Real or Not? Rich Hill makes the Dodgers even scarier

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It was mostly a very Rich Hill kind of outing on Sunday. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ lone lefty starter baffled the Miami Marlins for five innings, burning through 92 pitches while allowing a single run, as his team went on to win 3-2. It was the ninth straight win for the juggernaut Dodgers, who are threatening to reach 70 victories before they even reach 30 losses. They just don’t seem to lose anymore.

Hill has been the poster boy for baseball’s surge in blister problems over the past couple of seasons, during which he’s gone on the disabled list four different times because of the nettlesome malady. The issue has kept Hill’s innings total low, and not just because of the DL stays. He’s now pitched five innings or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts, though he had gone seven in three straight outings prior to Sunday.

An unfortunate offshoot of Hill’s low innings total is that it skews just how well he’s pitched overall. Hill has had two poor outings, giving up five runs in four innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 24 and seven runs in four innings against the Cleveland Indians on June 15. Because of those bombs, his season ERA remains an artificially high 3.55 even after Sunday’s performance.

But since, Hill has hit a stretch of good health and longer outings. Let’s ponder the possibilities here. Take out the two bad outings and Hill’s ERA this season is 2.25 — only a bit higher than last year’s 2.12 mark between L.A. and Oakland.

Now think about this: If Hill is pitching at that level and you’ve got Clayton Kershaw, who has been at that level since birth, and Alex Wood, who has allowed three runs over the past month, just how good is that playoff rotation stacking up?

We often look at teams, such as the San Francisco Giants in years past, as being a greater threat in October than in the regular season because the postseason format allows their starting pitching to paper over shortcomings elsewhere, and often to dominant effect. But these Dodgers … don’t have any apparent shortcomings to paper over.

Hill is about the most un-scary guy you’d ever meet. But if he stays off the DL, he makes the Dodgers truly frightening.

The real Samardzija, where are ya? Is there a ballplayer who is producing just flat-out weirder results these days than the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija? Samardzija entered Sunday’s start against the San Diego Padres leading the National League with a rate of 1.1 walks per nine innings and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 9.07. And yet he was just 4-10 with a 4.58 ERA.

Make that 4-11 with a 4.86 ERA. Samardzija was tagged with seven runs and nine hits over six innings during San Francisco’s 7-1 loss to San Diego. But those control numbers were still growing: He struck out eight and didn’t walk anybody.

Since April 28, Samardzija has struck out 100 batters and walked four over 92 2/3 innings in 14 starts. That’s an easy K:BB ratio to calculate: 25.0. His ERA during that stretch? It’s 4.37.

So we ask again: Who is the real Samardzija? Frankly, I’m betting it’s more the control-master version than the one with the inflated ERA. Samardzija has allowed a .333 average in balls in play this season. It’s “only” the 11th-highest number among qualifying hurlers, but it’s 33 points above his career mark.

And perhaps not coincidentally, the Giants rank 29th in the majors with minus-74 defensive runs saved.

This is why they call it a ballglove. The Chicago White Sox are a little more interesting in the present for their role in the upcoming trade deadline than their attempts to win games on the field. That’s the reality of the rebuild, and an unfortunate byproduct of that is their presence in highlight packages will be largely limited to curiosities. But as far as curiosities go, this is a pretty good one: Derek Holland‘s behind-the-back stab and subsequent throw of his glove — with the ball stuck in the webbing — to first baseman Jose Abreu.



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