip some prospects for the veteran, giving Chicago an opportunity to improve the worst farm system in baseball.

But Peavy might blow out his arm again. You could probably even convince me that it's the most likely of the three scenarios I just listed. I'm just happy we can recognize that those other two possibilites even exist at this point, as sad as that might be to say.

There's probably nothing that Peavy can do short of winning the AL Cy Young to convince the White Sox that his $22 million club option for 2013 is a better investment than the $4 million buyout.

But by the end of this season, Chicago will have paid $52 million to Peavy for three years of service. It would be pretty cool if that investment didn't end up feeling like a complete waste.

Satchel Price is a newsdesk contributor for SB Nation Midwest and a feature columnist for SB Nation Chicago. His baseball writing also appears on MLB Daily Dish and Beyond the Box Score. For more of his splendid whimsy in display, follow him on Twitter.