Spring Training dingers

Looking for a fun factoid to throw at the ESPN power rankings comments, I settled on this (And now I'm just going to repeat because I'm not made of content)

The new-look White Sox will be without ace Chris Sale for the first week, so they’ll need new arms Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson to come out with sharp command after getting bombed all Spring (28 IP, 26 ER, 11 HR combined)
— James Fegan

Quoting myself! The hubris! I'm not trying to blow up Spring Training performances, but there's only so much relevant information I can bring from the last...six months. Sale's absence could be meaningless, but it'll feel a lot better if the new acquisitions cover it up by kicking butt out of the gate. They still could, but it would be a fun juxtaposition with stinking it up through the end of Spring.

Most of those dingers are from Samardzija, who has somehow managed to serve up nine in 21.2 innings, which is a flabbergasting, even if pointless, total. When asked, Samardzija, was unconcerned. Here's some telling, Jake Peavy-ish quotes from Colleen Kane's piece.

You’re out there working on things in spring. You don’t ever want to give up homers, but you’re out there establishing your fastball, and they hit it and it goes out. I throw a lot of fastballs, and I give up some home runs. For me it’s always just about having no one on base. It’s that wind-blowing-out kind of rule, where if you’re giving them up, you want them to be solos. As long as I’m attacking the zone, I don’t think I walked anyone all camp. That’s right where I want to be.
— Jeff Samardzija

He walked two batters, for the record, part of a 18/2 K/BB ratio that seems to support that there's some control of what he's doing. If Samardzija is just pumping the zone with fastballs, all that matters is that the life is behind them and he's showing he can hit his targets, even if he's not offering enough variation to avoid punishment. Homers have been the bane of Samardzija's existence throughout his career, so it's a point of anxiety until it isn't.

Robertson is a less easy case. He's kind of a mystifying pitcher. He doesn't throw much beyond low-90's, has had plenty of trouble throwing strikes in the past, struggles more against same-handed hitters, and just somehow strikes out everybody (32% career K-rate). He's been dealing with intermittent soreness, and the goal at this point is to get back into a regular throwing routine before the season starts.

But what a functional Robertson and what a completely out-of-sorts Robertson looks like in practice is a mystery. His track record of blowing people away is long, and while he also had homer problems last season, in some respects he was trending up heading into free agency.

More importantly, Robertson actual arm soreness issues brings Spring Training problems into greater relief. We're far more concerned with these known commodities actually being healthy, and being curious about why they're getting lit up is just an echo of that same leaning. Compared to Robertson, Samardzija plausible explanations, positive reviews from scouts and general confidence about life, is pristine perfection. And Robertson is probably fine too.


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