A perfect game would have been the perfect way to cap off Jeff Samardzija's season, in the same way that getting to the front of the airport security line only to remember that you never put your license back in your wallet the day before is perfect.
Samardzija came close -- an 88-pitch one-hitter -- and yes, it offered some validation, but little in the way of satisfaction.
He said that he and video coordinator Bryan Johnson discovered why hitters had been feasting on his fastball as of late:
"Me and (video coordinator Bryan Johnson) got together on the film between starts and think we found something that was essentially tipping my pitches, half the way," Samardzija said. "When you find that, it gives you a little extra confidence." [...]
"It was pretty obvious on a few things I was doing, especially for my fastball and when it was coming," Samardzija said. "For me, it’s such a big pitch. I’m always throwing my fastball that if they know it’s coming it really takes an edge off what I’m doing out there. Hopefully we can continue to get better and keep watching film and make sure there’s no other things in there and if there is we can clean them up."
He certainly had more success with his fastball, so there's probably something to this. But his slider had the kind of bite and location it had been missing, and the confidence in that combination probably made it easy to stick to a direct two-pitch approach.
He was also facing a half-powered Detroit lineup that is sputtering in the cellar of the AL Central. He's next set to face the Yankees in the Bronx, and that might not be quite as hospitable a setting.
There are a couple other questions (namely, why it took this long), but given that Samardzija's White Sox career is coming to a close within the next fortnight, there really isn't much of a point to breaking down the data further. But what this start did do is make it easier to envision why Samardzija would think there's something out there better than the qualifying offer, and why teams would come knocking.
Based on what the national guys said about Samardzija's free agency case before Monday, he didn't need the one-hitter. Here's Jon Heyman from Friday:
Well, Samardzija obviously didn't max out. But the guess here is, he's still going to do pretty well, perhaps better than most believe. He turned down about $80 million over five years from the Cubs a few years back, and that's probably a decent target figure.
Two contract experts say Samardzija should easily beat Ervin Santana's $55-million deal, and one said he'd actually blow it away. I think that's correct.
At this point, it would take some fancy talking to get a nine-figure deal. But in the end, I don't think he can't get close. He will almost surely become the highest-paid player ever toting a 5.00-plus ERA before signing the deal.
"He'll get dinged a little bit, but there's too much good stuff there," one longtime market observer said. "One bad month isn't going to matter much."
And here's Ken Rosenthal from Saturday:
As poorly as Jeff Samardzija has pitched for the White Sox, this will be his third straight 200-inning season, and he never has been on the DL. One executive who has seen his medical records described the condition of Samardzija's right arm as "right out of the womb."
These things were said after Samardzija had his worst-ever start. Given these deep roots of his appeal -- the low mileage on his arm, that football-player mentality people seem to like -- it probably wouldn't have mattered if he faceplanted on the finish line. The mechanics of this part of the market isn't intuitive, and specific to these circumstances, Samardzija's ardent pro-labor leanings and under-the-surface disagreements with Don Cooper push accepting the qualifying offer further out of the picture. And those factors -- along with starts like this that validate what the Sox imagined for Samardzija -- make it easier for the White Sox to serve one to him.