Jeff Samardzija didn’t have a great outing, in total, Saturday night, though at least three of the hits – and three runs’ worth of damage – were bleeders that just happened to reach the outfield. Still, there were a couple homers, so it wasn’t all just a hard-luck affair. The rain delay, certainly didn’t help, as Samardzija looked like he was going to have a fairly Samardzija-like outing through four innings.
In any case, it was a down night for Samardzija, and has led to renewed commentary about his recent stretch of starts. I’m sure it comes off as apologism, but I get a little annoyed when I see folks saying, without reservation, that Samardzija is having a “bad June.”
First of all, you’ve got the arbitrary endpoints problem, as Samardzija himself pointed out after the loss (Cubs.com): “You can break numbers up any way you want. You can say on Wednesdays, he doesn’t pitch real good, and this and that. Every game is its own separate thing, and if some of those games happen to match up together and make your numbers in a certain month, then so be it.”
Baseball is necessarily a game that requires a great deal of data if you’re going to try and understand/explain/analyze/project, and any six starts – whether they just so happen to occur within a calendar month or not – aren’t going to tell you a whole lot about a guy with as much experience, relatively-speaking, as Samardzija.
But even if you totally ignored Samardzija’s valid point and wanted to make something of his June, here’s what I’d point out: you’ve got the June 1 start in Milwaukee, in which Samardzija gave up 8 earned runs on 8 hits, and the Brewers seemed to know exactly what was coming (again, at Miller Park, where there have been accusations before, and where, in the same series, Travis Wood had an identically odd outing (in each case, Welington Castillo was catching, and the Brewer pitch-blasting stopped immediately when Castillo wasn’t in the game)). As I’ve said, I’m suspicious about that one, but, even if you aren’t looking for a conspiracy, it just looks like an outlier start. And, hey, what if it came a day earlier, on May 31? Does the entire “June” narrative fall apart?
In any case, after the Milwaukee start, Samardzija’s had five June starts. Add ’em all up, and here are his numbers: 3.60 ERA over 30 innings, 3.10 FIP, 2.70 xFIP, 27.7% K rate, 6.2% BB rate. Those numbers are excellent, and he’s doing it despite a .363 BABIP against, a low 15.0% line drive rate, a scant 69.6% left on base rate, and an unsustainable high 14.3% HR/FB rate. In other words, in his starts after June 1, Samardzija is posting a 3.60 ERA despite probably being super unlucky.
If this is Samardzija when he’s “bad,” then this guy is a freaking monster. But we already pretty much knew that.