Real or Not? Rich Hill makes the Dodgers even scarier

July, 16, 2017
Jul 16
10:45
PM ET

It was mostly a very Rich Hill kind of outing on Sunday. The Los Angeles Dodgers lefty 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.

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY SportsRich Hill's strong season has been overshadowed by just a few bad starts.

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.

not supportedAt least he kept his glove in the park. In more glove-related hijinks from non-contending teams, Giancarlo Stanton's glove fled his hand when he ran into the outfield fence while trying to take an extra-base hit away from Chris Taylor. The only confusing thing here is why Stanton didn't simply tear a hole in the wall to retrieve his glove, because we know he's more than capable of doing that.

Sun-blocked. It's usually a good idea to keep religion out of game-reaction pieces, but the sun god Sol played a key role in helping the Kansas City Royals to a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers. After Jorge Bonifacio struck out with one out and the bases loaded, Lorenzo Cain lofted a lazy fly ball to Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo. But the afternoon sun blinded Choo, and the ball clanked off his glove, allowing Alex Gordon to score the winning run.

not supportedThe best part is Cain's response, which was to pay homage to that bright, glowing orb in the sky. Thanks, Sol. The win ended a five-game skid for Kansas City and put the Royals back at the .500 mark. Through Sunday, the American League wild-card race now features four teams within a game of .500 chasing a postseason slot, just behind the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. It's a good year to be so-so.

Godley streak ends. Zack Godley has been, well, a godsend for the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation, which had to pivot from the season-ending injury by Shelby Miller early in the year. Entering Sunday, Godley had started 11 games and allowed three runs or fewer in all of them. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that was the third-longest streak in Arizona history.

The streak is over. Godley was tagged for seven runs -- six earned -- over six innings in Arizona's 7-1 loss at the Atlanta Braves. The Braves swept the weekend series at SunTrust Park and, at 45-45, are back at .500 for the first time since April 17. And when the Braves hit .500 that day, it was their first time getting back to break-even since July 7, 2015.

The Braves are a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs in the National League wild-card chase as the teams begin a three-game series in Atlanta on Monday. Chicago is 5.5 games back of the Colorado Rockies for the NL's second wild-card spot and 6.5 games behind Arizona.

Old-school standings. Among the slew of advanced metrics, forecasts and simulation models in my MLB tracking system, I keep one sheet that is simple as simple can be. This one displays the current standings as if there were just two leagues and no divisions. Yes, if I was in charge, that is the way it would be.

With the Dodgers and the Houston Astros running away with their respective leagues, that wouldn't be a popular policy right now. Through Sunday, Houston leads the AL by 11 games over the Boston Red Sox (pending Sunday night's game), and the Dodgers lead the Washington Nationals by eight games.

My argument would be that if one race or the other actually turns into a race, it would be of the epic sort that in today's structure is literally impossible. And all of this examination of who might emerge from the gaggle of .500-ish wild-card contenders would be moot.

I'll never let go.

Language peeve alert. I've never been too thrilled with the rise of "walk-off" as an adjective, especially as it pertains to things such as "walk-off walks" and even "walk-off balks." This year, I've increasingly picked on announcers who are going one step further and using it as a verb. Example: When the Royals won their game against Texas in the ninth inning on Sunday, I heard the broadcasters from another game say, "The Royals walked off the Rangers today."

One request: Stop. Please. Just stop.

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