1. I do not covet watching this man pitch anymore. The rippling thrills of watching Jeff Samardzija vaporize the first two hitters of an inning with electric stuff in the mid-90s that wiggles in every direction, and follow it up by drilling some dude in the ribs, then backing up a couple sliders and giving up three runs in a matter of minutes, well, it has dissipated over the last few months, I must say. All it takes is a few pitches to see the enormous potential sitting on Samardzija's broad shoulders. But it's the end of August, the team is bad, and he's 30. Who cares what he can do? How many more of these almost-good starts do I have to watch?
Like any notable 2015 Samardzija outing, Monday night's 5-4 loss resembled a wonderfully prepared stew that someone kicked over a bottle of bleach into during a single careless moment. In this case the bleach was Rusney Castillo, who homered, doubled and had five RBI, a career-high. Samardzija has now allowed 28 earned runs in 28 innings in August, which is not a strong contract drive.
2. For the Sox to get a compensation pick out of Samardzija, he needs to reject a one-year qualifying offer well north of $15 million, which will look increasingly like a cushy make-good deal as he threatens to post a 5.00 ERA in a run environment where even John Danks can do better.
So maybe we should think about potential! The stuff looks really lively! Save for the falling strikeout rate and scattershot command, boy, he looks really overwhelming.
3. Holy Toledo are the Boston Red Sox closing games with Jean Machi while Koji Uehara is hurt?! I suppose it worked, since he entered the ninth with a three-run lead to save, and only let the tying run reach first base. For the third-straight night, the Sox nearly redeemed a lifeless performance by riding all over replacement-level relievers. This method of attack, which we'll dub "how to lose to the Royals" as a working title, almost worked to scrub the sight of the entire Red Sox infield joyfully slapping the back of starter Joe Kelly for getting through 7.1 innings without being shelled like a ne'er-do-well little brother who had finally redeemed himself.
Machi's presence is less a true indictment of the Red Sox and more indicative of the dog days of the season that we're about to get a long grisly look at, but also inspires some gratitude to how much work the Sox have done to rehab their frontline of right-handers, which now looks impressive with David Robertson and Nate Jones at the top of it.
These numbers seem like...there's something missing. Any balls in this sample are already in play, and likely not infield flies, so what is the league average offense for balls already put in play to right field?
But point taken. Jose Abreu looks to work right field a lot--as a power hitter he gets avoided and jammed a lot--and he has the power to do even more than tread water with singles. We often talk about putting power hitters in friendly ballparks, but it's illuminating to see how Abreu specifically can lift the ball to right with his strength and pick up homers. He should probably just sign up to stay here forever.
5. Avisail Garcia has been good (?) at the plate in August? He's hit .282/.344/.482 in 93 PAs this month, including a 2-4 night on Monday, that looks better in the box score than "reached on a dribbler infield single up the third base line and thrown out trying to stretch a hit into a double when he slid over second base." Garcia's progress is largely built on increased power, but his outburst of home runs ended two weeks ago.
He's got a natural vulnerability to inside velocity, in addition to leaning toward hardcore aggression. With that in mind, he's going to need to be surgical at hammering the mistakes he gets, given all the ways he can be exploited. I don't see that potential in him at this point.
6. Kenny Williams really gave no substantive denial of rumors that he's a target for executive jobs outside the organization. He spoke on it, but this...
...is not a meaningful statement. If anything, it's so weak that speculation that he's gone if he gets a good offer are only strengthened, and who should be surprised by that?
7. Pablo Sandoval did this Monday night. I'm not sure if the schematics of the catch are as impressive as the full impact of slapping into the tarp, which might be part of it. Maybe it's impressive because I fully expected Sandoval to injure himself? Anyway, LaRoche was clearly going yard here and Sandoval single-handedly saved the game, and won this battle of disappointing free agent acquisitions.
8. I...I...like Matt Albers? I said this already. But in the past, Ventura deployment of relievers has been very binary. Small leads get his very best and brightest relievers every time. Those are high-leverage opportunities, and he pursues them at full-bore, even if there are six of them in a row. When he has deficits, he dumps out the garbage on the living room floor, and small leads often turn into large ones.
Much of that is personnel. His bullpens the previous two seasons had a lot of awful, and they had to pitch sometime. He just didn't do a lot of blending. Albers, who lacks the stuff and the bonafides to stump for high-leverage work, but confusing sling delivery and groundball tendencies have so far made him a great sponge for eating multiple innings in low-leverage, which is, you know, actually kinda useful when you have an offense that actually does make a three-run deficit disappear every now and then. Outpitching his FIP by two-and-half runs probably does not continue for much longer, and hell, who knows if he's even around to do this in a season that manners, but I have enjoyed the doughy wizardry.
9. Erik Johnson makes his 22nd start of the year for the Charlotte Knights Tuesday night....
Good luck to him!
10. Jose Quintana squares off against Wade Miley Tuesday night. Both lefties, Quintana is 26, and signed through 2018 for $26.5 million with two club option years afterward. Miley is signed through 2017 for $19.25 million with a club option for 2018. Both started their new deal this season, where has Quintana has still been solidly above-average through a difficult year, Miley's performance has dipped further after Boston was already banking on a bounceback, and was hammered into oblivion the last time he faced the White Sox in July (5.2 IP, 10, 7 ER, 3 BB, 5 K).
I have to be cocky about the pitching matchups now before something bizarre happens to ruin it.