Saturday, April 12, 2014

Shark, Tanked

So it's Jeff Samardzija's turn to be That Guy.

You know That Guy. The pitcher who does a good job every time out there, but whose team suddenly decides that baseball bats are leading cause of deforestation and refuses to hit? The guy who can't buy a win for love or money, no matter how well he pitches? The guy who, for whatever reason, will have ten thousand fantasy baseball owners shaking their tiny fists, and tiny-minded commentators saying gravely "well, he just doesn't know how to win."
This year, the Shark has pitched 3 times. He has an ERA of 1.29. Last night, he went seven, allowing one run on six hits with no walks. He left with a 2 run lead, which the bullpen promptly coughed up. 

Opening Day, he went seven scoreless, giving up five hits. His second start, he went seven again, giving up 2 runs but striking out 8. He hasn't gotten a win since last August, despite generally pitching very well. And after games, he gives all the right quotes about just wanting to help the team win and going out there and doing his job, and not worrying about the offense because he's sure the guys will come around. Which has the faint whiff of ritual - it's not like he can say "Well, I did my job but Jesus, the rest of these guys gotta pick it up" - and which we will no doubt hear again and again.

Because that's just how the game rolls. Sometimes, for no reason whatsoever, a pitcher becomes That Guy. That Guy-ness is woven into the mythology of the game - think Harvey Haddix, think Anthony Young with a 23+ inning scoreless streak in the middle of his 27 game "losing" streak, think the chunk of Bert Blyleven's HoF case talking about all the games he lost 1-0 and 2-1. Mid-season, the stat guys will start running their "pitchers with the worst run support" articles and tsk-tsking over a whole list of That Guys (before talking about luck and regression and how all these guys are "bounce-back candidates" who'd be great sleepers for your fantasy team next year). 

But in the meantime, That Guy - Samardzija - is going to keep getting the ball, and keep going out there, and keep giving his team a chance to win that they're not terribly interested in taking. And we'll feel bad for him, but we'll watch anyway, at least until next year, when That Guy-ness sometimes wears off. Or until he decides that, screw it, he's going to have to win all these games himself since no one else will do it, and he'll try to strike everybody out, and he'll explode spectacularly. 

His next start is against Cincinnati. I anticipate 7 innings, maybe 2 runs allowed, and a no-decision. 

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