The assumption is, a major league pitcher should dominate his minor league competition when sent on a rehab assignment. The same goes for major league hitters facing minor league arms. That's not always that case, and for good reason.
More than anything, a rehabbing pitcher is looking to strengthen his arm and be ready to help his big league club when he returns. He also usually has little information on the batters he's facing and is focused on improving specific areas of his arsenal more than rearing back and blowing fastballs by a batter in a Who-Has-A-Hairy-Chest competition.
A Triple-A stat line like Jeff Samardzija's Tuesday night can make fans panic: 4 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 2 HR. Samardzija took the loss as the River Cats fell to the Isotopes in Albuquerque, 13-8.
Here's another factor that can hurt a pitcher rehabbing in the minors -- a ballpark where the flies and Triple-A batters look like Brady Anderson. The ball simply soars in Albuquerque, where the elevation of the park exceeds 5,100 feet above sea level. Of the six earned runs Samardzija allowed, five came in the first inning off two home runs.
Despite being only one game above .500, the Isotopes are second in the Pacific Coast League in home runs (93), sluggling percentage (.485), runs (456), and batting average (.288). All stats are second to the first-place Salt Lake Bees.
Along with allowing six earned runs, Samardzija also struck out six, walked two and totaled 88 pitches over four innings. What matters are the six strikeouts and 88 pitches. Nobody wants to see 88 pitches in only four innings of work, but in this case of working harder than smarter, Samardzija wins. He showed the strength and stanima that should get him back in the rotation sooner than later.
Samardzija gave up 6 runs in 4 innings in Albuquerque, which is one of those brutal minor league parks. Those results won't matter much. What does: He got to 88 pitches, so should be ready to return to rotation.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 27, 2018
In three rehab starts with the River Cats, Samardzija has thrown 11 innings while allowing eight earned runs, 17 strikeouts and two walks. After the first inning to forget Tuesday night, Samardzija settled in and only allowed two hits and one run over the next three innings with four strikeouts.
The Giants have an interesting decision to make soon with their starting rotation. Samardzija has been far from perfect this year, but in this case, look past the tweets (rule No. 1 always) and the box score. He will be back soon and the sample size with Sacramento is more encouraging than some stats suggest.