Possibly one of the best shifting gears moments in Spring Training is when teams begin to announce their Opening Day starters. It’s a signal that baseball season is close. In fact, it could even be seen as a Bat Signal for fans less, well, ‘enthusiastic’ than others to start really paying attention. There are still plenty of position and rotation battles to be had, but we are certainly beginning to see more teams than not having identified their season-opening aces.
On Wednesday evening, the Chicago White Sox tabbed Jeff Samardzija as their Opening Day man. This decision is clear in the wake of Chris Sale‘s injury and subsequent need for rehab time. Samardzija has also made two previous Opening Day starts with the Chicago Cubs in 2013 and ’14. In those two starts combined, the Shark has tossed his way to a 1-1 record with a 1.20 ERA backed by a very healthy 5.67 K:BB ratio (17:3). So he has experience and success going for him. However, while certainly understanding the argument that spring numbers don’t mean much, he has not pitched well this spring. Opponents are hitting him at a very visible-to-the-batter .326 clip. In three starts, he’s 1-1 with a 7.15 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. This obfuscates the decision when coupled with the fact that Jose Quintana is pitching considerably better in his three spring starts. Quintana is holding opponents to .237 average and his WHIP is much easier on the eyes at 1.09. Both pitchers have comparable K:BB ratios at just about 3:1 for each of them. And while this is not meant to second guess the decision Robin Ventura and his coaching staff have reached, it is at least debatable. Samardzija is not old — he’s 30 — but his experience and veteran status surely can’t be keeping Quintana from the hill on Opening Day, because he is no youngster either. At 26, Quintana is just entering his prime and, presuming Sale is healthy and with the White Sox for a few more years, he may not have many better opportunities during his prime.
Then again, if Sale were indeed healthy, we wouldn’t even have this much to write about the White Sox’ announcement of their Opening Day starter. His name is Jeffrey Alan Samardzija, but you can call him Shark if you like.