True, it’s only Spring Training, a small sample size of unofficial games when youngsters and marginal players try extra hard to prove themselves, while veterans such as Jeff Samardzija “work on some things” before the real games start.
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And true, none of the stats accumulated in March and the first few days of April count for real, so no matter how many runs someone such as, say, Samardzija gives up this preseason, it has no direct impact on a team’s 162 wins and losses.
However, if you’re a SF Giants fan, or part of the Giants’ brass that agreed to give Samardzija $90 million to be better than your average starting pitcher over the next five years, you’re probably hoping to see some signs that the big-splash free agent is better than the MLB-worst 4.96 ERA he provided the White Sox in 2015 . And that was during a walk year, when players tend to up their games as they try to maximize value heading into free agency.
But Samardzija has gotten knocked around this March. Badly.
To be fair, so have all four of the Giants’ other projected starting pitchers: Jake Peavy is sporting the same 8.53 ERA that Samardzija is. Ace Madison Bumgarner has numerically been worse, with a 10.57 ERA. And Johnny Cueto, the other big-time free agent signing this offseason, has been even worse than that, posting a 16.62 ERA—albeit, in just two starts, including one in which he took a comebacker off his dome from the first batter he faced.
So maybe it is just a product of it being Spring Training, when players are working on things. But when a player like Samardzija is coming off such an alarmingly bad year, one would hope to see numbers better than the nearly a run an inning he’s giving up, while ideally striking out more than 5.6 batters per nine innings and holding opponents to less than the f home runs he has allowed in just 19 innings.
There has to be more to go on than the optimism of him pitching in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and getting coached up by pitcher whisperer Dave Righetti.
Then again, Samardzija could pull himself together in his final two Spring outings, and all that anxiety over his early showings could prove to be for naught.