TCS Morning 10: Back to feeling awful about Samardzija, Sox again

1. It would have been nice to realize while it was happening that May was Samardzija's hot stretch of command, not the beginning. Instead, I didn't realize until his last two starts that he was beginning to look as advertised, and now he's back to pounding the zone with mistakes on the upper half again and getting pounded in return. Samardzija was annihilated for nine runs on 12 hits in five-plus innings in Tuesday night's 15-2 demolition in Arlington, but probably could have taken the game into the seventh if they wanted to stretch his pitch count. He was so efficient at filling the zone with pitches to drive, floating every cutter and slider over the center of the plate, that he still was on 95 pitches despite facing 28 batters on the night. 

2. Obviously announcers aren't encouraged to just rag on players without pause in early June, but the reassurances that Samardzija 'threw strikes, but the Rangers had hot bats' obfuscates the lesson from the night. Samardzija's attributes, beyond having the endurance and mane of a horse, mostly center around having great natural stuff and movement on every pitch. To some degree he should just work the zone and let his pitches miss bats on their own, but his stats suggest he's working as an extreme control guy like Phil Hughes rather than someone with the stuff to strike out a batter per inning. Moreover, if he misses high repeatedly (currently sporting his worst groundball rate as a starter--38.5%), it takes away his ability to go high and hard effectively with his fastball. Jose Quintana gets whiffs upstairs with 91 mph fastballs because he sets it up by painting the corners on the lower half. Samardzija hasn't worked low in the zone effectively enough to change any eye levels.

3. What a blessing to kick-off Joey Gallo's Hall of Fame campaign in such deliriously emphatic fashion. Whatever uncertainty there was about whether Gallo's two-run first inning single on the first pitch he saw in his major league career was an error on Adam LaRoche or a weird hop on a hot shot, was counterbalanced by him taking a center-cut Samardzija fastball to the moon (which is located on the second deck of The Ballpark in Arlington) in his second at-bat. I don't know what's the longest any player has kept up a two-RBI-per-PA pace for their career, but I'm betting Gallo's two plate appearances is one of the longest streaks. We chided him for being very strikeout prone, but Gallo is actually pretty good with making contact on pitches in the epicenter of the strike zone. Whether they will even let him face Chris Sale will be interesting. I bet they do; gotta start chipping down the demands on that pre-arb extension ASAP.

4. Adam Eaton turning and burning on his own two-run upper-deck shot probably played a significant role in the Sox avoiding a CGSO at the hands of Colby Lewis. The 35-year-old bored through his first two innings against the Jose Abreu-free Sox lineup in 17 pitches, made throwing 71 out of 94 pitches for strikes look a lot easier by combating a toothless attack. The Sox were handled for the whole game with just 118 pitches, so Lewis' departure was more inspired by the lack of necessity than his waning efficacy. The good news is that Lewis now has a higher ERA against the Sox this season than he did last, and that Eaton has tripled his home run total from last season. The bad news is that both situations are still terrible in their own right.

5. The Straw That Stirs the Drink (Eaton) called the team "Jekyll & Hyde"* during post-game interviews, and Rick Hahn acknowledged that he will have to stay ready to scout minor league systems for prospect-searching, as well as look into what major league additions will be available, because he can't be sure if the Sox will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Hahn will have to start coming to a decision about his team in July, putting pressure on the Sox to turn things around over the next month, where they face a brutal schedule. The first wave of data on their ability to do that is not promising. Oh man, things have been better.

*In case you have not read Robert Louis Stevenson's original novel, the story does NOT end with Jekyll & Hyde going to the playoffs.

6. Avisail Garcia was caught wincing again and walking gingerly after a running catch in the first inning but stayed in the game Tuesday (and went 0-4). Abreu missing the game was a surprise, though Ventura said he could play Wednesday. Both are basically fighting off nagging injuries that they will continually be coming back too early from and are at an increased risk of re-aggravating.

7. Speaking of pain and aggravation, Birmingham Barons teammates and BFFs Tim Anderson and Jacob May were involved in a nasty collision last night as they both attempted to track a pop-up in short center field. While both were shaken up, May looked to get the worst of it. He laid on his back for three minutes and was unsteady on his feet when he finally arose. Anderson left with an injured shoulder, but May was hospitalized with a head injury and placed on the 7-Day concussion DL. Ugly stuff.

8. Good grief, Dan Jennings, are you trying to get DFA'd? The potential is there but he's been scored upon in four of his last six times out and now has a 7.54 ERA. "If you can throw left-handed you have a job forever" is JUST a saying, man.

9. The Ballpark in Arlington is Chris Sale's second-worst place to pitch, statistically, and historically, and given the sparseness of the data...anecdotally. It's worse than even Progressive Field in Cleveland, despite his well-documented troubles with the Tribe. He owns a 4.91 ERA there in 14.2 innings (Four games, two starts), and owns a 4.62 ERA vs. the Rangers overall, with his second-worst strikeout compared to all other clubs. Beyond basic B-Ref searching, the Rangers also have a lineup that now needs production from lefties Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and yes, Joey Gallo, to do major damage. That part is more encouraging.

10. Party up: